By Stacey J. Haseleu
On Monday, September 17th, Mother Jones, a non-profit news organization, posted Governor Mitt Romney’s comments from a leaked video during a $50,000 a plate private Republican fundraiser in May. In his comments, Romney suggests that 47% of American voters do not pay income taxes, are “victims” dependent on government, and that “his job is not to worry about these people.” He said this 47% “will vote for the president no matter what.”
Romney defended his comments in a news conference on Monday evening saying, “It’s a message which I am going to carry and continue to carry.” When asked what he meant by the word “victims,” Romney said, “My campaign is about helping people take more responsibility and becoming employed again, particularly those who don’t have work.”
The Obama campaign used these quotes against Romney’s already shaky campaign. Jim Messina, Obama’s campaign manager said, “It’s hard to serve as president for all Americans when you’ve disdainfully written off half the nation.”
Since Romney spoke for nearly 48 minutes on varying subjects, below is the transcript of his comments directly related to the 47% remarks:
Audience member: For the last three years, all everybody’s been told is, “Don’t worry, we’ll take care of you.” How are you going to do it, in two months before the elections, to convince everybody you’ve got to take care of yourself?
Romney: 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. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what. And I mean, the president starts off with 48, 49, 48—he starts off with a huge number. These are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect. And he’ll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich. I mean that’s what they sell every four years. 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. What I have to do is convince the 5 to 10 percent in the center that are independents that are thoughtful, that look at voting one way or the other depending upon in some cases emotion, whether they like the guy or not, what it looks like. I mean, when you ask those people…we do all these polls—I find it amazing—we poll all these people, see where you stand on the polls, but 45 percent of the people will go with a Republican, and 48 or 4…
Romney says that the 47% “will vote for the president no matter what.” To evaluate this statement, it’s important to note that since these individuals are not paying federal income taxes, many would fall into a low-income tax bracket.
Additionally, a map released by the Tax Foundation illustrates that the states with the highest percentage of non tax filers (those who don’t pay income taxes) are states that typically vote Republican.
Romney states that 47% of Americans that do not pay federal income tax are “dependent on the government.” A statement that was partially true; however, his comments do not take into consideration which people in our society compose that 47%.
47% equates to approximately 76 million people. Factcheck.org provides a break down of those 76 million people:
- 50% have such a low-income that when personal exemptions and dependents are factored in, no income is left to be taxed. These individuals do still have payroll taxes deducted.
- 22% are senior citizens receiving benefits including Social Security. They generally have an income of less than $25,000 a year. It should be noted that among those 65 and older, Romney leads Obama by 9 points (52% to 43%).
- 15.2% receive tax credits and deductions under the earned income tax credit and/or the dependent child tax credit. The child tax credit was enacted during Bill Clinton’s administration, but was doubled under George W. Bush. The earned income tax credit was enacted under President Ford. President Reagan once praised it as “one of the best antipoverty programs this country’s ever seen.”
- The remaining 12.8% owe no federal taxes due to various tax expenditures like education credits, and reduced rates on capital gains and dividends. The Tax Policy Center estimates that about 7,000 families that fall in this category are individuals who earn at least $1 million a year.
The blanket statement that all of the 47% of people “are dependent on federal government” is false. Romney does not take into consideration the individual situations of those who are enrolled in college, senior citizens on Social Security which they paid into all their lives, and even millionaires with tax breaks due to capital gains and dividends.
Further examination of his comments proves that at least a portion of the 47% he states it’s not his job to “worry about” are actually Republican voters.