UPDATE: The thing is, says Sen. Tom Harkin, those 47 percent of Americans that Mitt Romney sees as dependent on government probably pay higher taxes than the Republican presidential nominee.
Harkin said he finds Mitt Romney’s comment that 47 percent of Americans are too dependent on government “baffling, bewildering,” but Sen. Chuck Grassley sees the gaffe as an opportunity for the Republican presidential nominee.
“It gives you an idea of what he’s thinking,” Harkin said Wednesday morning on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal.” “Is it students who are getting loans to go to college? Elderly who are relying on Social Security? Veterans using the GI Bill?
It shows that Romney believes “people who aren’t paying income taxes are somehow totally dependent on government, they see themselves as victims, they’re takers, not givers,” Harkin said. “That’s simply not true.”
Romney may have expressed his sentiments crudely, but Grassley told reporters during his weekly conference call Sept. 19, the nominee has voiced a key difference between the two major parties.
The Democratic Party “believes in more government programs and more government and higher taxes and more expenditures, going the direction of Europe,” Grassley said. The Republican Party “believes in the free market system and individual initiative as well as individual responsibility.”
His advice to Romney is to build from an obvious low point in the campaign.
“When you only have 5 to 6 percent of the people undecided, you have to have a reason for those people to choose you over somebody else,” Grassley said.
With Romney apparently doing well with independent voters, “That’s where he can make a difference because I think this is a big thing to independents.”
In the final 48 days of the campaign, Romney “needs to keep clarifying the difference between him and his opponent,” Grassley said. “This gaffe is an opportunity to do that. He needs to build on it.”
However, Harkin doesn’t see it as a winning strategy because it shows Romney “doesn’t understand what’s happening to in America to working families, the middle class and those who are struggling to get into the middle class.”
He also finds it ironic that many of the so-called 47 percent are taxed at a higher rate than Romney.
“They may not be paying income taxes, but they are paying payroll taxes” that are about 15.3 percent, Harkin said. “That is more than Gov. Romney paid in income taxes — as a rate.”
Romney said his effective federal tax rate is “probably closer to the 15 percent rate than anything.”
Harkin’s appearance on “Washington Journal” can be found at http://www.c-span.org/Events/Washington-Journal-for-Wednesday-September-19/10737434233-0/.