It is natural for children to have an idealized vision of their favorite actor or performer because their only exposure is what they see on television, movies, or in fan magazines. Adults, on the other hand, realize that most everyone’s public persona is often contrived and nothing like their private lives when they are free from reservation, disguise, or even subterfuge. Politicians, although not always celebrities, most certainly act and speak differently when they are amongst friends than when they address the public, but occasionally they are caught speaking truthfully when they think they are among friends and out of public view. For the past two days, there has been uproar over Republican presidential candidate Willard Romney’s remarks captured on hidden video during a fundraising dinner for wealthy contributors where he claimed that nearly half the American people were parasites that he could never “convince they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
Pundits on both sides of the political spectrum were critical of Romney’s remarks, and it is curious that anyone was surprised he holds half the population in contempt, and especially the Republicans who were quick to distance themselves from his assessment of the people that are most likely Republican supporters. Although Romney’s comments were offensive and revealed his true feelings about Americans who are struggling, he articulated, in stark terms, his running mate and the entire Republican Party’s contempt for the American people.
First, there are very few Americans who do not pay some form of taxes, whether it is payroll, sales, property, or fuel taxes. However, in fairness to Romney there are Americans who do not pay income taxes for a variety of reasons, but it is not, like he said, because they “believe they are victims, believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, or believe they are entitled to health care, food, or housing they feel the government should give to them.” Most Americans who do not pay income taxes are either too poor for the lowest tax bracket, or they benefit from tax credits for the elderly, working poor, or students; only 7 percent of the country is non-elderly and has no federal tax liability, and most make less than $20,000 annually. The truth is that Americans who receive Social Security and Medicare are receiving retirement benefits they paid for throughout their entire working lives, and the working poor do pay payroll taxes are contributing to a total that is only $200 billion less than federal income tax receipts in 2011. According to the Tax Policy Center, Americans who paid payroll taxes, but no income taxes, still pay 15% of their income that is higher than Romney’s 13% tax rate.
There are other reasons more Americans are not liable for income taxes that do not have anything whatsoever to do with them mooching off the government. For one thing, President Obama has cut taxes to their lowest rates in over 60 years to stimulate economic growth and help families struggling in the Bush-Republican economy, and in Republican-controlled states over 800,000 public sector jobs have been eliminated to make room for tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations. Millions of Americans who could be gainfully employed if Republicans would support any number of the President’s job plans are left subsisting on food stamps that Romney and his Republican cohort in Congress are desperate to cut to make room for more tax cuts for the wealthy.
Romney’s contention that 47% of Americans do not pay income taxes is a meme leading Republicans have supported for months going back to the Republican primaries. Texas Governor Rick Perry said Republicans were “dismayed at the injustice that nearly half of all Americans don’t even pay any income tax” at the start of his presidential campaign. During a speech at the Heritage Foundation, vice-presidential candidate 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,” and Rep. Michele Bachmann warned that “people who pay nothing can easily forget the idea that there is no such thing as a free lunch” and it all fits Romney’s portrayal of moochers and an attempt to levy income taxes on the poor.
In April, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said “We know that over 45 percent of the people in this country don’t pay income taxes at all, and we have to question whether that’s fair; we broaden the base in a way that we can lower rates for everybody that pays taxes,” even if it means taxing the poor, college students, and senior citizens in households with incomes less than $17,000 a year. In fact, Cantor expresses a Republican belief that “you don’t go raise taxes on those that have been successful, taking away from them, so that you just hand out and give to someone else.” It Paul Ryan’s Ayn Rand philosophy of “makers” versus “takers” and it has been embraced by the entire Republican Party. As recently as June, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the tax code is “a mess” because so many low-income Americans do not pay enough taxes, but he never takes into account that the reason so many Americans do not have federal tax liability is that they simply don’t make enough money, and that includes combat troops, returning Veterans, Social Security recipients, and the working poor who barely earn a subsistence income and still pay a higher tax rate than Romney.
Romney’s portrayal of Americans living on Social Security, using Medicare, or the working poor as not taking responsibility for their lives and living on government entitlements is at the core of Republican economic policy and it is the height of hypocrisy. Romney does not pay any payroll taxes because his income is not considered regular income for tax purposes making his 13% income tax liability lower than the poorest American with a job who pays 15% in payroll taxes. Remember too, that Romney’s father mooched off the government when he emigrated from Mexico, and Paul Ryan lived off of Social Security survivor’s benefits that he did not pay into.
Republicans have painted any American who receives government funds as takers robbing the wealthy, and during the Republican primaries Romney, Santorum, and Gingrich all decried the government taking money from white people to give to African Americans. There are pundits who claim Romney was just saying what he thought his audience wanted to hear, and that may be true, but it is what Republicans have been saying for nearly two years. It is true that Romney revealed the depth of his contempt for nearly half of America, but it is the contempt the entire party exhibits for any American who is not in the wealthiest 2% class.
Perhaps it took a hidden camera to capture Romney and Republicans true feelings about the American people, but now that his hatred for America is finally exposed, it is important that seniors, the poor, Veterans, and Republican supporters comprehend that his contempt represents the entire Republican Party, and that his remarks were aimed directly at them. It is important too, that the middle class Romney purports to help understand that his tax plan will raise their tax liability to pay for the $5 trillion in tax cuts for the wealthy, and that includes levying new income taxes on the poorest Americans in red states who will vote for the man who intends raising their taxes to give himself and his wealthy friends greater tax cuts.
Romney’s remark to his wealthy donors was not a gaffe, it was his true feelings about more than half of America. There is no economic demographic that will escape his wrath if he is elected and implements his tax plan, but what is most insulting to Americans is his assertion that 47% of Americans demand entitlements when he has lived off entitlements his entire life. He was born into wealth, used dirty money to start Bain Capital, raided investors, banks, and companies of their wealth and destroyed Americans’ jobs to enrich himself, and yet he has the temerity to say 47% of Americans are takers mooching off makers. He is a hypocrite, and has not only told the American people they are contemptible, he has broadcast to the entire world what he, his running mate, and the rest of Republicans truly believe about the American people and it is that they are leeches sucking resources from the wealthy who feel entitled to take what little the poor, seniors, Veterans, and middle class Americans have left to feed what Ayn Rand calls “the makers.”