MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
About the only factual statistic that is verifiable in Mitt Romney's now infamous trashing of 47 percent of Americans is that, indeed, his figure is accurate for those who technically don't pay income taxes (a category that BuzzFlash at Truthout has pointed out may very well include Romney, particularly for the year 2009).
Beyond that, Romney's mean-spirited, callous dismissal of nearly half the nation -- as recorded at an August fundraiser hosted by a 1 percenter with a penchant for orgies -- was filled with both blatant lies and slander by innuendo.
Here is what Romney said, in regard to the "47 percent," as recorded on a videotape obtained by Mother Jones:
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 the 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's an entitlement. And [that] the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president [Obama] no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax.
Romney's Five Lies and Opportunistic Innuendoes
1) Yesterday, BuzzFlash pointed out that the states with the highest number of non-income tax payers are southern GOP red states. These states, in general, also receive net financial subsidies from the federal government, meaning that they are the top geographically contiguous welfare states in the nation.
You could call the Republican southern base the welfare queens of state moochers, living off of northern states, for example, who generally receive less back from the federal government than they pay in. In short, Romney's base electoral block fits to near perfection his disparaging rant about those "who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the 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."
BuzzFlash even reported that -- when Romney was running in the Republican primaries in the spring -- he visited Mississippi and stated that the state government there was a model for the nation – and implied that if every state was run like Mississippi, the US would be in fine financial shape. As BuzzFlash has revealed in a previous commentary, Mississippi is number one in receiving more federal funds than it pays out in income taxes: ranging from $2 to $2.75 in recent years received from the feds for every dollar paid in income tax by Mississippi residents. Among the welfare queen states of the South, Mississippi is the queen of queens.
So, if we take at face value Romney's sneering disregard for not representing the 47% of Americans who don't pay income taxes, then he is dumping on his mother lode of electoral votes in the South.
2) Romney clearly and categorically stated that the so-called 47% are people who "will vote for this president [Obama] no matter what." But as the National Memo documents,
In 2008, according to the New York Times, 25 percent of voters earning under $15,000 per year and 37 percent of those earning between $15,000 and $30,000 per year voted for John McCain and Sarah Palin.
An even more substantial number are older Americans who rely on Social Security benefits, Medicare, and Medicaid – and who have displayed an increasing tendency to vote Republican in recent elections (until this week, at least). Four years ago, voters over 65 years old supported McCain over Obama by a margin of eight points, and the most recent New York Times survey shows the same group backing Romney this year by a margin of 15 points.
A significant number of low-income whites, in particular, vote Republican for reasons of socially conservative issues and white identity politics. Romney just wrote these people off as individuals he would not represent as president.
"[M]y job is not to worry about those people," Romney was recorded as saying. "I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
It also means he apparently wants their votes but doesn't plan to represent them.
3) A CNN article points out that more than 40% of the 47% who don't pay income taxes include those who pay their 7.6% obligation to cover Social Security and Medicare; seniors on a low-fixed income; and on-duty military. Less than 7% of the 47% don't pay because they are working age and poor. As Paul Krugman states, "in middle age, close to 80 percent of the population pays income taxes."
Then add in people with disabilities, students, etc., and the 47% figure is extremely misleading, providing a fraudulent image of a good segment of the population that is not wealthy.
What's more, a basic irony is that more than half of the 47% are workers paying for Social Security and Medicare, which they then receive as an earned benefit, not an entitlement, when they retire. Then 10 – 12% of those seniors become non-income tax payers because the Social Security payments that they receive – and which they paid into as workers to receive as an earned benefit after retiring – are too meager to be assessed income taxes.
So this is not as Romney later claimed in his remarks an issue of more people working (although that affects a percentage of non-income tax payers), but primarily a problem of people not making enough money, not being able to work, or being retired, but still paying other taxes (retail taxes in most states for one).
4) Among those who don't pay taxes according to CNN are at least 4000 millionaries, maybe including Romney in some post-2000 tax years. Indeed, Romney with his offshore accounts, payment of taxes to foreign governments (to reduce his US income tax liability) and Swiss bank accounts is exhibit number one in how the wealthy reduce their taxable income to below what many in the middle class pay, if someone like Romney pays income tax at all in some years.
5) As part of his "47 percent" remarks at the fundraiser, Romney said, "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."
As proven earlier in this commentary, many likely Romney voters fall into his "moocher" category. It is a lie to state that those who vote for Obama are leeches off of the federal government, particularly when the lead federal dependents in the nation are from the deep South – GOP country. It is a lie to call blue state residents who vote Democratic "victims" of laziness when the blue states are subsidizing Romney's red state voters.
But the most basic insidious lie to the above statement is that the rich are proud of paying income taxes, as long as you attach the oxymoron assumption that they want to pay as little as possible – and, as cited above, this includes the estimated 4000 millionaires who don't pay any income tax. Romney stated that he wanted to get people into jobs where they would be proud to pay income taxes, but the Republican Party has as one of its core principles that income taxes are a federal intrusion on laissez faire individual income.
This is perhaps the biggest and most dangerous lie of all, that the wealthy want to support the United States when they are takers not creators. What they create is their own vast income and wealth. Some may create jobs, but so many of them, like Romney, nowadays are vulture capitalists or Wall Street gamblers on abstract financial products that threaten the economy, not benefit it.
Why didn't Romney ask the super-rich attendees at his fundraiser how many of them are proud to pay income taxes, if they pay them at all?
BuzzFlash doubts a hand would be raised in the audience – and you certainly wouldn't see Romney's five fingers go up in the air.