Time to put Romney away. A very damaging video of a Romney speech to a private group of funders has turned up.
The author of the Mother Jones article, David Corn, said on MSNBC that the video was shot on May 17 at the Boca Raton, Fla., home of Marc Leder, a financier, who held a $50,000-a-person fund-raiser for Mr. Romney that night. ...NYT
In it, Romney pulls out the old canard that 47% of Americans "pay no income tax" and are "dependent on government." "'Those voters,' he said, 'would probably support President Obama because they believe they are 'victims' who are 'entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.'”
Romney "stands by" what he said.
In one clip, Mr. Romney describes how his campaign would not try to appeal to “47 percent of the people” who will vote for Mr. Obama “no matter what.” They are, he says, “dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them.”
He says those people “pay no income tax,” and “so our message of low taxes doesn’t connect.” Mr. Romney adds: “My job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
The comments were much more stark than Mr. Romney’s usual remarks, though he typically talks in public about supporters of Mr. Obama’s wanting big government to take care of their problems. He often accuses Mr. Obama and his supporters of wanting to bring a European-style socialism to the United States. In the video clips, Mr. Romney says his campaign is concentrating on the “5 to 10 percent in the center” whom he described as “thoughtful” voters....NYT
Of course, the part of about the deliberately irresponsible poor isn't true. It's not true in a particularly vicious way. America has a poverty problem. And worse, America has an opportunity problem. Romney (and many conservatives) see the poverty but they don't see -- in fact, most deliberately turn their eyes away from or hotly deny -- the opportunity problem.
The nonpartisan and highly respected Tax Policy Center derived the 47 percent number – it is actually 46 percent, as of 2011 – and published an excellent analysis of it last summer.
It found that about half of the households that do not pay federal income tax do not pay it because they are simply too poor. The Tax Policy Center gives as an example a couple with two children earning less than $26,400 a year: The household would pay no federal income tax because its standard deduction and other exemptions would simply erase its liability.
The other half, the Tax Policy Center found, consists of households taking advantage of tax credits and other provisions, mostly support for senior citizens and low-income working families.
Put bluntly, these are not households shirking their tax liabilities. The pool consists mostly of the poor, of relatively low-income working families and of old people. The tax code is specifically designed to reduce the burden on them. ...
...It is also worth noting that though tens of millions of families do not pay federal income taxes, there are virtually no families that do not pay any taxes – between payroll taxes, sales taxes, state and local taxes, and on and on. ...Economix, NYT
Chris Cillizza reports in The Fix at the Washington Post that Romney is now in real trouble -- his "darkest hour." Maybe. Or maybe it will get darker. Look at the list of boo-boos in addition to his "dependent poor" remarks.
Consider what has happened to Romney since the Democrats concluded their convention in Charlotte earlier this month:
* The release of a Romney polling memo that seemed decidedly defensive over the idea of a convention bounce for the incumbent.
* A too-quick statement regarding the tumult in Libya that polling suggests was not looked on favorably by the voting public.
* A Politico story laying bare strife within the campaign that hit Sunday night.
And now comes this video tape featuring Romney offering a blunt assessment of his economic worldview to a group of wealthy donors — an assessment that is more candid, more calculating and more conservative than the GOP nominee has been in public.
Taken individually, none of the incidents referenced above are that big a deal in the constant swirl of politics. Taken together, they paint an image of a campaign in disarray and a candidate not ready for primetime. Context always matters in politics and the context in which this videotape has landed is just plain awful for Romney’s campaign. ...WaPo
The race isn't over, says Cilliza. Seven weeks to go. To the Romney campaign, of course, that means time to clean up their act. To the rest of us, that means we may have seven more weeks of pure glee watching the right stagger, trip and fall -- all in delicious slow motion.
NPR this morning reminds us that a bunch of these government-dependent layabouts are Republican senior citizens. Oops.
Greg Sargent goes into how extremism on the right and in the top percentile -- self-indulgent paranoia in those precincts, really -- gives Romney's statements a ring of truth.
Romney seems to be thinking he’s making an electoral argument here — these voters are simply not gettable for him, so he needs to focus on the center. But his explanation veers into a truly extreme version of a theory that’s widespread on the right: Democrats are trying to encourage dependency on government for the explicit purpose of enlarging the pool of voters who can be relied upon to vote Democratic for the rest of their lives, in order to preserve the government handouts they enjoy.
In Romney’s telling, all of these 47 percent of voters are complicit in this arrangement. As a result, there is no hope of ever persuading them to take personal responsibility for their lives. He seems to be conflating the government-dependency conspiracy theory with another right wing meme — the complaint that 47 percent of Americans pay no income taxes. Put those together and you arrive at Romney’s formulation.
In a sense, this is an extreme version of a narrative Romney has adopted on multiple fronts. He has charged that Obama is taking away hard won Medicare benefits from seniors to redistribute them to other people; he claims Obama is gutting welfare reform to send welfare checks to those who don’t work; and has even suggested Obama is doing the latter to appeal to his “base.” The attacks on Obama’s “you didn’t build that” speech are of a piece with this, pushing the notion that Obama demeans your hard work and individual initiative because he thinks only government-sponsored success constitues real achievement and wants to expand government into every aspect of our lives, forever increasing government dependency and perpetually eroding good old fashioned American self reliance. ...Greg Sargent, PlumLine, WaPo
That raises the possibility that the left misunderstands what its up against. Perhaps the real weakness in America -- along with the real scaredy-cats -- can be found on the right and in those with big new money. Aware that as much as their prosperity came from "hard work," it also came from luck and a system skewed in their favor. At any moment, votes from the other side could, in effect, alter the size of their advantage.
In that context, the response of the Obama campaign to Romney's video was masterful.
“It’s shocking that a candidate for President of the United States would go behind closed doors and declare to a group of wealthy donors that half the American people view themselves as ‘victims,’ entitled to handouts, and are unwilling to take ‘personal responsibility’ for their lives. It’s hard to serve as president for all Americans when you’ve disdainfully written off half the nation.”