Mitt Romney declares class warfare against poor and near-poor.

Others have already done a good job of reporting and analyzing the latest manifestation of Mitt Romney’s foot-in-mouth disease, aka his declaration of class warfare against the poor and near-poor that he recently made in front of a group of wealthy donors. 

For those who have been visiting Jupiter or Mars, here is the kernel of his remarks:

“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what… All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them….And they’re hopeless…I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

The 47% figure refers, of course, to the number of American households that pay no federal income tax.

Journalists have rightfully jumped all over the Mittman. David Weigel analyzed the statement in detail in Slate, pointing out the several conflations, e.g., assuming that the 47% who don’t pay income taxes are all on welfare.  As Weigel, National Public Radio and others have already written, the 47% includes most senior citizens receiving Social Security and military personal. Many have remembered to say that those in the “47%” pay Social Security and Medicare taxes, plus state, local and sales tax. Most journalists from all points of the political spectrum have discussed how bad Romney looks in this latest dust-up. Some have even dared to utter the words “class warfare,” a phrase usually proffered by arch conservatives opposed to returning tax rates for the wealthy to what they were before the Bush II temporary cuts.

There’s not much more I can add to the discussion that’s new, but I did want to take a look at those in the 47% who are not part of the military of seniors on Social Security: those whose taxable income after deductions is lower than the threshold for paying federal income taxes. To state the obvious—they don’t pay taxes because their income is too low!

Who are these people?

They serve you in fast food restaurants and they sweep your floors. They’re the cashiers in supermarkets and Wal-Mart. They may be fixing your roof or parking your car. They change your bedpan in the hospital. They may be on the assembly line of non-unionized companies. A lot of twenty-somethings with college diplomas and no job prospects are in this group.

The crime here is not that these good, hardworking people don’t pay income taxes, but that they earn so little money that after tax credits they fall under the threshold for paying taxes.

Be it senior citizens who have worked and paid into the Social Security system for decades, the honorable men and women we send off to risk their lives often in meaningless wars or the poor and near-poor, these people do not deserve the angry and offensive criticism of Romney and the Tea-partiers. These people are neither “hopeless,” nor do they refuse to take “personal responsibility for their lives,” as Mitt put it. Blaming the victim is an old game for right-wingers. That a candidate for the presidency is playing it is shameful and shocking.

I’m going to end by going out on a limb and stating unequivocally that when those sympathetic to Romney’s view close their eyes and conjure an image of the 47% of the population who they believe are sucking society dry, all they see is black and brown. Like “food stamp president,” “47%” is a racial code word for African-Americans and Hispanics. They won’t say it, because they don’t have to.  That’s the beauty—and the ugliness—of code words.

2 comments on “Mitt Romney declares class warfare against poor and near-poor.
  1. Jeremy says:

    I as well disagree with your last paragraph.

    I am Caucasian, and I know many people of my same race that, as I like to say, “feed off the government.” And by using that phrase, I am not referring to 47% of Americans; I am referring to those who choose not to work when they are able. Regarding those who don’t pay federal taxes, how do you feel about the portion that receives refundable tax credits? Is this fair?
    I lean conservative regarding fiscal policy, but I must admit, Romney was an idiot for making this statement and it changes my opinion of him. I still have to vote for him however because of the healthcare issue…no worries though, I live in KY so my vote doesn’t really matter with the Electoral College System. Romney won the state before I was born. Regarding healthcare, my close friend is a nurse practitioner in family practice at a local hospital. She is paid salary and she currently works about 10 hours a day. She is worried that when the healthcare bill takes complete affect, there will not be enough resources to accommodate all the new patients. Do you think this is going to be an issue, and if so, how do you suppose we deal with it without increasing the debt? I also know some doctors who have given me their story – 4 years of undergrad, 4 years of medical school, then 3 years of residency. By the time these professionals start actually making money; they are 30 and have over $120,000 in student loans. Where is the incentive to be a physician these days? If you are going to invite more people into the system, we need to have resources available to care for them.

    Finally, how do you feel about extending the 2% payroll tax cut and how do you feel about keeping the marginal tax rates set by the Bush Era Tax Cuts? Remember, it changed the marginal rates for everyone who had a tax liability at the end of the year by creating a 10% tax bracket for low income individuals and families.

  2. Wessel says:

    The last paragraph is really offensive and really don’t that is what Mr Romney meant. Here in South Africa is also a state pension an are sure it get’s sucked by all the race groups. Can understand if you dislike the Republicans/Tea party, but racial attacks, is pure dumbness. Respected you for your intelligence???

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