Mitt Romney and the 47%

(yes, I realize I’m late on this, but dang it I was out of town when this happened and I’m not going to miss it!)

So! Mitt Romney said some things about people who don’t pay income taxes last week. From the article:

Fielding a question from a donor about how he could triumph in November, Romney replied:

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…These are people who pay no income tax.

Romney went on: “[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.”

A few things about this!

– It is true that 47% of people paid zero federal income tax last year. It is not true that these people paid zero taxes total. If you earn a wage, you pay payroll taxes. Everyone pays sales taxes. If you own a house, you pay property taxes. (and if you rent, part of your rent goes towards them) Most states have a state income tax. If you have a car, you pay registration fees, etc., etc., etc. Undoubtedly there are some number of people who don’t pay any taxes (assuming they qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit or some other refundable credit), but certainly not 47%.

– Fun fact – members of the military earn a lot of their income as tax-free!

– The statement that these people “will vote for the president no matter what”, is clearly untrue. Taking a random national poll with crosstabs I could find, 43% of those that make less than $30K a year (which I think is a reasonable proxy) said they would vote for Romney. 43% is a lot bigger than 0%.

– More generally, people don’t not pay any federal income taxes because they don’t want to – they don’t because they don’t make a lot of money. I’m an agog at the logic here. Is he saying that people just don’t want to get jobs? With unemployment still above 8%, and four job applicants for every open position, this is just hogwash. And somehow Mitt Romney knows that not only do they not want jobs, but they believe they’re entitled to all sorts of things like, um, food.

– I don’t even understand what he would change about this. Make sure everyone pays some taxes by eliminating things like the standard deduction and the EITC, one of the largest anti-poverty programs the US has? The only thing that makes sense is that he thinks people are choosing not to work because they’re lazy and get food stamps. I just don’t believe that’s true in any sort of significant numbers.

This is what class warfare sounds like, not things like “hey, maybe we should raise taxes on income over $250K or $1M” or something like that. No one (well, OK, not me) is saying that rich people are bad people – we just want them to pay their fair share. Taxes are not punishment.

– And, to be a little less fair, Mitt Romney is about the last person I want to talk to me about poor people. What does he know about their struggles?

(hey, Bill Clinton agrees with me!)

OK! I feel a little better now.

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