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The Taker Class

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.

Yes, the video is a disaster for Romney, but we’ve gotten used to that. Even conservative columnist David Brooks compared Romney to the character of Thurston Howell III from Gilligan’s Island.

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.



  1. Arthanyel wrote:

    Well said.

    I think the conservatives are literally stuck in the past, and think this is still the 60’s. The most insane thing I have been hearing in the wake of this Romney scandal is that the extrme conservatives are saying all of this is a problem because Romney isn’t conservative ENOUGH and if he went the Full Bachamnn he would be doing better as “speaking the truth” wouldn’t get him in trouble if he was always talking about it.

    Bat-shit crazy, I tell you.

    Wednesday, September 19, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Permalink
  2. ZIP-ZERO-NADA wrote:

    The new Repulican theme song:


    Sorry, couldn’t resist!

    Wednesday, September 19, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Permalink
  3. ptgoodman wrote:

    All good points in this post. If there are large %-age of people not paying taxes it’s largely because of the Reagan and Bush 2 tax cuts. I, for one, believe that not only do the rich need to pay more in taxes, but so do the middle class and even, to a small extent, perhaps even the poor. The higher the income, the higher the tax rates and the higher the effective taxes. No dodges or tax avoidance. We can start now, by raising taxes on the wealthy.

    On July 9, 2012 it was reported that:

    “If you are here, by and large, you are doing just fine,” Romney said, according to the Times. “I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about those here. I spend a lot of time worrying about those that are poor and those in the middle class that are finding it hard to make a bright future for themselves.”

    I suspect that Romney says whatever he believes his audience wants to hear.

    Wednesday, September 19, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Permalink
  4. ebdoug wrote:

    Whereever did you get the number 15.3% in payroll withholding taxes? Are you thinking social security and medicare because the huge majority of people pay only 7.5% which is the payroll savings Obama let them have. Right now the goverment is paying it all. Even with the selfemployed as I found much to my chagrin, thinking the program was wrong and trying to override it. We now who are self employed pay only half.

    So through Bush’s tax cuts, I’ve saved $40,000 in 10 years which would help less fortunate than I. I had a very Religious conservative here on a trip. All I could think of “Here but for the grace of God, go I.” He complained of entitlement “What do you think of my sister getting all that in refunds because she had three children?” The next day he went on about the big refunds he got when he and his wife had three children. He saw nothing wrong with his refunds, just hers. I said nothing. I was with the majority of the country. And we had a discussion of Fast and Furious. I explained that it was started in 2006 under Bush and how Holder is just tracking the sales of AK47s. And how of course, Holder has to protect his sources. I go to AP news just now to find Holder cleared of all charges

    Wednesday, September 19, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Permalink
  5. Iron Knee wrote:

    Eva, I got it by including the part paid by the employer. Seems only fair — payroll tax is part paid by the employee using money supplied by the employer, and part paid by the employer. When I was running businesses, I could never figure out why they set it up that way, other than to make it look smaller than it really is.

    Wednesday, September 19, 2012 at 10:24 pm | Permalink
  6. TENTHIRTYTWO wrote:

    The funniest/saddest thing about this to me is that the Republicans who are saying these things or defending these statements are the same people who are shamelessly calling Obama the “most divisive” president in history.

    Thursday, September 20, 2012 at 4:39 am | Permalink
  7. TJ wrote:

    1032 – Don’t you know that Obama is forcing them to make those divisive statements? They didn’t want to do it, but Obama…

    Thursday, September 20, 2012 at 6:28 am | Permalink