The media has been abuzz with the story of the leaked video of Romney at a fundraiser, writing off 47% of the US population as tax-dodging, government-dependent parasites whom he has no chance of convincing to not vote for Obama. I have to say that originally I found the story a bit silly. I felt the same way back in 2008 when Obama was recorded at a fundraiser saying that rural voters “get bitter” and “they cling to their guns or religion”. Besides, Romney’s comment was made back during the primary, and I think everyone had figured out even back then that Romney would say just about anything his audience wanted to hear in order to get their campaign donations or votes.
So I wasn’t planning on doing a post on it (besides, I didn’t need to since it was everywhere!), but I changed my mind because the reaction to the video has become even more interesting than the video itself. In particular, the video has brought out an interesting discussion about the Republican narrative of “makers” versus “takers” (or “job creators” versus “parasites”).
As Ezra Klein put it, the
vision of a society divided between “makers” and “takers” is core to the Republican nominee’s policy agenda.
In his comments, Romney says that “these are people who pay no income tax,” but they are people “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.”
This isn’t just Romney. We’ve heard similar comments from just about every Republican. Paul Ryan said “We’re coming close to a tipping point in America where we might have a net majority of takers versus makers in society.” Rick Perry said “We’re dismayed at the injustice that nearly half of all Americans don’t even pay any income tax.” Michelle Bachmann said “People who pay nothing can easily forget the idea that there is no such thing as a free lunch.”
The myth of the “takers” is a baldfaced lie. Let’s take that 47% who don’t pay any federal income taxes and see why. 61% of them (29% of the population) may not pay federal income taxes, but they do pay 15.3% of their income in federal payroll taxes, which means they pay a higher percentage in federal taxes than Romney. 22% of them (10% of the population) are elderly and retired. And the remaining 17% of them (8% of the general population) are unemployed because the economy was destroyed.
But what makes the takers argument even more hypocritical is that the main reason that 47% of Americans don’t pay any federal income taxes is because of the tax cuts passed by Republicans! The largest jumps in the number of people who don’t pay federal income taxes happened after the tax cuts instituted by Reagan and Dubya. The Republicans like to complain about the “takers” not paying federal income tax, but they built that. Of course, that doesn’t stop them from wanting to give even more tax cuts to the rich, and pay for them by cutting social services for everyone else.
Then it started to get even more bizarre. Someone figured out from the video that the $50,000 a plate fundraiser where the video was taken was hosted by equity manager Marc J. Leder, who has become known for throwing parties “where guests cavorted nude in the pool and performed sex acts, scantily dressed Russians danced on platforms and men twirled lit torches to a booming techno beat.” That’s your upstanding, no nonsense maker class for you! To make it worse, Romney inspired Leder to get into private equity in the first place, and was an early investor in some of Leder’s deals.
Finally, Buzzfeed found a stunning video of an infomercial from way back in 1962 featuring Lenore Romney promoting George Romney’s campaign for governor of Michigan (in case you didn’t know, these are Mitt Romney’s parents). Not only does Lenore Romney sound a lot like Ann Romney describing Mitt in her Republican convention speech, but the best part is when Lenore responds to charges that George is too rich to understand the concerns of the common people by bragging that George was on welfare relief for the first years of his life and that he was a refugee from Mexico.
So Mitt Romney’s father was part of the taker class? Irony knows no bounds.