When Mitt Romney looks at America, he sees a glass half empty.
“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 that 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,” Romney told donors behind closed doors in May.
“And so my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives,” Romney said. A video of his remarks made a splash this week.
Maybe Romney believes that after we’ve been disappointed by “Yes, We Can!” we’ll be more inclined to pick “Why Bother?”
What bothers me is that rather than actually telling these $50,000-per-plate investors in his campaign about his actual, specific plans for cutting taxes and entitlements, he, instead, spins the sort of dishonest, half-baked caricature of America you might hear from an online comment troll or Facebook crank.
Clearly, he’s thought deeply about this. Or he read a clever T-shirt sold outside a GOP rally.
Otherwise, why would a smart, accomplished guy, a potential president, slap these sneering labels on so many Americans who don’t deserve them? Why smear folks simply because they don’t owe a federal income tax liability, perhaps because they’re old and have finished their working years, are very young and are just starting out, are in school, disabled, working at one, or maybe more, low-wage jobs, are unemployed amid the worst economic downturn in a generation or happened to receive various tax credits and benefits approved by Republican and Democratic administrations over the past quarter century?
These are irresponsible dependent victims? If they were corporations, we’d pop corks, cut ribbons and call it economic development.
Of this infamous 47 percent, 61 percent paid payroll taxes in 2011. That means they work. Another 22 percent are elderly. That leaves just about 17 percent who aren’t paying income or payroll taxes, for many reasons, amid the worst downturn since the 1930s. Romney has contempt for the president’s economic policies, and, apparently, for those who have suffered. Neat trick.
Entitlements are unsustainable. Fixes will be painful. We’ll need thoughtful leadership to build consensus for changes. Romney claims to be that leader.
But, as he suggests, he’s not very convincing.