Romney Unplugged

Below is all the Dish coverage of the fallout over the secretly taped video of Mitt Romney making disparaging remarks about 47% of Americans.

You can also skip to a specific day’s coverage: Tues 9/18Wed 9/19Thu 9/20Fri 9/21.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Mon Sep 17, 2012 – 6:39pm:

Suddenly, his decision to pick a disciple of Ayn Rand for his veep makes more sense:

This is a major coup for Mother Jones and you should read the whole thing and watch the videos from a private fundraiser earlier this year. The contempt for 47 percent of Americans as parasites is really quite something. As is his total rejection of the preposterous idea that he was born into privilege:

Describing his family background, he quipped about his father, “Had he been born of Mexican parents, I’d have a better shot of winning this.” Contending that he is a self-made millionaire who earned his own fortune, Romney insisted, “I have inherited nothing.” He remarked, “There is a perception, ‘Oh, we were born with a silver spoon, he never had to earn anything and so forth.’ Frankly, I was born with a silver spoon, which is the greatest gift you can have: which is to get born in America.”

And here is his formula for economic growth: just electing him will be enough:

My own view is that if we win on November 6th, there will be a great deal of optimism about the future of this country. We’ll see capital come back and we’ll see — without actually doing anything — we’ll actually get a boost in the economy.

My italics. Under Obama, the value of stocks in the Dow has doubled:


(Via Jim G.)

Mon Sep 17, 2012 – 8:52pm:

Romney Unplugged: Tweet Reax

Mon Sep 17, 2012 – 9:22pm:

Did Romney Just Lose The Election?


Josh Barro puts his neck out:

You can mark my prediction now: A secret recording from a closed-doorMitt Romney fundraiser, released today by David Corn at Mother Jones, has killed Mitt Romney’s campaign for president.

On the tape, Romney explains that his electoral strategy involves writing off nearly half the country as unmoveable Obama voters. As Romney explains, 47 percent of Americans “believe that they are victims.” He laments: “I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

So what’s the upshot? “My job is not to worry about those people,” he says. He also notes, describing President Obama’s base, “These are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax.”

This is an utter disaster for Romney.

I agree with that. But the future is unpredictable. What we do know is that Mitt Romney has no intention of appealing to the 47 percent of Americans he regards as pathetic parasites. That’s a novel way of campaigning for president.

Mon Sep 17, 2012 – 10:07pm:


From the most right-wing columnist in the Tory paper, the Telegraph:

Romney video: I think Obama just won the election. When was the last time a president fighting for re-election was handed such a gift? Remind me, someone: how did the GOP end up with this idiot as their candidate?

Another British right-winger, Tim Stanley:

Sure, Romney’s quote might contain a grain of truth. But it’s also cruel and fatalistic. The American Dream is rooted in the hope that someday we’ll all be rich enough to pay lots of tax (or own a bank account in the Caymans). To suggest that some folks will stick with their entitlements forever – that’s un-American. And Mitt makes it so much worse by suggesting that he doesn’t care about them, either: “My job is not to worry about those people.”

On this side of the Atlantic, partisanship is, for the moment, holding back the panic. Allahpundit thinks it will all blow over:

This was recorded awhile back at a fundraiser, just like Obama’s infamous “bitter/clinger” comments in 2008. Remember how big that blew up? That’s how we ended up with President McCain.

The difference is that Obama was empathizing with the white working class’s economic plight, not blaming it on them and not caring about them. Patterico:

Those who see themselves as sucking on the government teat — a much smaller group, by the way, than the group that actually is sucking on the government teat — will be offended and won’t vote for Romney. Guess what? They weren’t going to anyway. Independents may be put off by Romney’s seemingly callous attitude towards the 47 percent of people who don’t pay income tax. He’s going to have to work to come back from this. But it’s hardly the end of the world. Don’t be a sucker for the Big Media spin.

I don’t think the videos need any spin. They are self-explanatory. The Daily Callerdecides to lie:

A video that has surfaced online shows Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney speaking candidly about the election and saying President Obama’s most diehard supporters are “dependent on government” and think they are “entitled to health care, to food, to housing.”

47 percent of Americans are “Obama’s most diehard supporters”! I haven’t seen those polls myself. Drudge doubles down:


The propagandist in chief:

INDEED: Campaign that wrote off the white working class decries Romney’s concerns with the culture of dependency.

But again, Obama’s remarks were aimed at winning over the economically depressed white working class, not writing them off entirely, let alone expressing contempt for them. There’s a difference. Althouse:

I don’t see anything bad in there at all.

Another winger:

Mitt Romney told donors earlier this year that Obama supporters fail to take responsibility for their own lives. That sounds about right.

Massie gets it:

This is the thing: when you’re already the Man from Bain you don’t need more things cropping up reinforcing the most damaging stereotypes your opponents use against you. And you really don’t need to reinforce those stereotypes yourself. A simple rule of thumb: when people fear you’re a vampire squid don’t encourage them to believe you really are a vampire squid.

Another simple thing: even when the electorate merit your contempt it’s not a good idea to make your contempt quite so plain.

(Photo: Romney today by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Mon Sep 17, 2012 – 10:47pm:

It’s looking more and more like it:

Mon Sep 17, 2012 – 11:02pm:

Romney Unplugged Reax


Yglesias flags the above chart from the Tax Policy Center:

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 futher 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

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.

Mon Sep 17, 2012 – 11:47pm:

Romney Unplugged: Reader Reax

A reader writes:

Here’s what strikes me: For the first time in years, Romney sounds like he actually means what he is saying. The traits that we’re used to seeing and hearing – the plastered-on smile, the patently insincere “gee whiz” persona, the illogical disconnects, that creepy nervous laugh – they’re all gone. Instead he’s clear, and tough, and emphatic, laying it out like the tough businessman he claims to be. Maybe for once we’re seeing the real Romney. And it’s a Romney who drips with contempt for the people he would serve.


Romney acts as if anyone who payed taxes is on his side. As an Obama supporter who happily pays taxes as part of my civic duty, I don’t appreciate being portrayed as a societal leech. Of course this is all comes from a man who pays a lower tax rate than a large chunk of middle-class Americans.


Romney rails against the 47 percent of Americans who pay no income taxes while refusing to release his tax returns. Who’s to say he’s not talking about himself?

Another wonders, “What does the wait staff wandering through the shot when Romney is railing against poor think when he is saying this?” Another:

Leaving aside the sneering condescension Romney shows in that video towards people who would VOTE for Obama, there is an interesting line of questioning he has opened himself up for. He repeats the tired and largely debunked myth that “47% of the population don’t pay taxes”, but makes sure to say INCOME taxes. Does he mean gross or net? It’s pretty easy to pay no net taxes if you have a middle-class income, have a mortgage and/or kids. Calling these people “victims” or implying that they are freeloaders is pretty crass. Is he planning on eliminating the mortgage and child credits in order to keep us lesser sorts from becoming vicitims? Is he planning on raising taxes on those who live below the poverty level?

When people really get a load of what he said, this is going to make the flap over Obama’s “clinging to guns and religion” gaffe look like nothing in comparison.


Here’s why his comments are so damning: Every Independent in this country at least knows and cares about somebody who is going to vote for Obama, and they don’t want to think of those people as leeches. I have family members who disagree with me politically, but they don’t think I’m a bum. Far from it. I’m on the border where I hardly pay any net federal income tax, but I have a great job that pays pretty well, and I pay state income tax and payroll tax and gas tax and property tax and social security and medicare. Thus, the people in my life who are on the fence definitely don’t want me put in the same category as the people they think of as ‘leeches’. Everybody knows somebody in that 47%, and it’s much harder to scapegoat somebody that you actually know. Independents will resent Romney for creating that awkwardness for them.


That Romney quote about people in the 47 percent not taking responsibility for their lives made me so angry I almost cried. I’m in that 47 percent. My household hasn’t paid income taxes in ten years – not since my husband became seriously disabled and could no longer work. How dare Romney tell me I’m not taking responsibility. I’ve been nothing but responsible – responsible for raising three children and caring for my husband for five years until he died, through some very tough times. I worked part-time through much of this, but SSDI and private disability insurance made it possible for my family to survive financially. My two sons received federal loans for college. One is now a public school teacher, and a darn good one – a worthwhile investment, I’d say. The other is still in college. My third child is disabled and continues to receive SSDI, and I’m still responsible for her. I work full-time, pay payroll taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, gas taxes. But I work for a not-for-profit and don’t receive the kind of salary people of my abilities earn in investment banking.

The stuff that happened to me – a spouse who died prematurely, a child with a genetically-based disability – these things can happen to anyone. Anyone.

Even the Romneys:

This amazing video [seen above] of Lenore Romney, Mitt’s mother, talking of her husband’s BRIEF dependance on Government assistance underlines the hypocrisy of their son’s views at that fundraiser. Mitt’s dissing of the 47% is a direct contradiction of his own mother’s accounting of being part of the 47%.

By the way, I was on food stamps and other government assistance myself for a period just over a year. And I went from there to a six figure income. Government assistance is fluid for most people, who need it only for brief periods of time.

Another reader points to this video and writes:

At another fundraiser, Mitt casually mentions that his father’s family was cared for by the government when they returned to the U.S. from Mexico. Mitt’s moocher family?”

One more reader:

If Obama is really, really smart, tomorrow he’s going to be almost speechless about what Romney has said. He’s not going to pounce; he’s not going to express campaign-grade indignation; he’s not going to try to score points. Rather, he’ll take a moment to explain what everybody else is explaining: that a lot of the people who don’t pay income taxes are the sick, the poor and the elderly, who we should all be concerned about.

You’ll know tomorrow just how meep-meep Obama is. If he plays this correctly he hangs this around Romney’s neck in a way that he will never be able to resolve before the first debate. If he treats it like just another campaign moment, that’s how voters will see it.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tue Sep 18, 2012 – 8:00am:

Romney Unplugged: A Dish Thread

This post was to alert readers to the thread page you are currently reading.

Tue Sep 18, 2012 – 8:27am:

Why Romney Spilled 47% Of The Beans

Blake Zeff outlines why candidates go off the script for big donors:

[D]onors are given outrageous — though, usually, completely superficial — promises, in return for their largesse. For example, a “high dollar” campaign fundraising event will be billed as a chance to hear the “real inside scoop” of what’s going on in the campaign. So, candidates are often admonished by their fundraising staff not to give their usual stump speech, because these donors expect more. It’s the same reason big money folks are invited to take part in “strategy” calls with campaign staff, who run them through the latest polling (most of it publicly available) and offer optimistic assessments and broad strokes about the strategy moving forward. Which means that when a candidate attends a fundraising event hosted by a top donor, he or she usually deviates from the stump speech, talks politics, speaks casually, and tries to give the attendees the feeling they’re in on some insider campaign scoops, as an enticement to get invested (literally and figuratively).

Tue Sep 18, 2012 – 9:02am:

Romney Unplugged Reax II


Rod Dreher compares the leaked video with Obama’s “bitter clingers” speech:

My initial sense was that this video wouldn’t hurt Romney any more than “bitter clingers” hurt Obama. But “bitter clingers” came in April 2008, which gave Obama a lot more time to recover before Election Day.

Though he argues it’s a “mistake” to declare the race over, Chris Cilizza acknowledges the damage:

The video will fuel the growing sentiment within the Republican chattering class that Romney is in the process of losing a winnable race. That means the second-guessing that goes on privately in every campaign will go more public. And the more public it becomes, the longer it takes Romney and his team to move beyond unhelpful process stories focused on whether his own party thinks he’s blowing it.

David Brooks weighs in :

[A]s a description of America today, Romney’s comment is a country-club fantasy. It’s what self-satisfied millionaires say to each other. It reinforces every negative view people have about Romney. Personally, I think he’s a kind, decent man who says stupid things because he is pretending to be something he is not — some sort of cartoonish government-hater. But it scarcely matters. He’s running a depressingly inept presidential campaign.

Tod Kelly focuses on Romney’s claim that if he wins “the markets will be happy” and we’ll “see capital come back and we’ll see—without actually doing anything—we’ll actually get a boost in the economy”:

Let’s set aside for a moment the fact that of all the things that haven’t grown in Obama’s economy, the market ain’t one of them.  Instead, let’s focus on Romney’s actual plan: He’ll win the election, and everything will just magically be fixed by the mere fact that he won…. If this is the plan, than Mitt Romney has no business being anywhere near the White House, and he should never, ever be allowed to be Commander-In-Chief.

Pete Suderman ponders the root of Romney’s remarks:

[W]hat does it tell us about Romney? That he thinks he can talk differently to different groups of people without consequence, and that he’s happy to play to the GOP’s sense of self-entitlement. At the fundraiser, he goes after those who believe that “government has a responsibility to take care of them,” the folks who think they’re “entitled” to health care. “I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” But Romney doesn’t plan to convince his own supporters of the same thing either. … Romney isn’t against government handouts at all. It’s just that he’s only in favor of the ones that Republicans like.

And Ta-Nehisi reviews the Romney presser:

I have never seen the candidate of a major party looking more shook than Romney does at this press conference.

(Photo: US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks to the press in Costa Mesa, California, on September 17, 2012. By Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

Tue Sep 18, 2012 – 9:13am:

Another Shoe Drops

David Corn has posted more videos. Corn comments on the one above, which is about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:

In public, Romney has not declared the peace process pointless or dismissed the two-state solution. In July, when the Israeli newspaper Haaretz asked Romney if he supports a two-state solution and the creation of a Palestinian state, he replied, “I believe in a two-state solution which suggests there will be two states, including a Jewish state.” Yet Romney’s remarks to these funders—this was one of his longest answers at the fundraiser—suggest he might be hiding his true beliefs regarding Israel and the peace process and that on this subject he is out of sync with the predominant view in foreign policy circles that has existed for decades.

Tue Sep 18, 2012 – 9:32am:

Quote For The Day

“To seek to raise taxes on poor and middle-class people would be a terrible mistake. The idea is bound to be unpopular. And it would alter the character of conservatism for the worse. A desire to cut taxes for people at all income levels, and to oppose tax increases at all income levels, was key to associating conservatism with the diffusion of opportunity in the Reagan years and after. Changed circumstances may demand a different approach than that of three decades ago. They do not compel conservatism to become a creed openly focused on helping one group at the expense of another, a kind of mirror image of egalitarian liberalism. There are many things to worry about in this world. The number of people paying income tax isn’t one of them,” – Ramesh Ponnuru,National Review, November 21, 2011.

Tue Sep 18, 2012 – 9:56am:

Romney’s Tangled Web

Comedian Rob Delaney, Romney’s “Twitter nemesis“, had a serious reaction to Mitt’s unplugged fundraiser comments, recognizing an unsettling similarity between his own alcoholism and the candidate’s apparent duplicity:

To drink the way that I did required dishonesty. I lied about where I was going. Who I was with. Why I wasn’t coming in for work. Whether or not I was hung over. Whether I was drunk at any given moment. I lied to myself about my fitness for getting behind the wheel of a car. Individual friends, family members and acquaintances knew pieces of the picture, but never the whole picture. If they had, they’d have known I was in real trouble. So I told one thing to one audience and another to another audience. I’d recalibrate depending on where I was or who I was with. It was selfish. It was lying. So when I lay on the hospital gurney with two broken arms, looking down the barrel of a court date, jail time, surgeries without health insurance, rehab, fines and fees into the tens of thousands, and a reckoning with those who cared about me and those who didn’t, I felt RELIEF. I could tell them the truth: I’m a drunk, I’m responsible for all of this, and I don’t want to do it anymore. It felt really good, like sunlight.

I was reminded of all of this today when a political candidate had a speech he’d meant for a small, select audience get heard by a much larger audience. It made my stomach turn. I remember that behavior well. It didn’t get me anywhere that I wanted to go.

Tue Sep 18, 2012 – 10:17am:

How, Exactly, Does Romney Bounce Back?

Robert Shrum wonders:

What else is left, another foreign crisis? First, that’s when Americans tend to rally around a president, especially one who’s demonstrated coolness, judgment, and a sure sense of command, which is exactly what Obama has done. He’s in an extraordinary position for a Democrat of holding a decided advantage on foreign policy, national security, and fighting terrorism. In contrast, Romney instinctively says the wrong thing, which frequently makes him look not only out of touch but out of his depth, unready for a job that demands the capacity to cope with unanticipated and potentially mortal dangers.

And Romney won’t make up lost ground by pursuing a makeover on daytime TV. Last week he told Kelly Ripa that he’s a “fan” of Snooki from Jersey Shore and likes to sleep wearing “as little as possible.” The latter elicits an image we didn’t need. The show was taped as the Middle East upheaval escalated. It wasn’t humanizing, but cringe-inducing. “Jersey Shore canceled—and Romney soon will be,” was the reaction of one Republican pro.

Tue Sep 18, 2012 – 10:36am:

Chart Of The Day


Krugman breaks down tax paying by age:

Thanks to the child tax credit and Earned Income Tax Credit, a fair number of working families with young children pay no income tax; thanks to the exemption on Social Security, many older Americans pay no income tax. But in middle age, close to 80 percent of the population pays income taxes, and even more, of course, pay federal taxes of some kind.

So the notion that almost half of our citizens are grifters isn’t just vile; it’s also based on a complete misunderstanding of tax realities.

(Chart from the Hamilton Project.)

Tue Sep 18, 2012 – 10:56am:

Another Shoe Drops, Ctd

Chait sees Romney’s comments on Israel and Palestine as a pander to conservative “Jewish donors have very right-wing views on Middle East policy”:

Romney is aware of the dangers of moving toward a two-state solution, which are real enough, but he seems blithe about the dangers of the status quo. It’s certainly true that lots of Palestinians want to destroy Israel (though it’s not true that “the Palestinians” as a whole want this, as Romney’s formulation implies), and this complicates the prospects for a negotiated settlement.

But there’s not a whole lot of evidence that continuing the occupation is making them hate Israel any less. And if you lack any plausible mechanism for delay to improve conditions, then a short-term focus on immediate security becomes, by default, a long-term plan for a one-state solution. That is the Netanyahu “strategy,” and Romney appears comfortable identifying himself with it.

Tue Sep 18, 2012 – 11:18am:

Romney Unplugged Reax III


Conor Friedersdorf puts Romney’s remarks in context:

This “47 percent” incident reflects a larger theme in Campaign 2012. The base of the conservative movement develops a message that plays well internally, and inexplicably thinks it’ll be persuasive to the general electorate if only it is trumpeted. Mitt Romney slavishly conducts himself as the base wishes. And the talking points turn out to be as unpopular with swing voters as you’d expect. That’s how it’s gone on foreign policy; now that Romney has been caught making the verbal equivalent of a 53% Tumblr entry, that’s how it’s going on domestic policy too.

Tomasky has a similar thought:

In a way, it’s not even mostly Romney’s fault. It’s the fault of the party and movement that introduced and spread this toxic propaganda in the first place. When Romney is licking his wounds on Nov. 7, that party and movement will fire all its arrows at him. He’ll deserve a lot of them. But they will have buried him with the ignorance and rage they demanded he adopt. His chief crime will have been his weakness in failing to confront them.

Bill Kristol calls Romney’s remarks “arrogant and stupid”:

It’s worth recalling that a good chunk of the 47 percent who don’t pay income taxes are Romney supporters—especially of course seniors (who might well “believe they are entitled to heath care,” a position Romney agrees with), as well as many lower-income Americans (including men and women serving in the military) who think conservative policies are better for the country even if they’re not getting a tax cut under the Romney plan. So Romney seems to have contempt not just for the Democrats who oppose him, but for tens of millions who intend to vote for him.

Alex Klein defends Romney:

Mitt Romney is right that, due to deductions and the rising burden of payroll taxes, 47 percent of Americans don’t pay income tax, and that just as many households are dependent on government transfers in some way. But what about the harder question: Is Mitt right to say that those people are more likely to support Obama? For the most part, yes. Crunching the Tax Policy Center’s figures, you find that 82.8 percent of those who pay no income tax live in households with income under $33,542. And according to Gallup, among those with incomes under $36,000, Obama has a massive, 15-point lead.

But Romney didn’t claim that non-income tax payers lean toward the left, he said that the full 47 percent are Obama supporters. He called me a mooch. Many of you too. And I pay close to 50 percent on my earnings from writing, and he pays 13 percent, because of government policy.  As Cartman might say, that pisses me off. Andrew Gelman weighs in:

I agree that there’s a correlation between voting for Obama and being on government benefits, but the correlation is far from 100%. Also, lots of middle and upper-income people rely heavily on government programs and also pay taxes (consider, for example, the civilian and military employees of the federal government, or local public employees such as teachers and police officers, or even researchers such as myself who receive government funds); I’m not sure where they fit into Romney’s story.

Frum wonders why resentment towards the 47 percent resonates on the right. His guess:

When you ask white Americans to estimate the black population of the United States, the answer averages out at nearly 30%. Ask them to estimate the Hispanic population, and the answer averages out at 22%. So when a politician or a broadcaster talks about 47% in “dependency,” the image that swims into many white voters’ minds is not their mother in Florida, her Social Security untaxed, receiving Medicare benefits vastly greater than her lifetime tax contributions; it is not their uncle, laid off after 30 years and now too old to start over. No, the image that comes into mind is minorities on welfare.

Matt Welch rejects Romney’s rhetoric:

I should theoretically be the target audience for this stuff. I never took out a federally guaranteed student loan, never enjoyed the mortgage-interest deduction; I worry all the time about government spending and entitlements, and I am not unfamiliar with the looter/moocher formulation. But this kind of reductionism does not reflect individualism (as David Brooks charges), it rejects individualism, by insisting that income tax is destiny. It judges U.S. residents not as humans but as productive (or unproductive) units. (Though as long as people are thinking that way, is there any category of resident less taker-y than illegal immigrants with fake Social Security cards who file income taxes?) And it prematurely valorizes one class of government-gobbling Americans while prematurely writing off another.

Reihan thinks the percentage of Americans who pay income taxes is a distraction:

The version of conservative tax policy I favor might actually further reduce the share of tax units that pay federal income taxes, yet it would strengthen the work ethic, increase labor force participation, and discourage the kind of dependency that concerns Mitt Romney.

Jonathan Alter adds his two cents:

There’s been a lot of talk in recent years about liberals waging “class warfare.” But what could be more warlike on the battlefield of class than dividing the country into “makers” and “takers”? If Romney wins, we’re in for a nasty form of class politics that we haven’t seen in this country since the late 19th Century. But even if he loses, the 2012 election will be long remembered as the year when the divisive and often cruel dimensions of a cramped political philosophy were laid bare for all the world to see.

Andrew Sprung’s view:

This is the mother of all ‘what you really think’ gaffes — or perhaps just ‘what you really want your core supporters to think you think’ gaffes.

(Photo: GOP Presidential candidate Governor Mitt Romney wipes the sweat away during a rally held at Van Dyck Park in Fairfax, Virginia on Thursday, September 13, 2012. By Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Tue Sep 18, 2012 – 11:32am:

How The 47 Percent Video Appeared

A long, strange new-media trip. Congrats, David, by the way.

Tue Sep 18, 2012 – 11:37am:

The Campaign The Base Wants

Well, they’ve got it now. Sheldon Adelson didn’t even have to pay for this one:


Tue Sep 18, 2012 – 11:45am:

Quote For The Day II

“You can go on and on telling lies, and the most palpable lies at that, and even if they are not actually believed, there is no strong revulsion either. We are all drowning in filth. When I talk to anyone or read the writings of anyone who has an axe to grind, I feel the intellectual honesty and balanced judgment have simply disappeared from the face of the earth. Everyone’s thought is forensic, everyone is simply putting a ‘case’ with deliberate suppression of his opponent’s point of view, and, what is more, with complete insensitiveness to any sufferings except those of himself and his friends…. But is there no one who has both firm opinions and a balanced outlook? Actually there are plenty, but they are powerless. All power is in the hands of paranoiacs,” – George Orwell.

Tue Sep 18, 2012 – 12:16pm:

The GOP Base Versus The Consensus On The 47%

Derek Thompson points out that Romney’s “secret admission” on the 47% is a standard Republican talking point:

Mitt Romney’s off-the-record comments were inelegant. But they were also part of a long trend of Republicans attacking the 47% as lazy, or playing by a different set of rules, or not fully contributing to the country. Michele Bachmann went after the non-payers. So did Rick Santorum. And Sen. John Cornyn.

Dave Weigel picked up on something similar at the Value Voter Summit, when asking its attendants why Obama might win:

The single most common answer? Well, Obama’s Democrats have been pumping up the ranks of the poor with free goodies, and those saps might be numerous enough to vote for him. They’d been hearing that on talk radio for, well, years. “We have 47, 48 percent who pay no income taxes,” said Rush Limbaugh in July. “We have 3 million more off the unemployment rolls and on the disability rolls, and they all vote!”

Of course, as Dylan Matthews pointed out yesterday, this isn’t true:

[P]oor people actually don’t vote that often. According to a CNN exit pollin 2008, those making less than $15,000 a year made up 13 percent of the population but just 6 percent of voters, while those making more than $200,000 a year made up just 3.8 percent of the population but fully 6 percent of voters.

Tue Sep 18, 2012 – 12:25pm:

The Sane Right

Just a word to say that David Brooks’ column is simply superb and to emphasize that both David Frum and Ramesh Ponnuru have made important points about why Romney is disgusting and wrong, respectively. Andrew Sprung has more. It gives me more hope that Romney’s embrace of the base right of the GOP, if it leads to a big loss, may finally force the party to return to sanity.

Tue Sep 18, 2012 – 1:30pm:

@InvisibleObama, Meet @MexicanMitt

Now competing against the empty chair is …

Tue Sep 18, 2012 – 1:42pm:

Dissent Of The Day

A reader writes:

If I could vote in the US presidential election (I’m Canadian), I’d totally be in the bag for Obama, but I’ve got to say, all this faux outrage over the Romney tape reminds me of the faux outrage over Obama’s “guns and religion” tape from last cycle. To make the leap from Romney’s words to saying he doesn’t care about half the country is a bit much. It seemed very obvious to me that he was talking about his campaign’s advertising focus and not about ignoring those people’s needs should he be elected. Saying “My job is not to worry about those people” can mean either of the following:

“My job is not to worry about those people after I’m elected” or
“My job is not to worry about those people when designing our election ads”

In the context I saw in the video, it seemed obvious to me that he was saying the latter, not the former. I also can’t help but think all the huffing and puffing and attempts to make Romney look like he was saying otherwise a bit strained and diminishes from all the totally legitimate complaints you could make against him.

I think that’s fair enough so far as it goes. That bit, while blunt, was inoffensive to me. The offense was calling 47 percent of Americans moochers, and saying that Obama’s voters were simply voting for more money from the makers. And this horrible, callous, contemptuous, Randian sentence:

“[M]y job is is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

He did not say: “I’ll never convince them they should vote for me.” He accused 47 percent of Americans of choosing not to “take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” He’s describing half the country as parasites, bleeding the productive half dry. Half the country. He includes me, an Obama supporter, who pays three times the tax on my income that Romney does, who immigrated at 21, whose parents never went to college, and whose blog now employs six people.

You know what, Mitt? Fuck you.

Tue Sep 18, 2012 – 1:55pm:

Yglesias Award Nominee

“The overall impression of Romney at this event is of someone who overheard some conservative cocktail chatter and maybe read a conservative blog or two, and is thoughtlessly repeating back what he heard and read,” – Rich Lowry.

Tue Sep 18, 2012 – 2:05pm:

The Tory vs The Randian


Listening to Mitt Romney’s Randianism I couldn’t help but be reminded of Benjamin Disraeli, that miraculously talented Victorian prime minister who saw conservatism as a philosophy that should never be indifferent to poverty or social inequality, who, in his novel, Sybil, spoke of two nations in one. An upper-class character, Charles Egremont, meets a working-class leftist, Walter Gerard, and his daughter Sybil. Gerard gets real:

“Two nations; between whom there is no intercourse and no sympathy; who are as ignorant of each other’s habits, thoughts, and feelings, as if they were dwellers in different zones, or inhabitants of different planets; who are formed by a different breeding, are fed by a different food, are ordered by different manners, and are not governed by the same laws.” “You speak of — “said Egremont, hesitantly. “THE RICH AND THE POOR.”

Disraeli believed that it was conservatism’s duty to protect the unity and coherence of the nation, and not be indifferent to the impact of Britain’s triumphant capitalist revolution on the British people themselves, especially the poor. At the time of Sybil, he lamented that the Tory Party had strayed from this philosophy:

In a parliamentary sense, that great party has ceased to exist; but I will believe that it still lives in the thought and sentiment and consecrated memory of the English nation … Even now it is not dead, but sleepeth; and, in an age of political materialism, of confused purposes and perplexed intelligence, that aspires only to wealth because it has faith in no other accomplishment, as men rifle cargoes on the verge of shipwreck, toryism will yet rise from the tomb over which Bolingbroke shed his last tear, to bring back strength to the Crown, liberty to the Subject, and to announce that power has only one duty: to secure the social welfare of the PEOPLE.

Not 53 percent of the people. Not 47 percent. Just the PEOPLE. In full caps, as the original. And government exists, in Disraeli’s eyes, to promote the “social welfare” of the people, or what the Founders called more expansively “the general Welfare”. This is the conservatism now in eclipse by the forces of ideology, fundamentalism and materialism. It is the conservatism we have to rebuild.

Tue Sep 18, 2012 – 2:30pm:

Mitt’s Struggle For Independents


Citing a June Pew poll (pdf), Suzy Khimm pokes holes in Romney’s plan to focus on “the five to 10 percent in the center that are independent, that are thoughtful”:

Some of these independents may agree with Romney that more of those receiving government assistance are able to help themselves. But most independent voters also believe that the government should “guarantee every citizen enough to eat and a place to sleep.”

Jill Tankersley homes in further on Mitt’s lack of appeal to independents, drawing the connection between his plan to cut taxes and his criticism of government dependency:

[A] CBS News/New York Times poll found fewer than two in five independents believe lower taxes are the route to faster growth, compared to more than half who favor increased government spending and higher taxes.

If Romney wanted to argue that the poor have grown a little too fond of government help, or that America can’t afford to keep borrowing to fund a safety net, the Pew polls suggest large swaths of independent voters would be receptive. But that wasn’t the argument he made at the fundraiser. He was contending that his low-tax message works with independents, but not the government-dependent, which appears not to be true.

Tue Sep 18, 2012 – 2:50pm:

Quote For The Day III

“Running for president in the YouTube era, you realize you have to be very judicious in what you say. You have to be careful with your humor. You have to recognize that anytime you’re running for the presidency of the United States, you’re on,” – Mitt Romney, in a 2007 interview.

(Hat tip: Mark Leibovich)

Tue Sep 18, 2012 – 3:08pm:

Unfit For Government, Ctd

It’s now clear that what I’ve been arguing these past few months – that Romney would be an extension of the Likud party in the US, that he would encourage more Jewish settlement in the West Bank, launch a war against Iran and abandon even any pretense that the US should be an honest broker between the Israelis and the Palestinians … well, I was right, wasn’t I? The man bankrolled by Sheldon Adelson whose mouthpiece is Dan Senor is a supporter of a one-state romney-12solution, presumably a starker version of his view of America in which half the country works and the other half are parasites. In Israel, that would be Israeli Jews and Palestinians respectively, because we already know that Romney believes that the Palestinians have no entrepreneurial spirit (about as far from the truth as you can get).

Again, what’s striking is the inability even to recognize the “other” as people worth talking to or engaging. He’s written off 47 percent of his fellow citizens – as hopelessly lazy and irresponsible and unreachable. He’s written off any engagement with the Palestinian leadership whom he describes in a fashion that, again, could have been taken from, say, 1979, as if there have not been some real advances in the West Bank since then. And Romney is on record as seeing no way he could ever say no to an Israeli prime minister on anything. So there you have it. If you thought I was being excitable about Romney’s foreign policy – which makes George W. Bush look like Kofi Annan – you now know why I’m so alarmed by Romney’s laziness, deceptiveness and recklessness in foreign affairs.

Dan Drezner sums up what Romney’s take on the Israel-Palestine situation says about his candidacy:

We’ve had a week where riots in the Middle East have raged against the United States, NATO’s Afghanistan policy seems to be falling apart, and China seems bound and determined to foment crises in the Pacific Rim.  A smart presidential candidate could find a lot of material to criticize the Obama administration on foreign policy.  Instead we have a GOP nominee that can’t manage his own campaign, much less deep thoughts on geopolitics.

Nob Akimoto is flabbergasted by Romney’s foreign policy vision:

This is seriously unreal. I was ready to chalk up some of his campaign trail nonsense to not knowing what the hell he was talking about, but he was able to go at length about the Israel/Palestine situation and his solution essentially is just one of those things you never, ever admit to, even in the most private of company. That he dismissed a former Sec-State (I’d imagine this is probably Baker) saying there’s the prospect of a settlement without even asking what that prospect is is also quite unbelievable.

Meanwhile, the Twittersphere reacted to the bizarre analogy that equated Taiwan with Palestine:

Romney has been vocal in wanting to step up military support of Taiwan, and hascriticized Obama’s “Asian pivot.”

To read all Dish coverage of Romney’s recent foreign policy test, including multiple “Unfit For Government” posts, go to our comprehensive thread page “The Embassy Attacks In Libya And Egypt.”

(Photo: Uriel Sinai/Getty)

Tue Sep 18, 2012 – 3:36pm:

Meep Meep Watch

This embed is invalid

Joe Klein compares Romney’s closed-door speech to Obama’s 2008 closed-door “bitter clingers” quote:

Obama’s gaffe was a minor tributary off the main story of the 2008 presidential campaign, which was the economic collapse. Romney’s adoption of the Fox-Rush neo-libertarian sensibility, and the remedies that it assumes, is the main story of the 2012 campaign.

He will have to defend his fantasy in the debates. He will have to say why he believes that 47% of the American public doesn’t want to “take responsibility” for their lives. He will have to say why the Republican policies at the heart of this problem–eliminating income taxes for the working class, expanding food stamps (a George W. Bush initiative), expanding Medicare to cover prescription drugs (Bush again)–are bad for the country.

The debates are Romney’s best bet to turn this thing around, unless Netanyahu tries to help him out by blowing up the global economy. If Mitt’s constantly on the defensive in them, as Joe suggests he’ll have to be, this could turn into a rout. Down-ballot as well.

Has Obama now done to the entire GOP what he did to the Clintons, McCain and Romney? Make them somehow self-destruct? Know hope – and I haven’t said that in a while.

Tue Sep 18, 2012 – 4:00pm:

Morris Award Nominee

“It is the president of the United States—the same one who presented himself as the man who would transcend political partisanship because we were all Americans—who has for most of his term set about dividing the nation by class, by the stoking of resentments. Who mocks “millionaires and billionaires.” Who makes it clear that he considers himself the president of the other—the good—Americans. How’s that for presidential tone?” – Dorothy Rabinowitz, the day after the Romney dismissal of the 47 percent of Americans who are, apparently, parasites on the rest.

(The Dick Morris Award is what was once the Von Hoffman Award. A full award glossary is here. Readers are invited to submit quotes for the annual competition at the end of the year to select the champions.)

Tue Sep 18, 2012 – 4:44pm:

Did The Real Mitt Romney Just Stand Up?

Eric Erickson thinks so:

For once, we see Mitt Romney undercover and off the record and he sounds like a real person not pulled by the gravitational forces of the DC GOP Elite who have capitulated to $16 trillion in national debt. And suddenly, those beltway Republicans are beating up Romney for saying something off the cuff, maybe not as polished as he should have, but that is agreed with by a majority of Americans.

John Hinderaker offers ideas on how to use this new Secret Romney:

[T]he private Mitt Romney is a heck of a lot more compelling, not to mention more conservative, than the public version. A few weeks ago I attended a Romney fundraiser in the Twin Cities, the only one scheduled for Minnesota during the campaign. Romney was electric, more passionate than I have ever seen him. I said at the time that his campaign should film him in that setting, before a friendly audience of conservatives, and edit the footage into a series of 30 or 60 second commercials. Maybe, if we were lucky, Mother Jones was there and will do it for us.

Michael Walsh calls this Romney’s Gettysburg moment:

What he ought to do is step up and embrace the basic division in our nation, including the fact that nearly half the country pays no income taxes. Acknowledge it — and then explain why, morally, this is not a good thing. Why having no skin in the game while at the same time demanding a say in the proceedings at the federal level is fundamentally undemocratic.

Except, as Dylan Matthews notes, Romney’s current tax plan wouldn’t address this issue:

Given that the campaign has protested vigorously against the TPC’s suggestion that paying for his plan means raising taxes on lower-income people, it seems reasonable to assume that Romney won’t make much of a dent in the number of people not paying any income tax. Whatever you think about Romney’s fundraiser remarks, he doesn’t have a plan that corrects the “problem” he’s bemoaning.

Kerry Howley is skeptical that the videos reveal the “real” Romney:

Jonathan Chait says we’ve seen “an authentic Romney,” echoing the general journalistic consensus. Given that Romney is at this event to beg, flatter, and beg some more, the assumption is strange. It’s not clear why a slippery candidate would, amid wealthy donors, suddenly bare the dark deep hidden recesses of his soul. Strategy does not suddenly fall away when rich men pull out their checkbooks.

Paul Waldman agrees:

As I’ve maintained for some time, for all intents and purposes there is no “real” Mitt Romney. His political beliefs are the equivalent of Schrodinger’s cat. They exist in every state at once until you open the box to observe them. If the one opening the box is a Tea Partier, they instantly lock into place as a set of Tea Party beliefs; if it’s a bunch of GOP plutocrats staring down, that’s whose beliefs he’ll mirror. Romney has spent the last five years in an intensive period of study, with his subject the contemporary American conservative mind in all its permutations. He’s well aware that the misleading talking point about 47 percent of Americans not paying taxes gets repeated all the time on the right, in private and public. What he was telling the people in that room is what he tells any group of people he speaks to. His message was, in Christine O’Donnell’s immortal words, “I’m you.”

Tue Sep 18, 2012 – 5:21pm:

The World Is Listening

Ackerman parses Romney’s dismissal of Israeli-Palestinian peace:

U.S. policy in the Mideast does not reduce to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But I’ve tended to find that people in the region, Arab and Israeli, consider an American president’s perspective on the conflict to be a threshold issue, a prism through which they can understand what sort of relationship to expect from the U.S., and whether that presidency ought to be embraced or endured. Romney may not be interested in the peace process, but the Mideast is very interested in Mitt Romney, and turning away from the peace process — either explicitly or through neglect — will have a cascading effect on anything else he wants to accomplish in the region.

Tue Sep 18, 2012 – 7:02pm:

Romney’s Fatal Word: “Victims”

The Obama campaign has put out an online ad that uses two of the most potent things in political commercials – a candidate’s own words in his own voice and the opinions of ordinary voters, in their own voices. The person-on-the-street interview – as we watch them watch the video on an iPad for the first time – also captures classic Internet memes and television cliches. But notice how most respond:

Romney called 47 percent of Americans self-described victims. And here’s what he thinks his relationship to them should be in the context of this campaign:

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

They couldn’t even be convinced to take care of themselves, as long as they can get government handouts. Romney thinks that applies to almost one in two Americans. Or to put it bluntly: the real crime of 47 percent of Americans is their laziness – and then they have the gall to whine about the One Percent. He is using the key argument of racists against African-Americans through the ages against 47 percent of the country. That’s the equivalent of calling a lot of old white people the n-word.

Romney’s Randian callousness also goes against the core American grain. Americans do not see themselves as victims, but as potential winners, even in rough times. Romney’s contempt for the 47 percent violates a central tenet of the American dream: anyone can make it. Romney is saying that half the country can’tmake it, don’t even want to make it, and are parasites on the rest. Asking for their vote would be like asking children to give up their toys. Why would they?

More to the point: this was a cynical man with a cynical tone different – and more convincing – than his usual stilted public speech. The best defense of it – morally – is that it was designed for an audience of super-rich donors who say these things all the time in private, listen to Rush Limbaugh, and needed to be ginned up. He is whatever he needs to be for each separate audience. He aims to please.

So there are two possibilities: this is the real Romney, a callous cynic with contempt for half the country, the weaker part; or that Romney is a man so empty of human qualities he even has to fake cynicism.

Tue Sep 18, 2012 – 8:10pm:

Reality Check


Gallup’s bounce has faded for Obama. Ditto in the poll of pollsRCP still gives him a 3 point national lead. And David Rothschild sees Obama with his highest odds of winning since hr race began. The newest big media likely voter poll – NBC/WSJ – gives him a 5 point lead. None of this reflects the latest news. But look: on Gallup, Obama has got the parasite 47 percent, just as Romney predicted.

Tue Sep 18, 2012 – 8:45pm:

Ad War Update: The First Small Salvo

In addition to the web ad we highlighted earlier that first uses the fundraiser footage, Team Obama puts out a clever graphic:


The Obama campaign indicates they are still considering how to use the fundraiser clips in actual advertising, while pro-Obama Super PAC Priorities USA is alreadygung-ho. But the campaign did come out with a new TV ad targeting women; it follows yesterday’s baby-deficit-daughter ad from the Romney campaign and focuses on the potential negative effects of the Romney/Ryan tax plans. The ad will air in six states (size of the buy unknown):

In outside spending news, Rove’s assorted groups announced a new $10 million ad buy, with $8.3 million hitting Obama via Super PAC American Crossroads, while dark money group Crossroads GPS is dropping $2.3 million to take on down-ticket Democrats (four Senate races, one House race). Here is the small business-focused ad American Crossroads is using against Obama in eight states:

Meanwhile, a new WaPo/ABC poll looked at opinions regarding outside spending on the presidential race, with 75% “very concerned” about the amount of spending from corporations, unions, and the wealthy. They also note how conservatives don’t seem to understand that the majority of the outside spending is supporting Romney:


Lastly, Todd Akin’s campaign hopes that disaffected Missouri women have eight minutes to kill watching a series of women declare their continued support for the candidate in this web video.

Ad War archive here.

Tue Sep 18, 2012 – 9:02pm:

Romney And The End Of Whiteness

TNC has, as usual, a perspective few express so well, and which informed my earlier post. Money quote:

You can paint a similar history of the welfare state, which was first secured by assuring racist white Democrats that the pariah of black America would be cut out of it. When such machinations became untenable, the strategy became to claim the welfare state mainly benefited blacks. And as that has become untenable, the strategy has become to target the welfare state itself, with no obvious mention of color. At each interval the ostensible pariah grows, until one in two Americans are members of the pariah class.

In all this you can see the insidious and lovely foresight of integration which, at its root, posits an end to whiteness as any kind of organizing political force. I would not say we are there. But when the party of white populism finds itself writing off half the country, we are really close.

Tue Sep 18, 2012 – 10:25pm:

Why The New York Times Should Never Die

One sentence by Michael Barbaro:

A flustered [Romney] adviser, describing the mood, said that the campaign was turning into a vulgar, unprintable phrase.

Clusterfuck-fuckety-fuck-fuck-fuck. But God knows what highs and lows are in store.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Wed Sep 19, 2012 – 9:50am:

One Big Change

The bounce is over in the Gallup and Rasmussen tracking polls, even though they don’t yet register the fallout from Romney’s “fuck-you, 47 percenters” speech. It shows a tightening of the race again. But on one measure, it shows a big shift:

The “enthusiasm gap” that favored Republicans by 11 points a year ago suddenly has moved to a 9-point advantage for Democrats — a crucial asset when it comes to turning out supporters to the polls. The percentage of Democrats who say they are extremely or very enthusiastic about voting has surged from 53% last month to 73% now. Republican enthusiasm has risen but by not nearly as much, to 64% from 55%.Those gains in enthusiasm might reflect the effectiveness of the conventions in boosting base supporters: 16% of Democrats but just 6% of Republicans said the political conventions had “a great deal” of impact on their vote.

Now we’ll see, in a tight election, just how productive Obama’s deep investment in his ground game will be.

Wed Sep 19, 2012 – 10:19am:

Letters From The 47 Percent

A reader writes:

My mother gave birth to me at 18, went to college while raising me, got a BA, Masters and PhD by taking out student loans. She worked for 15 years to pay those back and help me go to college. When I was 21, she became very ill and has been on SSI for almost 12 years now. I have worked and paid taxes since I was 17 years old, and for the last six have paid federal income tax at the highest bracket possible with virtually no cap gains. After federal, state and city I get roughly 60 cents of every dollar. If she hadn’t sacrificed the way she did, there is no way I’d be where I am today.

I pay a lot in taxes. I am happy to do so, because I know that in some small way my money goes to, among many things, people like my mother. I understand there are people out there who are gaming the system, but I’m willing to accept that knowing that people like my mother – good decent people who have had a tough time of it, and perhaps don’t have sons sending them help every month – are being taken care of.

Another writes:

At first I didn’t think Romney’s comments were any big deal, but then I realized he was talking about me, and so many Americans like me. Then I felt insulted. My father died at age 42 after a four-year battle with extremely aggressive MS, when I was 10. Our family was financially ruined.

My mom, my older brother and I lived off his SSDI survivor benefits and help from my mom’s family. My mom received the benefit until I was 16. Us kids received the benefit until we graduated from high school, me for eight years. My mom put herself through community college and found a good job. My brother graduated high school and joined the military. I graduated and went to college. The point is that we would have been destitute without the SSDI benefit, and I’m sure we didn’t pay much in taxes for several years. The government benefit, which my dad paid into, did exactly what it was supposed to do – keep us afloat until we could take care of ourselves.

And that we have done. We’ve gone on to have good careers. I now proudly pay over twice as much tax, as a percentage of my income, as Gov. Romney does. I’ve not done the math, but I’m sure that the income and payroll taxes my dad paid before he died and the taxes my mom, brother, and I have paid – and continue to pay – more than make up for the years we lived on SSDI. I would have given up that benefit any day to have my dad back. It was not a political decision to take that benefit, and my first presidential vote for Bush in 1992 was not leveraged by whether or not he was going to keep me on the dole.

I feel sorry for Romney. I truly think that he and those who surround him simply don’t understand how most Americans live.


I guess I’m one of the 47% that Romney rails about.  I didn’t know I was “lazy” when I was six years old picking strawberries, beans and cherries every summer until I was old enough to work on a farm with cattle, pigs, and spearmint.  I didn’t make enough in a summer to pay federal tax but my paycheck did include payroll taxes.  Likewise, working through college and grad school I never made enough to pay fedeal taxes.  But many jobs were paid “in kind”, such as free meals at the Student Union in exchange for washing dishes or waiting tables at the fraternity for a place to sleep.

If I “mooched” on anyone it was those good people who helped me find jobs like babysitting a computer system all night (so no need to spend money on rent).  Or it was my parents who held a single GED and worked four jobs between them but sent five children and four grandchildren to college and beyond.  My computer experience led to a charmed career in international marketing of IT, where I traveled the world and got paid for it!  Believe me I was not happy to pay A LOT of taxes of all kinds for over 30 years but I certainly understood why it was the right thing to do.

And when after five decades I had to stop working for health reasons, I am thrilled that Obama passed the stimulus, longer UI, subsidized COBRA, ObamaCare, etc. – and even brought my portfolio back to life. Thanks to those lifelines, my wife and I now run a vacation rental in such a way to bring joy to hundreds of our guests. But the business doesn’t yet run a profit so we don’t pay income taxes yet.

So my count is I paid federal income taxes in just 30 of 53 working years in my nearly six decades of life.  Thanks to Mittens I’ll remember that I’m a lazy, irresponsible 47-percenter when I clean the toilet bowl in the guesthouse tonight.

End of rant.

Wed Sep 19, 2012 – 10:40am:

Did Romney Just Lose the Election? Ctd


Joshua Tucker doubts it:

Romney has once again demonstrated the ability to be his own campaign’s worst enemy and given the Obama campaign an opportunity to talk about an issue that draws an important contrast between the campaigns, but a week from now we’ll probably be talking about something else entirely.

(Chart from John Sides)

Wed Sep 19, 2012 – 11:32am:

The Economy Isn’t Everything

That’s Ambers’ view:

[V]oters have already conducted their referendum on the Obama economy, and made their conclusions about whether to vote for the president based on his economic performance. If they are persuadable, they are persuadable on other issues, issues that Romney isn’t going to find much traction with. This is why doubling down on his core message and trying to turn out as many hardcore conservatives as possible might not be a bad tactical decision. In fact, it might be the only tactical decision available to him at this point.

Wed Sep 19, 2012 – 12:48pm:

It’s Not Just Income Taxes, Mitt


The bars in the above chart represent each earning brackets’ share of total income (in blue) and share of total tax, and not merely income tax, contributions (in red). Matthew O’Brien explains why the system is only slightly progressive, despite 47% not paying federal income tax:

[T]here are lots of other taxes, and they’re mostly regressive. The payroll tax and state and local taxes all hit poorer households harder than they hit richer households. Once you add up the progressive federal income tax and the regressive federal payroll tax — which raise roughly the same amount of revenue — with regressive state and local taxes, you only just get a progressive system overall.

Previous Dish on payroll taxes here.

Wed Sep 19, 2012 – 1:10pm:

“There Are Producers And Parasites”

Expect this sort of ugly rhetoric to grow:

Millman is confident “Romney writing off half the country as incorrigible parasites is not going to hurt his electoral prospects”:

Half of Americans think we spend more than 10% of the budget on foreign aid, and more than 5% of the budget on public broadcasting. Half of Americans think more than one-in-five Americans is gay. Most people have absolutely no idea how numbers work, or what numbers are plausible as an answer to a whole host of questions. And, by the way, while more-educated people do better on these kinds of quizzes than less-educated people, they don’t do nearly as well as you’d expect.

Nobody inclined to vote Republican thinks Romney is talking about white retirees or families of six making $50k/year when he talks about people who won’t “take responsibility” for their lives. Romney is running on saving Medicare from Obama’s “raid,” increasing defense spending, and exempting more unearned income from taxation altogether. So his voters know he’s not talking about them. He’s talking about moochers and parasites.

Matt Steinglass, on the other hand, argues that criticism from elites will cost Romney support:

[W]hat’s striking about Mr Romney’s flailing on-camera mess this week is that he has lost a major chunk of his elite, particularly in that part of the conservative commentariat that still has lines of communication open to liberals.

Wed Sep 19, 2012 – 1:53pm:

Behind Closed Doors

Douthat heaps scorn on how both campaigns play to dystopian visions in their pandering to elites (for Republicans, this, of course, means “Atlas Shrugged,” while for Dems, it’s “one part ‘Turner Diaries,’ one part ‘Handmaid’s Tale'”):

What does it say that our politicians, in settings where they’re at least pretending to open up and reveal their true perspective, feel comfortable embracing the most self-serving elite stereotypes about ordinary citizens who vote for the other party? Nothing good, I think. The current American story is one of polarization, with the two major parties sealed into their respective ideological bunkers, and stratification, with an elite that’s more isolated from the common life of the country it rules than at any time in recent history.

However, there’s a small difference, he notes:

The way Obama and Romney employed these stereotypes are not actually equivalent. Both behind-closed-door comments were profoundly condescending, but only Romney explicitly wrote off the people he’s describing.

It’s not a small one, it’s a huge one. Obama was telling his rich San Francisco Democrats that Republican dominance in the red states was understandable given their recent economic past. He was empathizing, not condemning – a huge distinction. And there was no cynicism, unlike Romney. Public cynicism is political death in America. Dreher merely sighs:

These excellent questions get to the heart of why I am so deeply alienated from both parties. We need a Christopher Lasch party. I keep trying to imagine what the source for this kind of political renewal would be, and I keep coming up blank.

Wed Sep 19, 2012 – 2:09pm:

Yglesias Award Nominee

“The logic of Romney’s fundraising has seemed, for some time, slightly crazy. He’s raising money so he can pile it in at the end, with ads. But at the end will they make much difference? Obama is said to have used a lot of his money early on, to paint a portrait of Romney as Thurston Howell III, as David Brooks put it. That was a gamble on Obama’s part: spend it now, pull ahead in the battlegrounds, once we pull ahead more money will come in because money follows winners, not losers.

If I’m seeing things right, that strategy is paying off. Romney’s staff used to brag they had a lower burn rate, they were saving it up. For what? For the moment when Americans would rather poke out their eyeballs and stomp on the goo than listen to another ad?” – Peggy Noonan.

Wed Sep 19, 2012 – 2:30pm:

47% Hits The Airwaves

After yesterday’s brilliant online ad from the Obama campaign, we get this:

Pro-Obama Super PAC Priorities USA is behind it. It will air on TV and across the web as part of a previously announced $30 million six-state buy. I don’t think it’s as effective as voters’ own voices. But they are right to focus on Romney’s accusation that almost half of Americans think of themselves as “victims”.

Wed Sep 19, 2012 – 2:41pm:

Enter The Two-Minuters

About two minutes of Romney’s fundraiser remarks are missing from the recording released by Mother Jones, apparently due to a technical problem with the recording device. Cue the conspiracies:

[T]he omission, first flagged by Glenn Beck’s The Blaze, is already causing some controversy on the right. The conservative blog Legal Insurrection sought Corn’s explanation and Joel Pollak, editor-in-chief of, accused Mother Jones of breaking its promise to release the full video. “There is new reason to suspect manipulation,” Pollak writes. “Mother Jones’s entire story now deserves to be treated with suspicion, if not contempt.”

No, Joel. 47 percent of Americans – not Mother Jones‘ story – are to be treated with suspicion, if not contempt, according to your candidate. By the way, Twitter is having a field day speculating on what happened during those two minutes:

Many more here.

Wed Sep 19, 2012 – 3:18pm:

Romney Tries To Massage The 47 Percent Message

It’s not producers vs parasites, or the makers vs the takers. Coordinated with the Drudge report, he cites a 1998 clip from Obama:

“There’s a tape that came out just a couple of days ago where the president said yes he believes in redistribution. I don’t. I believe the way to lift people and help people have higher incomes is not to take from some and give to others but to create wealth for all.”

Here’s what Obama said:

“I actually believe in some redistribution, at least at a certain level to make sure that everybody’s got a shot.”

This is not socialism. It’s about trying to ensure that “everybody’s got a shot.” It’s centrist American liberalism. But Romney cannot back away from his 47 percent speech, or he loses the base. He can’t intensify it, either, because of increasing damage from independents. So he’s trying to make the whole thing some condescending message on why he’s an American in his economic philosophy and Obama isn’t. Nice try. But redistribution is inextricable from the progressive income tax code, and long has been in America. So why isn’t Romney favoring a flat tax?

Wed Sep 19, 2012 – 5:53pm:

Everybody’s President

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Alyssa watched Obama’s Letterman appearance:

The line that’s getting a lot of attention is Obama’s reminder that the president represents everyone, a line he had to deliver that’s the obvious rejoinder to Mitt Romney’s nasty, condescending remarks about ignoring the 47 percent of people who will never vote for him. And that’s a line that Obama probably had to deliver. But I think the real power of this appearance is that it reveals how that video gives Obama the tool he needs to connect all the themes of his campaign, and to draw a final, and perhaps deadly, comparison with Mitt Romney.

The president, however, is catching some grief for another line: “I don’t remember what the number [of the national debt] was precisely.”

Wed Sep 19, 2012 – 7:56pm:

“There Are Producers And Parasites” Ctd

Millman bets that Romney’s comments won’t hurt him because his supporters won’t realize the 47 percent includes many of them. Larison differs:

For the sake of argument, let’s assume that the millions of Republican voters Romney insulted with those remarks don’t believe he was talking about them. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be quite a few otherwise Republican-leaning voters who will recoil from Romney’s contempt for almost half of the population. Even if they don’t realize how many of his own supporters Romney insulted, Republican-leaning voters that were already suspicious of Romney because of his background and wealth now have another reason to distrust and dislike him. It’s not as if Romney inspires trust or goodwill to start with.

A reader made a similar point in our reax: “Every Independent in this country at least knows and cares about somebody who is going to vote for Obama, and they don’t want to think of those people as leeches.” Millman defends his position against a different critique here.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Thu Sep 20, 2012 – 10:15am:

Is Romney Just Lazy? He Can’t Be That Dumb.

Kevin Drum points to Romney’s unplugged take on monetary policy. Here’s Mitt talking to his peers:

“Yeah, it’s interesting… the former head of Goldman Sachs, John Whitehead, was also the former head of the New York Federal Reserve. And I met with him, and he said as soon as the Fed stops buying all the debt that we’re issuing—which they’ve been doing, the Fed’s buying like three-quarters of the debt that America issues. He said, once that’s over, he said we’re going to have a failed Treasury auction, interest rates are going to have to go up. We’re living in this borrowed fantasy world, where the government keeps on borrowing money. You know, we borrow this extra trillion a year, we wonder who’s loaning us the trillion? The Chinese aren’t loaning us anymore. The Russians aren’t loaning it to us anymore. So who’s giving us the trillion? And the answer is we’re just making it up. The Federal Reserve is just taking it and saying, “Here, we’re giving it.’ It’s just made up money, and this does not augur well for our economic future.”

Drum’s take:

Romney is, once again, plucking a scary number he seems to have heard from a tea party symposium somewhere and mindlessly regurgitating it to a receptive audience. But he’s wrong. There was a period of about six months during 2011 when the Fed really was hoovering up a big share of all treasury debt. But that was a one-time deal more than a year ago, and since then the big buyers of treasury bonds have mostly been the usual suspects: foreigners and U.S. households.

Yglesias is mystified:

I’m not sure I understand what the problem is….

The dollar is the cornerstone of the global economy. That means foreigners need to hold safe liquid dollar-denominated financial assets to conduct their transactions. Treasury debt is convenient, but mortgage backed securities and other instruments have also been known to serve. This is a lucky thing for the United States since it allows us to run a trade deficit—we consumer more stuff than we produce—though at a time of depressed aggregate demand it can be a source of trouble on the employment front. But this is the very same thing Romney is complaining about when he complains about Chinese “currency manipulation.”

Thu Sep 20, 2012 – 10:29am:

The Core Values Of Mitt Romney

A new tape is uncovered:

Yeah it was a joke. It looks as if it was on St Paddy’s Day, with the Irish flags around. He’s such a card.

Thu Sep 20, 2012 – 10:51am:

“Money Boo-Boo”

That’s one commenter‘s nickname for governor Romney. I guess Rove is the human thumb.

Thu Sep 20, 2012 – 11:20:

Hathos Alert

Michelle Malkin goes off on Peggy Noonan, David Brooks and David Corn. She’s speaking from the heartland, apparently. A thing of beauty:

I don’t remember Peggy Noonan or even David Brooks actually endorsing Obama, do you?

Thu Sep 20, 2012 – 3:21pm:

Do Gaffes Matter?

Pareene believes so:

We can acknowledge that 99 percent of pundits are useless and that very simple formulas can basically tell us how most elections will turn out, but there is still a human element. I think we can look at “gaffes” similarly to the way we look at negative ads: They don’t matter as much as pundits think, sure, but they have an effect on the result. Just as campaign ads matter more with unfamiliar candidates — and hence they matter more in congressional races than national races — gaffes are clearly more likely to sink congressional candidates (Sharron Angle, George Allen) than presidential ones. (And Romney gaffes probably motivate Obama supporters, just as negative ads seem to help motivate partisans.)

Thu Sep 20, 2012 – 4:44pm:

“There Are Producers And Parasites” Ctd

Corroborating some of Noah Millman’s points from earlier, Gwen Sharp summarizes Suzanne Mettler’s research (pdf) on the self-awareness of government program beneficiaries:

Mettler argues that recipients are less likely to recognize themselves as benefiting from programs that are part of what she calls the “submerged state” — programs and policies that provide incentives and motivations for particular behaviors in the private sector, rather than overtly directing behavior. If you receive food stamps, you interact directly with a government agency…. On the other hand, if you participate in the government’s mortgage interest deduction program, which encourages home ownership by allowing people to deduct the cost of mortgage interest from their taxable income (which you can’t do with rent costs, for instance), it’s less noticeable that you are benefiting from a federal policy.

In addition:

[T]he programs recipients seem least likely to recognize as a government program are among those the middle (and higher) classes are most likely to use, while those more common among the poor are more clearly recognizable to those using them as government programs.

Thu Sep 20, 2012 – 5:34pm:

Ryan Unplugged

The Jesuit magazine America tackles Paul Ryan’s 2005 speech at the Atlas Society’s “Celebration of Ayn Rand” (there’s no video – but there is audio). America‘s Vincent Miller explains how the philosophy Ryan believes in is so inimical to Catholic thought and tradition:

In the published transcript Ryan states that like Rand, he views all political and policy questions as battle between individualism and collectivism.

(2:38) In almost every fight we are involved in here, on Capitol Hill, whether it’s an amendment vote that I’ll take later on this afternoon, or a big piece of policy we’re putting through our Ways and Means Committee, it is a fight that usually comes down to one conflict: individualism vs. collectivism.

This philosophy leaves no room for Catholic notions of Government in service to the common good, there is no room for a social conception of the human person.  Rejection of Rand’s atheism notwithstanding, Ryan’s policies are based on a political philosophy completely at odds with the principles of Catholic Social Doctrine.  “Prudence” is an insufficient measure of his proposals and the threat this philosophy poses to the Catholic faithful.

Ryan is more hostile to the core social teaching of Catholicism than Obama could ever be.

Thu Sep 20, 2012 – 6:37pm:

Obama Volleys Back


Thu Sep 20, 2012 – 7:41pm:

It’s Not Just Income Taxes, Mitt, Ctd


Ezra Klein sums up the problem with people focusing only on income tax:

This entire conversation is the result of a (largely successful) effort to redefine the debate over taxes from “how much in taxes do you pay” to “how much in federal income taxes do you pay?” This is good framing if you want to cut taxes on the rich. It’s bad framing if you want to have even a basic understanding of who pays how much in taxes.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Fri Sep 21, 2012 – 9:08am:

Yglesias Award Nominee

“This week I called [the Romney campaign] incompetent, but only because I was being polite. I really meant “rolling calamity.” A lot of people weighed in, in I suppose expected ways: “Glad you said this,” “Mad you said this.” But, some surprises. No one that I know of defended the campaign or argued “you’re missing some of its quiet excellence,” – Peggy Noonan.

Fri Sep 21, 2012 – 9:37am:

The Bounce Endures?

Above is Silver’s “now-cast” of what would happen if the election were held today. It’s a double-whammy, when you see the convention bounce, and then what could be a second “47 percent”/”Cairo opportunism” bump. Silver notes that the national tracking polls – using robocalls – show a closer race than others. But the swing state polling seems to back up the more traditional live interview format, where Obama’s lead is clear and growing.

Last night, we saw NBC’s poll give Obama 50 percent support in Colorado and Wisconsin among likely voters – with a lead over Romney of 5 points. In Iowa, Obama is ahead by a whopping eight points among likely voters. Here’s a graph of the poll of polls on Romney’s recent favorability numbers, starting in August, with heightened sensitivity to pick up small shifts:

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He’s edging 50 percent in unfavorable numbers – 3 percent more than the unfavorable opinion he has of 47 percent of Americans. The feeling, apparently, is mutual.

Fri Sep 21, 2012 – 11:42am:

The Bounce Endures? Ctd

Nate Cohn discounts Gallup’s national poll, which shows a tied race:

The poll most likely to scream “headline” is Gallup, which is so far out of line from the other registered voter surveys that I don’t even know what to say about it. Obama leads by about 7 points among registered voters, and, no, the methodological criticisms you’ve heard don’t explain a gap of that magnitude. As Harry Enten of the Guardian (@ForecasterEnten) tweeted today, we would probably blow this off as a clear outlier if it was named something other than Gallup.

But while they have a long history, they haven’t exactly been the most accurate survey in recent years (showing a tied race in 2004 and an 11 point Obama lead in 2008), so there’s just not much cause to assume they’re better than the consensus of other polls, at least that I’m aware of. And Gallup’s case for a tight race was undermined by their traditional partner, Rasmussen, which showed Obama building a 3 point lead once leaners were included. It’s hard to see how Obama could lead by 3 points in a poll weighted to a Republican electorate, but it’s clear that Gallup is completely alone in showing a tied race (at least until Rasmussen returns to showing Romney up 3, or whatever). At the moment, Gallup stands entirely alone. The other trackers, let alone the less regular state and national polls, all show a clear Obama lead at or above post-DNC levels.

Earlier polling crack here.

Fri Sep 21, 2012 – 11:48am:

Quote For The Day

“Watching George Romney run for the presidency was like watching a duck try to make love to a football,” – former Governor Jim Rhodes of Ohio.

Fri Sep 21, 2012 – 3:54pm:

Obama Volleys Back Again

He tackled the 47 percent comment yesterday. Round two:

Jonathan Bernstein wonders why Romney picks such feeble attacks. One theory:

All Romney’s campaign has to do is pull out a sentence and call it a gaffe, and it instantly becomes one. It blows up on twitter, it goes straight to Fox News and most of the conservative radio shows…it’s all over the place. Indeed, if it’s in those places, it’s also going to be in Politico and Buzzfeed, too. So on the one hand, it must encourage laziness to know that all you have to do is come up with something vaguely appropriate to movement conservatives in order to get that effect; on the other hand, it must just feel as if you’re making something happen when you do it. And the more it hits the sort of things that the GOP-aligned media loves, the more you get the immediate effect. Really, for campaign operatives, it must be incredibly temping to do it.