Mitt Romney's recently leaked video remarks that he made at a closed-door fundraising event in Boca Raton, Florida, on May 17, add further graphic detail to an increasingly clear picture of an arrogant and out-of-touch multimillionaire who, despite having had everything he needed (and more) handed to him on a silver platter, has utter contempt for the rest of us -- ordinary working people and their families. To declare, as he did, that the estimated 47 percent of the electorate who are expected to vote for President Obama are not his concern is contemptible for someone aspiring to be President of all of us, as well as showing a shameful ignorance of the composition of virtually half of the American electorate. Among his remarks, aired online by Mother Jones earlier this week, he described the "47 percent of the people who will vote for the President no matter what" in the following degrading terms:
There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe they are entitled to health care, food, to housing, you name it.
He went on to explain to his wealthy donors that his role "is not to worry about these people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives." He added that 47 percent of Americans pay no income taxes which is another reason they will vote for Obama since they would not benefit from Romney's proposed tax cuts. This is preposterous for the ignorance and/or cynicism that it reflects. While there is some overlap between those who do not pay Federal income taxes and those inclined to vote for the President, they are far from being the same people that Romney would have his hard-core, extreme-Right supporters believe by conflating them in order to score political points.
People inclined to support the re-election of the President represent the whole range of American society, from the most wealthy, through what's left of the middle class, to those who labor hard every day for poverty or near poverty level wages in order to support themselves and their families. And, contrary to Romney's belief that these folks see themselves as victims and despite of the fact that many of them are actual victims of vulture capitalism of the Bain type, the great majority still believe in the American Dream and just want a fair chance to get their foot and their children's feet on the "ladder of opportunity" that Paul Ryan talks about. However, in reality, that ladder has been yanked away in recent decades, causing dramatically increased inequality and decreased social mobility - now lower than that in most Western European countries, as Timothy Noah has documented in The Great Divergence: America's Growing Inequality Crisis and What We Can Do About It.
Earlier in the campaign, Romney stated that he was not concerned about the poor - the 50 million Americans whose incomes fall below the official poverty line -- $22,000 for a family of four -- because they have a government safety net. This, despite the fact that he has embraced the Ryan budget that would shred that self-same safety net for millions of vulnerable people -- children, senior citizens, the sick and disabled. Based on his latest remarks, these are not the only people he is not concerned about.
This is the candidate who stated in a recent TV interview, that the American middle class earns between $200,000 and $250,000 per year which is yet another stark indicator of how out of touch he is with what life is like for ordinary working people. And, he seems to have no interest in becoming better informed. It is inexplicable to me how he and his staff would not know that the median American household income - half above, half below -- is $52,000 - a far cry from Romney's guesstimate.
And, what about those 47 percent who pay no taxes, according to Romney? Well, it turns out that many of them are retirees living on Social Security and little else -- a benefit they earned by paying a fairly steep and regressive payroll tax throughout their working lives. Ironically, given Romney's dismissal of them, the majority of these folks would typically vote Republican. Another factor that Romney conveniently skates over is the fact that those individuals and families who do not earn enough to require them to pay Federal income taxes, actually pay a range of other taxes, including state income taxes, real estate taxes and state and local sales taxes. The latter are especially regressive since they impose a flat percentage on the purchases of the rich and poor alike and, in their effect, absorb a disproportionately higher share of the lower-income person's budget than that of the more wealthy.
And who are these folks, besides the elderly, sick and disabled, that Romney has no respect for or concern about? Most are people who work hard - sometimes at multiple jobs - but do not earn enough to pay Federal income taxes? Noah gives us a few examples:
Waitresses, nonunion construction workers, dental assistants, call-center operators - people in these jobs are essentially replaceable, and usually have bosses who don't distinguish between individual initiative and insubordination. Even experience is of limited value, because it's often accompanied by diminishing physical vigor. A little further up the income scale, median income has declined while productivity has increased. Where's the incentive for the middle class to perform a job well if there's no monetary reward for doing so? The only motivator is the fear of being fired. That's a pretty deadening experience.
These are the folks whom Romney is not concerned about. But, these are the folks who actually work for a living, support themselves and their families, and keep the country running. How dare he write them off as self-defined victims, chronic dependents on government handouts, and -- this takes some nerve coming from him - people who don't pay their fair share of taxes. How dare he aspire to be our President when he is so contemptuous of half of us and clueless about who we are.