Blogs » Man Bites Dog » Romney and the 47 percent


A video released this week shows candid footage of presidential candidate Mitt Romney at a private fundraiser in Florida asserting that half of the electorate see themselves as "victims" entitled to government support, and that it's not his job to worry about them.

"There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what," Romney said, according to the clip. "All right -- there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent on government, who believe that, that they are victims, who believe that government has the responsibility to care for them. Who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing."

"[M]y job is not to worry about those people," Romney said. "I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."

Mother Jones has a 31 minute video of the recording.

So who doesn't pay income taxes?

According to the Urban Institute-Brookings Tax Policy Center, as quoted in Christian Science Monitor, Romney is basically on target with his figure. About half of those households who don't pay income tax don’t owe any "for the simple reason that they don’t make enough money."

"A couple with two children with income of $26,400 had no income tax liability in 2011, due to an $11,600 standard deduction and four exemptions of $3,700 each," the article states. "Many of them are seniors who benefit from the exclusion of some Social Security income. The elderly make up about one-fifth of all non-income-tax-payers. The other big chunk is parents who benefit from tax credits for children and the Earned Income Tax Credit."

The LA Times reported that by Tuesday, the White House was steering clear of Romeny's statement.

The Obama team's response was "mainly to marvel -- at the statements themselves, clearly, but maybe also at the fact that they were so clearly recorded that Romney isn't challenging the provenance of the video."

Romney later said during a press conference that the remarks were "not elegantly stated," and stood by them.

"He then framed his statement, not as an attack on a particular segment of voters, but as an ideological discussion," according to the CS Monitor.

Could Romney's comments be a game changer for the November election? While some pundits claim his statement marks the end of his presidential aspirations (Bloomberg's headline: "Today, Mitt Romney Lost the Election"), others defended it, "claiming they accurately reflect a culture of dependency," according to the CS Monitor.

George Washington University associate professor of political science John Sides has posted data making his point that "gaffes" like Romney's rarely matter.

"The best case for saying that 'gaffes matter' is that actual voters are persuaded to change their minds because of the gaffes," Sides writes. " If they don’t, then it’s tough to argue that 'gaffes' are really 'game-changers.' And, in fact, usually voters don’t change their minds."