Watching and reading reactions to the Romney recording released today by David Corn over at Mother Jones has been entertaining. A lot of people are outraged over Romney's disdain for 47% of Americans who he has characterized as freeloaders.
Leave it to Ezra Klein, in his post titled Romney’s theory of the “taker class,” and why it matters, to dig into the numbers and tell the truth about the latest Romney lie; for that is what it is ... a lie.
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.Hahahah! What a way to add a little extra dig ... helped build that.
Some of those tax cuts for the poor were there to make the tax cuts for the rich more politically palatable. “Do you think we wanted to include a welfare payment to people who don’t pay taxes and call it a tax cut?” A top Bush administration official once asked me. “No. But that’s what we needed to do to get it done.”So all those people not paying federal income taxes is because Republicans gave them those cuts in order to give the rich bigger tax cuts.
But now that those tax cuts have passed and many fewer Americans are paying federal income taxes and the rich are paying a much higher percentage of federal income taxes, Republicans are arguing that these Americans they have helped free from income taxes have become a dependent and destabilizing “taker” class who want to hike taxes on the rich in order to purchase more social services for themselves. The antidote, as you can see in both Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney’s policy platforms, is to further cut taxes on “job creators” while cutting the social services that these takers depend on. That way, you roll the takers out of what Ryan calls “the hammock” of government and you unleash the makers to create jobs and opportunities.And so we get to the meat of it. In a Romney economy, the rich will receive even more tax cuts which Romney will pay for by taking away more social services from the poor. Read the entire article, which includes Ezra's wonky charts and graphs.
So notice what happened here: Republicans have become outraged over the predictable effect of tax cuts they passed and are using that outrage as the justification for an agenda that further cuts taxes on the rich and pays for it by cutting social services for the non-rich.
That’s why Romney’s theory here is more than merely impolitic. It’s actually core to his economic agenda.
If you watched/read Chuck Todd's analysis on NBC News tonight (below the fleur-de-orange) you'll have noted that Todd compared Romney's comments to those candidate Obama made during the 2008 campaign about people clinging to their guns and religion. Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo, has found a great rebuttal to that false comparison:
Jon Chait captures why the resemblance between Romney’s 47% remarks and Obama’s “cling” comments are purely superficial …If you have some time, please read Chait's entire piece titled The Real Romney Captured On Tape Turns Out To Be A Sneering Plutocrat. It's a great summary of what's going on, and points out that as reviling as Romney's comments were, a lot of people won't think that he was talking about them because they do pay taxes of some sort. Judging by some of the diaries I've been reading here tonight, I'm not sure that part is true. But I am sure that his conclusion is devastating to the Romney campaign:
Some pundits have likened Romney’s comments to Barack Obama’s 2008 monologue, also secretly recorded at a fundraiser, about his difficulties with white working class voters in rural Pennsylvania. But the spirit of Obama’s remarks was precisely the opposite of Romney’s. While Obama couched his beliefs in condescending sociological analysis about how poor small town residents vote on the basis of guns and religion rather than economics, the thrust of Obama’s argument was that he believed his policies would help them, and to urge his supporters to make common cause with them.Like Chait, I found Romney’s comments genuinely shocking. I thought this was caricature Mitt Romney, the born-to-privilege millionaire who holds average working people in contempt as hopeless losers driven to suck money for productive people like Mitt Romney. But this is actually the real Mitt Romney. The best case for him is that he was just pandering to this wealthy crowd and doesn’t really believe this either. But that seems like a stretch.
Obama was aspiring to become president of all of America, even that part most hostile to him, in the belief that what they shared mattered more than what divided them. Romney genuinely seems to conceive of the lowest-earning half of the population as implacably hostile parasites.
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.
To see the stark difference in reporting on this issue, watch how Chuck Todd reported about it on tonight's NBC Nightly news:
Brian Williams: Tonight a surreptitious recording of Mitt Romney at a private fundraiser has gone public. In remarks he thought would stay among those in the room, the GOP presidential candidate is heard giving a snapshot of the electorate that is going to raise eyebrows when heard. The recording was released to the liberal magazine Mother Jones. Before we talk about it with our political director, Chuck Todd, we want to play for you now a portion of it.
Q: For the past three years, all everybody's been told is "don't worry, we'll take care of you." How are you going to do it, in two months before the election to convince everybody, you've got to take care of yourself?Brian Williams: So that is the newly released surreptitious recording of Mitt Romney. As promised, let's go to our chief White House correspondent and political director, Chuck Todd in our D.C. newsroom. And Chuck, your job here is context. As long as there have been fundraisers by politicians, there have been these small gatherings where remarks are made, preferably to stay in the room. These did not.
Mitt Romney: There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe 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 that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what. And I mean the president starts off with 48, 49 4--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. So he'll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich. I mean, that's what they sell every four years. And so my job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives. What I have to do is convince the five to ten percent in the center that are independents, that are thoughtful, that look at voting one way or the other depending upon in some cases emotion, whether they like the guy or not.
Chuck Todd: That's right, and you don't necessarily know, is the candidate saying what he truly believes? Or is he saying what he thinks the audience wants to hear? Particularly at a place like a fundraiser where partisan red meat is had, not just rubber chicken if you will that they eat. But, you know, in this video tape, which of course, our National Investigative Reporter Michael Isikoff acquired, you do get a sense of at least what the campaign is thinking sometimes. And in many ways Mitt Romney was sounding like a pundit. Right? He was saying there's 47% of the country that is going to be with the president, no matter what. But the part that he said talking about that they pay no income taxes; that they want to part of the government, it's probably going to have legs and something's he's got to deal with. He's put out a statement, sort of a non-innocuous statement that the campaign has, trying to deal with this a little ways. And it's a reminder, President Obama when he was candidate Obama had a similar incident where he was overheard talking about analyzing folks in the State of Pennsylvania saying that they cling to their guns and religion. And Brian, it's a political comment to this day that's still a political problem for the president to deal with in those states.
Brian Williams: And a couple of things here. Number one, the kind of storyline politically today already was some infighting among members of the Romney campaign staff, a lot of it going back to what happened or didn't happen at the GOP convention. Has the Romney campaign responded yet tonight about this?
Chuck Todd: Well again, on this comment they said, "Hey, Mitt Romney wants to be president of all Americans." And that's the part of course the Obama campaign is trying to drive home, "Hey, he's writing off 47% of Americans; he's trying to divide the electorate." Frankly, that's what campaigns end up doing. They both accuse the other side of being divisive in this case. As for the Romney campaign, there is sort of a retooled feel to it. They've got new advertising out. Little more of a coherent message they want to put out. So let's see what happens. We've got a couple of weeks until the first debate. That's the next moment to be watching in this campaign, Brian.
Brian Williams: Of course, it's another eye of the beholder issue. People will make what they make of these comments coming out tonight. Chuck Todd, our political director. Chuck thanks.