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Mitt Romney – 47% Of Americans Are Dependent On Government

I’ve been out and about most of the weekend and today and really couldn’t pay a lot of attention to the news or the election campaign. As I was driving home from work last evening, I turned on NPR and their lead story after the news at the bottom of the hour was about something Mitt Romney said in a private fundraiser some days or weeks ago. His remarks were captured on video, unbeknownst to the candidate, or his staff, and that video has been “leaked” to Mother Jones. Before we get to my take on this, here is a portion of what he had to say.

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(Washington Post) “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…

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“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 they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives. What I have to 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.”

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Getting right to it, let’s be honest with ourselves. This statement was never meant to be broadcast to the general public. It was for private consumption only. Nevertheless, can anyone dispute the truthfulness of what Mitt Romney said? I have read some of the original scoop from Mother Jones and the comments that are being made on the post and there is no surprise in what they have to say. To hear them tell it, Mitt Romney was expressing his utter disdain for the people who voted for Obama. Personally, I didn’t read disdain in his words. Neither did I hear it in his voice when I watched the video. He was making a simple statement of fact.

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Mitt RomneyStaying with the honesty theme, this story is going to get a lot of media time. Make no mistake, they are going to play this for all its worth. We should accept that fact and get ready to face the combined onslaught of the Obama media and the Obama campaign. Prepare yourselves for all manner of charges against Mitt Romney, from this day forward. I have already heard former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland speaking on CNN and he is claiming the statement should disqualify Romney from being President. The Obama campaign is coming out against this in full force and they will have the full strength of the media running interference.

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The real question of the hour is this. Was Mitt Romney telling the truth about the election? Does the President start with a large number of Americans who are going to vote for him, no matter what he says ore does? Do 47% of Americans really pay no income tax? The answer to all of those questions is yes. According to the Tax Policy Center, 46.4% of Americans paid no income tax in 2011. That doesn’t mean all of them are freeloaders, but some of them are. It is a known fact that nearly half of Americans are receiving some form of government assistance. Again, that isn’t to say all of them are freeloaders, because they are not. However, when you start off with the premise that so many Americans are relying on the government for some portion of their sustenance, where does that leave Mitt Romney, when he is running a campaign on reducing the size of government? Many Americans will look at his campaign and feel a disconnect from it, simply because they may feel he is threatening the assistance they rely on. My opinion is that Mitt Romney spoke nothing but the truth in his statement. He was explaining his campaign strategy to people who paid good money to hear him speak in a private setting and he was simply being honest by telling them which segment of the voting public he needed to reach, if he has a chance of winning this election. Having said that, it isn’t necessarily the truth that the media is going to hammer Mitt Romney with in the coming days.

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The Romney campaign has already attempted to clarify their candidate’s remarks in a statement of their own.

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Mitt Romney wants to help all Americans struggling in the Obama economy. As the governor has made clear all year, he is concerned about the growing number of people who are dependent on the federal government, including the record number of people who are on food stamps, nearly one in six Americans in poverty, and the 23 million Americans who are struggling to find work. Mitt Romney’s plan creates 12 million new jobs in four years, grows the economy and moves Americans off of government dependency and into jobs.

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For another take on this, let’s turn to Allahpundit. He has a breakdown of who does or doesn’t pay federal income tax and why.

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(Hot Air) Certainly, the Obama campaign’s never done anything to tout the sort of cradle-to-grave dependency that Romney describes here. I think David French’s recent post about the “bookends” that compose the modern liberal coalition is closer to the mark than Romney’s familiar makers-and-takers formulation here, but he was at a fundraiser and tossing red meat and I guess wanted it to be as red as possible. As for his claim that 47 percent pay no income tax, it’s true but carries lots of caveats. Ramesh Ponnuru wrote an insightful piece about last year; this new article from National Journal is worth reading too. Two political difficulties here. One: While some Obama supporters may not pay federal income tax, they still pay federal payroll tax and may well pay state and city taxes. They do contribute something to government. Two: A lot of pro-Republican working-class voters pay no income tax due to the Earned Income Tax Credit, and a lot of pro-Republican seniors pay no income tax because most or all of their income is Social Security. Not sure how either of those groups will react to Romney’s critique of O’s fans, but my hunch is that Ben Domenech’s right in believing that no one really thinks they’re part of the 47 percent. Everyone thinks they’re a “maker,” not a “taker,” due to whatever little tax they pay, so when Mitt lays into freeloaders, even people who pay no income tax think he’s talking about someone else. It’s sort of the flip side of senior citizens saying that America needs small government while telling politicians “Hands off my Medicare.” I doubt it’ll end up hurting Romney badly, but the media will do its level best. Buckle up!

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I’m not sure a seat belt is going to be enough. This may require a giant air bag, before the uproar subsides.

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Linked at Western Hero.

About LD Jackson

LD Jackson has written 2053 posts in this blog.

Founder and author of the political and news commentary blog Political Realities. I have always loved to write, but never have I felt my writing was more important than in this present day. If I have changed one mind or impressed one American about the direction our country is headed, then I will consider my endeavors a success. I take the tag line on this blog very seriously. Above all else, in search of the truth.

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  • Mike

    I’m surprised by your remarks Larry. While I agree that I don’t read disdain in Romney’s comments he is clearly saying “I have nothing to offer the 47% of people who will vote for Obama no matter what.” I think that’s a pathetic statement. Conservatives have LOTS to offer that 47% but apparently Romney doesn’t. Is he really going to dismiss that 47% as unreachable for conservatives? Did he bother to look at the 2010 election results? Allahpundit did an excellent job of explaining that 47% in a way that Mitt Romney clearly doesn’t understand and I consider that a HUGE problem for Romney’s credibility. It would be nice if he showed his face a little too — has the Romney/Ryan team gone underground?

    Look, I’m one of the “five to ten percent in the center” that Romney spoke about and statements like this really push me away. I don’t want to vote for Obama but I have no idea what Romney’s vision is for this country and I find that even scarier than knowing what Obama will do. Romney has some serious work to do, including telling me exactly what his economic plan is, if he wants my vote because as of today I’d rather have 4 more years of Obama with Congressional gridlock to block his more egregious proposals and hope to see a more serious Republican candidate in 2016.

    • I disagree that Mitt Romney is saying he has nothing to offer the 47% of the people who will be voting for Obama, no matter what. He is simply stating the truth, that there is little he can do to sway their votes. That doesn’t mean he has little to offer them. Maybe it could have been stated more clearly, but that doesn’t take away the truth of his statement.

      I do agree Romney and Ryan should be showing their faces more. It seems to me that after Romney’s statement on the Middle East, they have quietly vanished from the campaign landscape. That isn’t a good thing.

      I also agree that Mitt Romney should be detailing his proposals more. Doing so would go a long way towards persuading voters that his vision for America is better than what Obama has to offer.

    • Laurie

      Long time, Mike. I have to assume that you don’t want to vote for Obama based on something other than jobs in the US. We lost 2.6 million jobs in 2008- 1.9 million in the last 4 months alone, and almost all of it before Obama had even discovered the location of all the bathrooms around the Oval Office.

      Today? The US has a net deficit of 200,000 jobs, from the day Obama took office. And most are private sector. What’s to fight, on that front?

      • I’m not sure where you get that there is only a net jobs deficit of 200,000 mobs. The reports I have seen say it stands somewhere around 11 million.

        What’s to fight on the jobs front? I would have to say there is plenty to be troubled about, on jobs, unemployment, etc. Private sector job growth isn’t keeping up with the population growth. The labor force participation is dropping every month because people have grown discouraged about finding a job. The economy is not recovering and people are still struggling. All of this, after Obama promised his stimulus spending would drop the unemployment rate would drop to 5.6%, but it still remains over 8%. Couple that with the fact that the only thing Obama has left in his economic arsenal is more stimulus spending and I have no desire to see what happens after another four years of Obama in the White House.

        • Laurie


          You questioned my numbers, and I apologize for not getting back to you.

          Somehow, it appears that I jumped the gun but we do have the numbers that support my original claim: The US now has (net) more jobs than when Obama first took office. News all over, I just grabbed a link

          It is important that we look at it all, and we still have a relatively anemic growth pattern. Not in the corporate sector, though. Corporate profits grew $21.8 billion in the second quarter- nearly doubling the estimate.

      • Mike

        Hi Laurie! Hope things in Oregon are going well for you. In answer to your question, my opinion of Obama has certainly declined over the last couple of years though I continue to find myself defending him against an onslaught of unfair criticism from the conservatives on this blog. That said I’d probably not vote for him if I thought Romney was fit for the job. The Paul Ryan selection bothers me, Romney’s ill-advised responses to the Libya and 47% comments bother me, and most of all, his lack of a defined economic plan bothers me enormously. “Trust me” when it comes to the economy doesn’t work for me and the math of their “plan” is outrageous. As a country we are wealthy enough to do anything — but not everything. And their plan calls for everything. That’s politics I guess but it won’t win my vote.

        I’m essentially a Blue Dog Democrat and definitely a fiscal conservative first. I think this country is on an extremely dangerous fiscal path and I absolutely direct the blame for that at George W but Obama has only made things worse without much concern for the long-term fiscal implications of his decisions. I think his priorities were wrong especially re health reform and I’m not optimistic he can, or even wants, to turn things around in a second term. If Romney gives me details of an economic plan that makes sense then I could vote for him though the prospect of a President Paul Ryan scares the heck out of me (but not as much as a President Palin and she is the single reason why I didn’t vote for McCain).

        I’m not on the blog nearly as much as I once was but welcome back — I hope you’ll stick around long enough for a good fight 🙂

        • Laurie

          No more Oregon for me. My husband and I left our empty nest and set up a new one in Austin Texas. A great city that’s simply decided not to play much Recession ball. Also went from “blue surrounded by a sea of blue with a couple of small red dots” to the only real blue dot surrounded by a sea of red. Fascinating change, to be minorities, and to be welcomed with open arms by the “enemy” anyway. 🙂

          • Mike

            The good news is that the line for voting during Democratic primaries will be very very short! I love Austin — great town. A little toasty during the summer so I hope you got back to Oregon a bit.

  • Romney broke a cardinal rule of politics: He told the truth.

    • Yes, and it’s going to bite him, if he isn’t careful.

      • Laurie

        It’s been quite some time that I’ve visited your blog, Larry. I can’t help but notice something odd: Why are you so bothered by Romney’s comments being broadcast to the general public if you also think they are the truth?

        Nothing says “I’m running for President” like a guy who speaks one way in private another in public, right?

        • Welcome back to Political Realities, Laurie. I didn’t really mean to convey the idea that I was bothered that Romney’s comments were released to the general public. I was just making an observation that what he was saying was not meant for the consumption of the general public. I believe that is the case with all presidential candidates, no matter which political party they belong to or who they are.

  • Romney’s words were a clear and honest assessment of the political situation in America today. But, the advantage that Obama has is much greater still. Look at an electoral map and Obama is starting with a solid 221 to 191 electoral vote advantage. So, when Romney says those 47% are going to vote for Obama no matter what, he is right and he, therefore, must spend his efforts trying to convince the undecideds to vote for him. If that honesty pushes someone like commenter Mike away, then he wasn’t an option for Romney anyway.

    • To be fair to Mike, he says he has been seriously considering his options for November, and I believe him.

      As for what Romney said, it may have been the truth, but the way it was stated leaves much to be desired. Clearly, he is at a disadvantage with many of the electorate, simply because they are going to vote their wallets.

  • Steve Dennis

    Romney is getting hammered for this and that is not surprising, but what he said was the truth. They say a gaffe is when a politician accidentally tells the truth and this is an example of the truth in that statement.
    Where Romney is mistaken is the fact that of those 47% who are on assistance there is probably a large number of them who blame Obama for their need of assistance who would vote for Romney if he got the correct message out there, but he seems to have lumped them into the same category as the free loaders and I think it is going to hurt him.

    • There is also a saying that the truth will set you free. Not only that, but it will hurt like the dickens. Romney may have stated the truth, even if by mistake, but it could very well hurt his chances to win in November.

      • Steve Dennis

        I am still holding out the hope that more people will hear this comment and agree with it than those who will hear it and be offended by it. I think most of those who are offended by it will be those who weren’t voting for Romney in the first place.

  • When I saw your article today in my news feed I just had to comment. I had a friend who has become VERY liberal make a comment on FB about how she was done with Romney after this latest comment. I was stunned because I couldn’t think of what the heck this man could possibly have said to make her so mad.

    Here is the exact quote:

    “I did not think I could be further shocked by what comes out of this guy’s mouth but damn…. “They think they are entitled to food, housing and health care.” This from a man who wrote off $10,000 for an fing show horse!!”

    I read his comments three times and cannot find anything wrong with them except that they are factual. Until I saw her comment I don’t think I understood how many Americans really believe they are entitled to HOUSING? and FOOD????? What the heck happen to America? No where are we told in our Constitution that we are entitled to these things. And yet people are totally buying into this myth.

    Furthermore, Mr. Romney just stated the fact (as you pointed out) and told the truth. For that, people are violently angry. Wow!

    I am really scared for America. People seem to be forgetting what we stand for, why we were founded, what our core principles are, and on an on.

    The more I watch Mr. Romney, the more impressed I become. He may not be perfect, but no one is. But I definitely don’t think he deserves this kind of vitriol!?

    Here is the latest comment to her comment on FB. Unbelievable is all I can say.

    “Saw this on another friend’s FB page: “Romney chose his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin – like himself, a self-righteously anal, thin-lipped, Whitest Kids U Know penny pincher who’d be honored to tell Oliver Twist there’s no more soup left.” -”

    God Help America …

    • If Mitt Romney loses the election in November, it will be precisely because of the kind of attitude you have shown us, as on display on Facebook. He has two strikes against him because of his wealth and the class warfare President Obama has been practicing. It may be too much of a mountain to surmount.

  • Mike

    What Romney said is NOT the truth! It’s a ridiculous overstatement of the problem with people who abuse the system. Look at who the 47% is — there are LOTS of Romney supporters in there and he just called them all freeloaders and self-described victims. 60% of that group are workers who simply make too little to pay income taxes although they do pay payroll taxes. They are not victims or freeloaders. They work hard and are trying to improve their lot in life. 22% of the group are seniors on Medicare and Social Security who may have worked 30,40,50 years and contributed to Social Security, etc for all those years. And the senior vote is currently tipped for Romney! How are they feeling about him now?

    I completely agree there are large numbers of Americans who fit Romney’s description; but for him to throw the entire group of 47% under the bus and basically say “I have nothing to offer you because all I’m going to do is cut taxes and that won’t help you” really demeans the Republican party, conservative doctrine, and the half of our country that fits that description.

    • I’m sorry, Mike, but I just do not see where the outrage is coming from about Romney’s statement. He was not demeaning the people he was talking about, he was just stating the facts. You may disagree with that, but that is what I glean from what he said.

      • Laurie

        In your post, you say:
        “It was for private consumption only. Nevertheless, can anyone dispute the truthfulness of what Mitt Romney said?”

        Well, sure. The candidate you defended. Careful, Larry, Etch-A-Sketch moments are meant for you, too.

        “Clearly in a campaign with hundreds if not thousands of speeches and question-and-answer sessions, now and then you are going to say something that doesn’t come out right. In this case I said something that’s just completely wrong,” Romney told Sean Hannity on Fox News.”

        • While that may be true, it is also true that during any given political campaign, many statements are made. Some of them are meant to be heard privately, not out in the general media for all to see or hear. That goes for any campaign, Republican, Democrat, Conservative, or Liberal. It’s not an Etch-A-Sketch moment. It’s just one of the realities of politics.

  • Obama and he Democrats are doing what FDR did in the 30’s. They’re creating a coalition of voters who do little more than receive government money. It’s basically a pay for votes system. It worked for FDR and odds are it will work for Obama. Unfortunately like FDR, Obama will be prolonging a recession far longer than it should.

    • And that is not good news for our country.

  • Dragonconservative

    I don’t know what those liberal windbags on MSNBC are whining about. Romney is perfectly right. His numbers are on target. Maybe he could have rephrased the wording slightly, but this was most certainly not a gaffe. The political left simply seeks to vilify him for stating a truth that they don’t like to hear: the tax system in the US is severely skewed, and Obama has done nothing about it.

    • Very true, DC. Romney’s words could have been stated better, but they were certainly not a gaffe. However, it may cost him dearly, if the media has their way.

  • I think if Romney had it to do over again he wouldn’t have said what he did. Still, in March of 2012 when asked by some student about getting stuff from the Government Romney said:

    If you’re looking for free stuff you don’t have to pay for, vote for the other guy that’s what he’s all about.

    As my article tomorrow will say… Republicans might view people who don’t pay taxes as leeches but Democrats view corporations which create jobs as leeches.

    I hope Romney runs with the message and points out how he WANTS people to be self-sufficient.

    • You are likely correct. At the very least, he would state it much differently. I watched the video you posted and I agree. Mitt Romney needs to drive home the message that he wants Americans to be self-sufficient.

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  • Larry, I think we’re going to agree that, overall, Mittens was correct in what he said. People who live off the fat of the productive won’t vote for the guy who wants to end their gravy train. And while the 47% figure isn’t entirely correct, it is right enough for those of us who agree with the premise to give Mitt a pass.

    The problem is – as when Obama made his guns and religion gaffe – Romney can’t get away with the same things Obama can. Yes, it’s a double standard but it is the truth.

    Romney should have said he wants people to take meaning in their lives from being self sufficient and it was his job to help people become that way, even if he’ll never earn their vote.

    • What you say is very true. The double standard exists and we have to deal with it. It may not be fair, but it is politics and the reality in front of us.

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