In a secretly recorded video, Mitt Romney said “47 percent” of Americans don’t pay income tax, and those “dependent on government” probably won’t vote for him. Even if it’s a horrible political move, Mitt’s completely right, writes Alex of the Daily Beast
In late August, when a certain Republican presidential candidate said that “big business” was “doing fine” due to “offshore tax havens,” I coined it a “Romney gaffe”—a slip of the tongue that’s embarrassing, but painfully accurate.
On Monday, Mitt Romney stumbled into another ugly-yet-true circumlocution. In a secret fundraiser video obtained by Mother Jones’’ David Corn, Romney described “47 percent” of Americans as “dependent upon government”—“entitlement” hounds who “will vote for the president no matter what” because they “pay no income tax.” As a candidate trying to win the center, he continued, “[m]y job is not to worry about these people.”
Jim Messina, Obama campaign manager, called the statement “shocking” and “disdainful.” Gail Gitcho, Romney communication director, said that it showed that the former governor really is “concerned about the growing number of people who are dependent on the federal government.” But ham-handed, principled, offensive, or otherwise, Romney’s words were clearly one thing: true. Here are the facts.
According to the Tax Policy Center, a partnership of the liberal Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution, 46.4 percent of American filers pay “zero or negative” income tax.
Yes, that bottom-basement rate is the result of concerted cuts enacted under Reagan and Bush. And yes, when you include state and payroll taxes, the percent of zero-payers drops below 18 percent. And finally, since almost all of Romney’s investment wealth is taxed as capital gains, it’s likely that he, too, pays almost no “income tax.” But since Romney specifically described the “47 percent” as those “who pay no income tax,” he’s still on factual footing—even if he should count himself as one of them.
Paying no income tax is one thing. Being “dependent on government” is another. But under a broad definition of government dependence—that is, receiving federal entitlements—more than 47 percent of us are in Romney’s category. According to the Census Bureau, 49 percent of Americans live in a household that receives a government entitlement for “health care” through Medicaid or Medicare, “food” through stamps, disability, Social Security, or a “housing” assistance program. Most of these benefits are not paid for by their recipients, but by federal deficits. The gap between promises and anticipated funds for Social Security is $8.6 trillion for the next 75 years, according to the government’s own estimates (PDF). For Medicare, it’s $27 trillion.