The reaction to Mitt Romney's private remarks about the 47 percent of Americans who don't pay income taxes has been brutal and swift.
Romney apparently made the remarks at a private dinner for rich donors.
In the remarks, Romney went much farther than suggesting that the federal tax base should be broadened, a sentiment that many Americans agree with (including, for what it's worth, me).
Romney said almost half the voters in the country — 47 percent — believe they are "victims" and expect the government to provide free health care, food, and housing.
He then said of these people, "I'll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."
More than half of are working Americans who pay payroll taxes, meaning that they have jobs and provide money to the federal government.
Half of the rest are elderly people who collect Social Security, which isn't taxed as income.
Almost all of the rest are people who make less than $20,000 per year.
In Romney's view, apparently, all of these people are freeloaders who don't take responsibility for themselves.
Romney was already falling far behind in the polls, but some observers believe that these remarks will cost him the election.
Bloomberg's Josh Barro, for example, had this to say:
On the tape, Romney explains that his electoral strategy involves writing off nearly half the country as unmovable Obama voters. As Romney explains, 47 percent of Americans "believe that they are victims." He laments: "I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."
So what's the upshot? "My job is not to worry about those people," he says...
This is an utter disaster for Romney.
Romney already has trouble relating to the public and convincing people he cares about them. Now, he's been caught on video saying that nearly half the country consists of hopeless losers.
Romney has been vigorously denying President Obama's claims that his tax plan would raise taxes on the middle class. Now, he's been caught on video suggesting that low- and middle-income Americans are undertaxed.
After the remarks came to light, the Romney campaign released a statement saying that Romney "wants to help all Americans" and that "he is concerned about the growing number of people who are dependent on the federal government."
If he's concerned, it certainly doesn't sound like it. ("My job is not to worry about those people...")
One defense of Romney's remarks is that he didn't really mean what he said--that he was just sucking up to rich donors and telling them what they wanted to hear. Another defense is that Romney was just saying what a lot of people in his "base" believe.
Neither of those defenses sound much better than the remarks themselves.
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