As we can see, it is true that 47 percent of the population pays no net federal income tax. Many of those people do pay federal payroll taxes on their income, however. Of those who pay neither income nor payroll taxes, most are elderly. That's because elderly people generally don't have jobs. Make of this what you will, but in terms of partisan politics it seems very likely that a large share of these elderly freeloaders are actually Romney voters.
Krugman further unpacks the income tax numbers:
[I]f you look at the facts, you learn that the great bulk of those who pay no income tax pay other taxes; also, many of the people in the no-income-tax category are (a) elderly (b) students or (c) having a bad year, having lost a job — that is, they’re people who have paid income taxes in the past and/or will pay income taxes in the future. The idea that half of Americans are just grifters is grotesque.
Ezra Klein points out that the GOP is largely responsible for so few households paying income taxes:
Part of the reason so many Americans don’t pay federal income taxes is that Republicans have passed a series of very large tax cuts that wiped out the income-tax liability for many Americans. That’s why, when you look at graphs of the percent of Americans who don’t pay income taxes, you see huge jumps after Ronald Reagan’s 1986 tax reform and George W. Bush’s 2001 and 2003 tax cuts. So whenever you hear that half of Americans don’t pay federal income taxes, remember: Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush helped build that.
Ambinder eyes the independent vote:
Forget the 47 percent. Independents may not be as economically liberal as the folks allegedly portrayed by Romney, but they are absolutely scared to death of telling their neighbor that they voted for someone with such intolerant views. That is, the skin and packaging of a candidate does indeed matter to independents. Indies have very trigger-sensitive ears to hints of condescension. These are the types of people who decry divisive partisanship.
Josh Marshall thinks the "real Mitt Romney" has been revealed:
This is the caricature of Mitt Romney, who was born on 3rd base (in Ann Richards memorable phrase), thinks he hit a triple and thinks the broad middle class who’ve relied on government for student loans or social security or anything else are losers who can’t get their act together and take responsibility for themselves. Only this tape says that caricature Mitt Romney is the real Mitt Romney. Big problem.
Jamelle Bouie isn't so sure:
To be fair, there’s no way to know if this is what Romney "really" thinks. Remarks to donors and fundraisers are just as crafted and audience-targeted as any speech to the public. This isn’t an excuse, but it’s context worth considering.
Chait was surprised by the comments:
The revelations in this video come to me as a genuine shock. I have never hated Romney. I presumed his ideological makeover since he set out to run for president was largely phony, even if he was now committed to carry through with it, and to whatever extent he’d come to believe his own lines, he was oblivious or naïve about the damage he would inflict upon the poor, sick and vulnerable. It seems unavoidable now to conclude that Romney’s embrace of Paul Ryanism is born of actual contempt for the looters and moochers, a class war on behalf of his own class.
John Sides doubts the expose will fundamentally change the election:
The best case for saying that "gaffes matter" is that actual voters are persuaded to change their minds because of the gaffes. 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. See, for example, Michael Tesler’s and my analyses of the impact of "the private sector is doing fine."
Joe Klein notes that Romney's comments are coming from "a man who pays 14% in taxes–a multi-million dollar handout that Romney receives because he makes his money via a financial scheme that enjoys a major tax break from the government." He continues:
As Michael Grunwald pointed out last week in his memorable Time cover story, we’re all getting goodies from the government in one way or another. And yes, it might be a good idea to review all these subsidies–sugar? cotton? oil?–but it is sheer…I guess you’d have to call it class warfare to say that only the 47% voting for Obama are on the dole. How embarrassing: Romney keeps on kicking himself in the face.
Over at National Review, John O'Sullivan wanted Romney to double down:
What Romney should do is call a press conference, play the tape, and then announce that he stands by what he said. In the course of affirming his broad argument, he can correct the minor inaccuracies easily enough. ("My audience understood that, as I said, I was referring to income tax, but of course working Americans pay payroll taxes and all Americans pay indirect taxes on the goods they buy.")
Larison remarks on Romney's condescension:
More than anything else, what makes this video damaging is that it confirms what most Americans already suspect about Romney: he holds at least half the country in contempt, including many of the people that normally vote Republican. It isn’t just that Romney expresses contempt and pity for "anyone who isn’t going to vote for him," as Barro says. What makes this stand out as exceptionally arrogant is the fact that he clearly has contempt for many of the people who were likely to vote for him.
Scott Galupo's verdict:
Newsflash: Romney isn’t simply a stiff. He’s a jerk.
And Kleiman is amazed by Obama's luck:
I suppose it’s reasonable that O’Bama should have the Luck of the Irish. But his talent for finding self-destructing opponents – or perhaps for inducing otherwise sane opponents to self-destruct – is preternatural.