For the second time in as many weeks, Mitt Romney has made a gigantic ass of himself. To be technically correct about it, he made a gigantic ass of himself in mid-May, in the private Boca Raton home of a fellow prince of Wall Street, but we are only hearing about it now. The statement again, for reference
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... 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 that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.
Others have dissected the fallacies of the 47 percent figure; the presumption that those 47 percent pay no taxes at all, when in practice often they pay more taxes, as a percentage of their income, than others; the rather unremarkable circumstances that can land one in that bracket, by definition
unremarkable if nearly half of the nation can count itself a part of it, and so on. That the figure is a favored talking point of lower wingnuttia is also not especially surprising, as the Mitt campaign staff seems to fairly wallow in those dregs.
No, what impresses me most about Mitt's little Sermon by the Fount is that, remarkably, we may have found an instance in which Mitt Romney actually believes what he says. He speaks easily, and off the cuff; much of the awkwardness of his public appearances is, seemingly, tempered. This is not something memorized and delivered by rote. Wherever Mitt first heard this thing, he believes it, and has internalized it, and has internalized the inherent irresponsibility and entitlement of, according to him, approximately half of the nation.
You cannot write off "who believe 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" as merely inelegant wording. That is not an inelegant expression of campaign strategy towards half of America; it is, however, a perfectly elegant statement of contempt for them. There are plenty of ways to note that half of America will not be voting for you without lumping the lot of them together as believers in their own victimhood, or people who merely think of themselves as entitled to free things. We have moved on from belittling the help to belittling wide swaths of the retired, of troops overseas, of people working two jobs, or three. It is now half of America that has been assigned shameful loafer status, and by a room full of people who have multiple homes, who may have a yacht here or there, who may summer in the Hamptons, and who have more money to spend on a single speech and plateful of food than half the country might see in a year. And there is Mitt, giving the speech that does it. Members of the wait staff flit in and out of the picture as he delivers these remarks: Shirkers, slackers and hooligans, the lot of them.
Mitt should be proud. His little speech may be the most Randian thing he has ever said, the first thing he has said in a long while that demonstrates the necessary cruelty of purpose to be considered legitimately conservative by his party's increasingly anarchist base. The irony of it is that Mitt was almost assuredly not attempting a bit of intentional conservatism, given the private setting and general conversational tone, but just happened to glance on one of the things that the fabulously wealthy and the diehard conservative both instinctively believe. Both are convinced that they are the true victims of America, but that it is everyone else in America who is incapacitated by an insistence on victimhood. Both believe that poverty is caused not by circumstance, but by moral failures of the poor. Both believe that money and integrity are interchangeable phrases; that the titans of industry are the only ones who need decide where the boundary of what can be inflicted on the poor by the rich ought to be drawn; that entitlement is as vile a word, when applied to the public, as it is a glorious word when applied to a contract. There is nothing that sets off some people quite so much as when a public that has been taxed in order to provide a service then expects to receive that service. The same people that determined how best to raid worker pension funds to provide for higher executive pay are quite put out that the government version of the same thing is not quite as easily pillaged, what with the voters not liking it and all, and they have been steamed about it for a very long time.
No, no matter what the ideological underpinnings of Romney's statements, or whether they were phrased elegantly or inelegantly, the most pertinent bit about them was that they were, at heart, an expression of absolute contempt for half the nation. In all the parsing out of his statements and what he supposedly meant, it would be unwise to sanitize them of that particular emotion.
[T]here 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.
Essential to this premise is the presumption that 47 percent of the nation are, in fact, exactly what he said: self-entitled victims. There is no stipulation separating the retiree from the very poor, or the serviceman from the working-class family from the dreaded "welfare queens" of past Republican fantasies. No, as far as Mitt Romney is concerned the whole lot of them is an indistinguishable mess of dependencies and entitlements. It does not matter if you paid into the Social Security system your entire life: if you expect your government to make good on its end of the promise, you are a bad person for even thinking such a thing. The same Mitt Romney that cannot stand the thought of paying one unnecessary penny towards his nation's health and infrastructure is certain that there are working class families out there—perhaps the families of coal miners, perhaps ones whose pay has been cut during a given week to account for a closing of their mine for a Mitt Romney photo op—for whom just barely squeaking by is proof of an inherently selfish dependent nature. You can parse it all you want, and you can claim that Mitt Romney did not mean those people, but Mitt Romney told us quite explicitly who
he meant: 47 percent of the nation. Nearly half of it achieves the status, in Mitt's rhetoric and philosophy, of self-important barnacles.
That is where we draw the line now? On any person who does not pay one specific tax during a particular year, but still presumes to ask for any one single thing from their government? On the pensioners who still presume to collect Social Security, after paying into it through a working lifetime? On all the fools of the nation who presume to expect that even if a parent is jobless, the rest of us will not be such bastards as to let their children starve, and might even have enough decency to even see to it that they are vaccinated? Any bar that bumps heads with half the nation is a low bar indeed, when we are declaring which of us are the true, upstanding Americans and which are merely hindering them.
Again, it is not inelegant. It is merely mean. And pompous, and self-absorbed, and reflective of that certain mindset, among many of the wealthy, that the rest of their less-wealthy nation is something to be scraped off of their shoes. Yes, a great many people do talk like that. We do not, however, consider them presidential. We do not consider them patriots; we do not even consider them to be good people.
[M]y job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.
The Romney camp is quite insistent on this; Mitt was merely speaking about not worrying about those people voting for him
, because of course the dependent and entitled bastards never would. That statement is, however, not the point. It would be that second part, the presumption that nearly half of the nation has no personal responsibility (as evidenced by their income tax returns) or ability to care for themselves (again, as is evidenced by their income tax returns.) Again, there is no distinction made; the whole sorry lot of them, the entire half of the country that will not be voting for Mitt, according to him, is dependent and incompetent. We have come a long way from mere Republican railing on food stamps or other detested rung-of-last-resort government programs; now, it is half the nation that is irredeemable.
If Romney wanted to claim that he is simply a mean drunk having a bad evening, that would be considerably better than any of the alternatives his surrogates have since been peddling. He may not be an articulate fellow, but the tape showed a person who was clearly lucid, during their little explicative rant. He wrote off half the nation not because they were unconvinced of his arguments, but because they are poor people, at least when compared to the likes of Mitt Romney, and because they are therefore bad people. There was no deeper logic at work than that.
I also think that the distinct side note in all of this is worth contemplating as well. Willard Mitt Romney is quite convinced that the contents of a person's tax returns are defining evidence of their character. He is equally insistent that he does not want anyone to see his own. It would be remiss to assume there is no connection between the two beliefs.
Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2010—Iraqi exiles remain in dire straits
When the Cheney-Bush administration, aided by the government of Tony Blair, flipped off the United Nations and began their campaign of blood and torture in Iraq seven-and-a-half years ago, there were millions of Iraqis living in places where they don't live now. By 2008, one estimate put the number of exiles at 4.7 million, a couple million of them scattered in 10 nearby countries, mostly Jordan and Syria, and nearly 2.8 million IDPs, internally displaced persons. That's 17 percent of the entire Iraqi population. Such numbers are always shaky because wartime refugees are not easy to count and the statistics are filled with uncertainties about the agendas of the individual sources whose various tallies are combined to arrive at a total. But refugee groups agree the invasion and its aftermath brought about the greatest human displacement in the Middle East since 1948. That massive uprooting comprises a roster of individual stories, each its own disaster.
Today, with the Iraq conflict entering a new, unpredictable phase, it's safe to say there are fewer exiles abroad and fewer IDPs in Iraq, but getting an exact number of how many have returned home is simply impossible. "Not nearly enough" is all that can be said for sure. And in a world that pours hundreds of billions into preparing for and carrying out wars, the few dollars set aside to provide relief for those dispersed by those wars is...criminally deficient.
Tweet of the Day:
Romney campaign repeatedly refreshing Dick Morris' Twitter feed for some sign of hope from his secret pollsters
— @simonowens via web
It's International Talk Like a Pirate Day on the Kagro in the Morning
show, so why not raid ye a pension fund and bury yer loot on Grand Cayman, to mark the occasion? Catch Greg Dworkin's
polling and punditry analysis, the Orange Co., Florida, Earned Sick Time ballot initiative, and a Romney 47 percent inspired "connect the dots" discussion of tax expenditures, subsidies and the true nature of "mooching."
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