Opinion: In defense of America’s 47 percent

September 27, 2012


Sharkara Peters is a 35-year-old single mother of two. She works 34 hours a week at a fast-food restaurant. A few months back, she was hospitalized with a blood clot in her lung. Then, one of her daughters needed surgery. As a result, Peters lost about three weeks of work, and could not muster her $335 monthly rent. When I met her last month while in Charlotte reporting on poverty on the eve of the Democratic National Convention, she was facing eviction.

I asked Peters what President Obama should do for people in her economic situation and she answered without hesitation. Obama, she said, needs to do something about girls on welfare that just sit up and have baby after baby and never try to better themselves.

You see, nobody likes freeloaders.

The point is made for the benefit of Mitt Romney. Of course, he’d likely consider Peters herself a freeloader. I’ve not seen her W-2, but it seems a safe bet that, working less than full time for fast-food wages, she doesn’t pay much if anything in federal income taxes. Romney was heard last week in a secretly-recorded video disparaging the 47 percent of Americans — low-income earners like Peters, Social Security recipients and others — that he says pay no taxes. Speaking before a room full of well-heeled donors in Boca Raton, Fla., who had paid $50,000 a plate for some face time with him, the Republican presidential nominee described those non-taxpayers with contempt as people “who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims …”

In the video, posted online by the liberal magazine Mother Jones, Romney says it’d be a waste of time pitching his campaign to those moochers: “I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

Sharkara Peters does not need Mitt Romney’s lectures about personal responsibility.

Nor does George Farmer, 61, who became homeless when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer and could no longer drive his truck. Nor does Michelle, an unemployed appliance repair technician trying to raise four girls on $694 a month plus food stamps. Nor do most of the invisible poor, the cashiers and servers, floor moppers and burger flippers whose annual income probably wouldn’t cover maintenance on one of Romney’s car elevators.

If the gaffe concretizes the caricature of an out-of-touch rich guy, a cognac-swilling peer of Thurston Howell III, Charles Emerson Winchester and Montgomery Burns, it’s important to remember that Romney is hardly alone in his sentiments. No, he spoke against a backdrop of vitriol against the have-nots in our society. They are called animals by Ann Coulter, takers by Michelle Malkin, accused of laziness by Rush Limbaugh. Fox “News” person Charles Payne laments the “entitlement mentality” under which they fail to even be properly “embarrassed” by their poverty.

For the record, I gave you no surname for Michelle, the single mother referenced above, precisely because she was too embarrassed to let me use it.

Romney’s remarks, then, are of a piece with a narrative — poverty as character defect — favored by many who know exactly jack about the reality of poverty, but who have discovered that demonizing the faceless poor, giving us someone new to resent and blame, is good politics. They wrap their attacks in rags of righteousness and pretensions of pragmatism, but there is something viscerally wrong, morally shrunken, in a nation where the most fortunate are encouraged to treat the least fortunate as some enemy race.

So the big story here is not about what damage Romney did to his campaign. Yes, the fact that he used condemnation of the poor as a lever of political advantage shames him.

But the very fact that the lever exists shames us all.

— Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for the Miami Herald. He chats with readers from noon to 1 p.m. CDT each Wednesday on www.MiamiHerald.com.


Abdu Omar 3 years, 1 month ago

Right on. Romney surely disgraced himself and should never be elected. If he is, the old folk song is true: " If living were a thing that money could buy, the rich would live and the poor would die, all my trials lord, soon forgotten."

Armstrong 3 years, 1 month ago

Could Barry also do something about the people I know who are playing the system ? "Them kids is fun and they makes us money too when tax time comes around "

Peter Macfarlane 3 years, 1 month ago

How about those free-loading corporations and those taking subsidies and getting tax breaks from the government? Aren't they freeloaders as well, especially when they rack up such large profits?

Armstrong 3 years, 1 month ago

Corporations / business are the ones paying the payroll taxes and a variety of others. Business also does something else - they pay salaries / wages to those motivated enough to work

Scotchguard 3 years, 1 month ago

The Ones Who Want Welfare are Big Business and Republicans.

  1. Annual Direct Federal Subsides To Industries:

Farm = $16 billion Airline = $68 billion Oil = $35 billion. Coal = $86 billion Natural Gas = $100 billion Ethanol = $173 billion Flood Insurance = $12 billion

Total = $490 billion

This doesn't count state subsidies.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 1 month ago

"Romney’s remarks, then, are of a piece with a narrative — poverty as character defect — favored by many who know exactly jack about the reality of poverty, but who have discovered that demonizing the faceless poor, giving us someone new to resent and blame, is good politics."

He was referring to you and the politicians you support, Armstrong.

Trumbull 3 years, 1 month ago

I know plenty of freeloaders who are right wingers. I can only figure that they are in a state of denial or hypocrisy.

jafs 3 years, 1 month ago

Serious cognitive dissonance.

A la "Keep your government hands off of my Medicare!"

fiddleback 3 years, 1 month ago

This comes as no surprise. Again, the recipients are more concentrated in red states:

percentage of income that is from government benefits.

percentage of income that is from government benefits. by fiddleback


You can visit the interactive link to specifically see Social Security, Medicare, Unemployment, etc. These concentrations suggest that many of the left-leaning recipients don't vote, and that among those who do, there are plenty who vote for the GOP to curtail the very assistance upon which they've come to depend.



50YearResident 3 years, 1 month ago

I think Romney is talking about a different group than Pitts. Romney's group do not work while working the system. Pitts group is working but not getting ahead of the system. They are not the same people.

jafs 3 years, 1 month ago

Yes, and he also conflated those groups with likely Obama voters, which is also wrong.

fiddleback 3 years, 1 month ago

And in fact, Romney's intended subset of recipients with no intention of working and abusing the system is likely a percentage under or around 10%, making his conflation all the more damningly unfair.

ModerateOne 3 years, 1 month ago

50yr -- the size of the group you think Romney is referring to is nowhere near 47 percent. And that is Pitts' point I think. Clearly Romney was referring to people like "Michelle" because if he.were not, then there is no way to count 47 percent.

bscjhawk 3 years, 1 month ago

I will never understand why people think the federal government should be responsible for financial well being of it's citizens. People do need assistance and support in this country, I am not arguing that point, but where do local governments enter the picture? City, County, State, should be the place people go to for assistance not the federal level. That is not nor should it be the role of the US government. Of course, that is just my opinion.

jafs 3 years, 1 month ago

What if local entities don't provide the needed assistance?

jhawkinsf 3 years, 1 month ago

If your argument is that the Federal government needs to step in when local communities fail to live up to their obligations, would you make the same argument that local governments need to step in when it's the Federal government not living up to their obligations?

jafs 3 years, 1 month ago

I was just asking the question.

If one believes local entities should be responsible for helping folks, and not the federal government, what happens if they don't do it?

Personally, I think it's difficult to figure out exactly what should be local obligations and what should be federal ones - people disagree about that a lot.

For example, I'd prefer to see funding for education determined at the federal level, and apportioned proportionally to population density, so that each child receives the same amount of money for their education throughout the country. But many people don't like that idea, and prefer local funding for that system. Who's right?

jhawkinsf 3 years, 1 month ago

I can think of one major problem already with your idea. It might take substantially more money to run a school in one community than in some other community. Sending one dollar to Lawrence might go much further than sending one dollar to Stockton, Ca. which would then be very different than San Francisco, Ca. Heck, Desoto might be different than Eudora.

The problem as I see it is this. Traditionally, different levels of government were responsible for different things. As an example, the Federal government took care of our common defense, states took care of education while counties took care of social services. But in the last century, things have become muddled. So many mandates that accompany federal funding that no one really knows where the money is coming from and how much of it is federal, state or local. Various states compete for funding, creating winners and losers. Yet at our very core, we are fundamentally suspicious of a too strong federal government. It's a dilemma without a clear solution that I can see. But as long as we have the federal government telling Mississippi how to run their schools, we're going to have some sheriff in Arizona enforcing immigration laws.

fiddleback 3 years, 1 month ago

These arguments revolve around the concept of subsidiarity, an organizing principle that matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralized competent authority.

However, our society naturally forms concentrations of poverty and health care needs including entire counties and regions, and to imagine that charities and local gov't in such areas wouldn't be quickly overwhelmed by the amount of need is simply naive. Our states do manage a good deal of assistance, but the federal gov't offers additional support lest certain states (again, mostly red ones) become overburdened. Our trade-off is having states with more or less balanced budgets but deficit-spending at the federal level.

You can disagree with this system in principle, but to fail to understand how it came about from a practical standpoint smacks of naive disregard for the mammoth scale of human need.

mom_of_three 3 years, 1 month ago

that HAS been the part of the role for the federal government for years...citizens have been relying upon the government for years. Its nothing new, but somehow we think it is.

verity 3 years, 1 month ago

Gumby is a troll who thinks he's writing satire. Why are you legitimizing him with replies?

deec 3 years, 1 month ago

Romney did not tell the truth. His statement conflated three distinct groups.

jafs 3 years, 1 month ago

Likely Obama voters are for the most part well educated, and middle class working folks.

Those who don't pay federal income taxes are mostly seniors on SS benefits, and the working poor.

The group that is dependent on government assistance is the third group.

All of these groups are mostly distinct, and his combining them and ascribing an entitlement mentality to his mythical group is simply inaccurate and without evidence.

Armstrong 3 years, 1 month ago

Likely Obama voters are not in the middle class. Barry has been killing the middle class the last 3+ years with " redistribution"

asixbury 3 years, 1 month ago

Ha! That's rich...since Romney will destroy the middle class if elected. He only cares for the rich, as his policies and statements have shown over and over again. Denial much? Obama is not responsible for the shrinking middle class. His policies have sought to help them, while the Republicans want to raise their taxes and give the wealthy more breaks.

jafs 3 years, 1 month ago

He didn't tell the truth.

He conflated 3 mostly distinct groups, and ascribed a mentality to about 1/2 the country with no evidence at all.

deec 3 years, 1 month ago

It's like the few dozen farmers where I live taking in millions of dollars of free gubmint money for farm and conservation subsidies. Most of them I suspect are anti-gubmint republicans.

But I guess those handouts are different.

jafs 3 years, 1 month ago

"for the most part" is not synonymous with all.

jafs 3 years, 1 month ago

Wow. Reading comprehension issues?

I said likely Obama voters are "for the most part" etc. That doesn't mean they're all in that category, it means that the majority of them are in it.

jafs 3 years, 1 month ago

I'm sorry, but I can't spend much more time teaching you basic reading and math.

"Most" means the majority, which means more than 50%.

beatrice 3 years, 1 month ago

Yes, some Obama supporters have said stupid stuff. Republicans just leave it up to their candidates to speak for them.

Armstrong 3 years, 1 month ago

That's what I picture as an Obama voter.

pizzapete 3 years, 1 month ago

It's interesting that this woman thinks that Obama gave her a free phone. The federal government is not giving anyone a free phone. There are a few states that do provide phones through their Medicaid offices so that the disabled can contact a doctor or other health care provider in case of emergency, but it's a state only run program.

Windemere 3 years, 1 month ago

Much of what Romeny said was stupid and can't be defended. Troubled by the examples Pitts gives though.. It's sad that so many kids are raised in financially unstable, single parent households. Today 40% of births are to unmarried women. And about 80% of first children born to black women were outside of marriage. Unsustainable. Where's the momentum to change the situation? It's easy to dismiss Romney's vision of all Americans being responsible for themselves and their families by making choices that are likely to result in financial stability and no need to rely on government programs. But to the extent that people do those things, isn't everyone better off? The cynics will say that the Democratic party relies on people dependent on government for votes. At the Dem convention, heard things that gave that impression.

deec 3 years, 1 month ago

Why a parent is single can have many causes. They might have been never-married, or they might have been widowed. They might be the wives of soldiers killed in Iraq. They might have divorced an abusive or adulterous spouse.

Here's some facts.


Windemere 3 years, 1 month ago

I did not speculate on why the two single women in Pitts' piece are single mothers. Was merely pointing out that a balanced, thoughtful dialogue should include discussion of the causes of single parenthood that lead to dependence on government (other citizens).

Flap Doodle 3 years, 1 month ago

Is the 47% what the 99% used to be, but with less public defecation?

jhawkinsf 3 years, 1 month ago

It's always someone, but never everyone. The 47% is part of the 99%, which used to be the silent majority. In other words, if you have to ask, you'll never know.

God, I have to stop reading your posts. I'm beginning to sound like you.

yourworstnightmare 3 years, 1 month ago

I bet a lot of the retired grumps who post on this site pay no federal income tax and suck at the teat of social security and medicare.

Richard Heckler 3 years, 1 month ago

Memo To Mitt Romney: The 47% Pay Taxes Too


Of course, it goes without saying, that those folks who aren’t paying federal taxes are almost all paying state and local taxes—state sales taxes, real estate taxes (either on their homes or built into their rents) and possibly state income taxes too, since those taxes tend to exempt fewer poor families than does the federal income tax. If they buy gasoline, liquor or tobacco, or have telephones, they’re also feeding the federal purse.

So maybe a higher share of the American public should be paying at least some amount of federal income tax. The tax code would be simpler, and probably fairer, if we reduced the number of tax expenditures for the wealthy and non-wealthy alike. We all might give more thought to spending restraint.

Then, too, we’re all protected by the military and rely on public infrastructure to get to our jobs, schools, stores and doctors—and yes, to build our businesses.


Leslie Swearingen 3 years, 1 month ago

No, it don't Sunny Jim. I am a single mother, by choice, and I want to know exactly what that says about me. Since you know share your wisdom. Please.

George Lippencott 3 years, 1 month ago

I think the vast majority of the 47% are decent hard working citizens and I think most of us think that. There is within the group a percentage that milks the system but how many that may be is not known.

However, because of primarily the EIC there are millions of people in that group who pay no federal income taxes even though they make more than $25K a year. My best estimate from IRS data is that this set numbers about half the 47%. But I am not quibbling over numbers.

My issue is that we are essentially arguing that a significant number of citizens (as much as half ) should not have to pay for the operation of the federal government for whatever reason. That places the tax burden on the other half making as little as $30K. It also makes the operation of the federal government of only academic interest to those not paying taxes as whatever it does has no cost impact on a lot of them

I would think that asking a goodly portion of those in the $25K to 50K income group to pay at least some income tax (many already do - singles) is not unreasonable. The tax rate at that income level is about 10% and after deductions (other than the EIC) the tax would probably be in the region of a few hundred dollars a year. That is cheap compared to all the benefits our federal government provides.

fiddleback 3 years, 1 month ago

If you wanted them to have "skin in the game" with income taxes, you should find a way to decrease their other taxes so as to not actually increase their overall liability and further reduce their meager earnings. I otherwise loathe the idea that we would make their menial subsistence a little harder just to supposedly get their attention. A few hundred is huge amount to those near the poverty line.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 1 month ago

There are a lot of people in this state and this country who have the medieval notion that poor people are poor because that's what God wants, that they are inferior, immoral beings who deserve to suffer.

It's a circular argument, to be sure, but it's very much part of this whole 47% thing. To give them any sort of break on taxes is to interfere with God's plan that requires them to suffer, while wealthy folks are rewarded for their moral superiority.

notaubermime 3 years, 1 month ago

There are two things in this that really get me. Romney's assumption that the 47% who did not have to pay income tax last year are dependent on the government and do not want to pay in to the system is an awfully big assumption. What this assumption overlooks is the role of tax cuts in creating this number. I find it hypocritical of him to support the Bush tax cuts on one hand, then criticize people for not having taxes to pay on the other. It is poor leadership to blame the citizens of this country for the effect of policies you supported.

The second ridiculous thing about it is that quite a number of these people are not always going to be in this position. Some people probably had a bad year, others probably are not at a point in their careers where they will fit into the paying category. To equate people who are only momentarily not paying income tax with welfare dependents is offensive (and I say that as one of the 53% who did pay last year).

George Lippencott 3 years, 1 month ago

Getting a special tax break not available to all puts you on government dependency - period! The rest of us (half) pay federal income taxes!!!

notaubermime 3 years, 1 month ago

1) As I already stated, I do pay income taxes.

2) Getting a special tax break does not make you dependent on the government. Requiring support from the government in order to survive makes you dependent on the government.

3) Four exclamation marks in two sentences does not present yourself as a calm person.

heygary 3 years, 1 month ago

He was pointing out that 47% would not vote for him ... becuase taht is about the percentage which is directly feeding from the state and federal government troughs in one way or another.

deec 3 years, 1 month ago

Repeating that lie doesn't make it come true.

George Lippencott 3 years, 1 month ago

So it is OK that half of us do not support the operation of the federal government. This is not a one time number and next year it will be 10%. This is a year to year number that is in fact growing.

Are all those in this group really worthy of government largess such as the EIC? That single entitlement credit (entitlement) makes millions of people with incomes greater than $25K income tax free.

jenniflip 3 years, 1 month ago

So, who gets to decide if those who qualify are "worthy"? Would you like to set up a panel of concerned citizens such as yourself to parade those seeking EIC in front of to plead their cause? Outside of the tax code, which already determines eligibility, what makes them "worthy" in your eyes? Race? Gender? Religion? Cleanliness? General attitude?

You state below that 25k isn't poor. Well, it isn't rich either, buddy. Try being a family of four existing on about $2,000 a month and tell me how rich you feel. I have received the EIC at a couple of points in my life (now I'm a good, solid, middle class tax payer so you can be assured my opinion counts...to you) and I have to say it was a godsend. The "largess" of which you speak was a thousand or so dollars. Not much to someone like Mitt, but a fortune to one to whom it means a running vehicle or not.

fiddleback 3 years, 1 month ago

Except that most of them live in red states, and thus plenty are warped hypocrites who will indeed vote for him.

George Lippencott 3 years, 1 month ago

$25K is not poor

I am not demonizing the poor I am demonizing those who hold them in dependency. They need jobs not hand outs. Jobs the Obama administration has been unable to generate despite trillions in stimulus. Why??

jaywalker 3 years, 1 month ago

"but there is something viscerally wrong, morally shrunken, in a nation where the most fortunate are encouraged to treat the least fortunate as some enemy race."

That goes both ways, Mr. Pitts.

While Romney was wrong and not a little stupid to blanket almost half our citizens in such a light, Pitts' cherry-picking a few folks doesn't explain away 3rd generation welfare recipients nor the notorious sections of any moderately sized city that spends the majority of their time sitting on their front stoops or in front of their double-wides swilling out of paper bags. I'll never forget offering four guys in La. a week's work @ $25/hr, under the table no less. No dice, didn't wanna risk their "cheese." Asked if we did it legit if that would change their minds, they just laughed. And that's not the only occasion.
It ain't 47% by any stretch, but we got plenty.

Corey Williams 3 years, 1 month ago

So if you routinely offer work "under the table", then you are breaking the law just as those who accept your pay and don't report it are breaking the law as well. Nice to see you are an honest and upright, law abiding citizen.

jaywalker 3 years, 1 month ago

Yup, my bad for trying to give some poor folks some decent pay for some simple work. I'm a wretch. I should be flogged.

Leslie Swearingen 3 years, 1 month ago

Keep on doing it. I think you are a very good person for doing this.

Leslie Swearingen 3 years, 1 month ago

I would like to add that I have had to get help from the SA and heard men turn down work when employers came by offering it.
But, I also know there were men who stayed there who had jobs and put their paychecks in the safe at the SA and who now have homes. One man bought a shovel and cleared out sidewalks during the winter. You were talking to the wrong people. Should have asked travelers from the south. I bet they would take you up on it.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 1 month ago

Maybe it was just that they took one look at you and wanted nothing to do with you, and their refusal had nothing at all to do with whatever work you had to offer at whatever pay level or how it might affect their "cheese."

jaywalker 3 years, 1 month ago

Perfection! Ad hominem at it's essence. Could you be any more sad?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 1 month ago

If you want to make sweeping generalizations based on a personal anecdote, then you are very much part of that anecdote, and any legitimacy it may or may not have. Therefore, there is nothing ad hominem about my pointing out a very plausible alternate explanation.

fiddleback 3 years, 1 month ago

Again, reform is obviously needed, but my guess is that this percentage of abusers is in the single or low double digits. Hating these people is no basis for a campaign strategy, and talking about them requires using a rhetorical scalpel, not a machete. Romney will pay dearly for using the latter.

tbaker 3 years, 1 month ago

Romney didn't say a single thing that was incorrect. It was a campaign lunch and he was talking about campaign strategy. Telling the crowd he shouldn't expend a lot of resources trying to win the votes of that portion of society who depend on government hand-outs was nothing more than telling it like it is.

Of course the opposition is going to say this means Mr. Romney doesn't "care" about these people. If you want to follow that logic, then Mr. Obama must not care about the people who "cling" to their guns and religion.

jafs 3 years, 1 month ago

Yes he did.

He conflated 3 mostly distinct groups, each of which has about 47% of the population in them.

  1. Likely Obama voters.
  2. Those who pay no federal income taxes.
  3. Those dependent on government assistance.

The first group, statistically, is composed mostly of well educated middle class folks. The second is mostly seniors on limited SS benefits and the working poor. The third contains rural white poor folks who often vote R.

So, he combined three groups incorrectly, and then ascribed a mentality to his mythical group without evidence.

I do hope that the folks in the third group who generally vote R change their minds, but I suspect and fear that they will continue to vote that way.

George Lippencott 3 years, 1 month ago

Where to start

You have some data to back up that most Obama voters are well educated middle class and that few if any of those in the 47% vote for him?

You have some data that those paying no income taxes (actually 47%) are all seniors and working poor. There are no real poor in there? There are no wealthy SOBs in there? There are no families with income between $25K and $50K?

How do you know that poor folk on assistance vote Republican? Is your myth of a church going, bible reading gun carrying hoard getting in the way again.

47% pay no income tax – that is a fact. IMHO that group is composed of those on public assistance and those who have deductions that wipe out any tax liability ($25K to millions) – remember the tax rate at low incomes is 10%, the former numbers about 20%. .

Now the real error in Mr. Romney’s argument is/was they would not vote for him. Some probably would not but no one knows as so far no data exists that I have found that correlates tax data with voting patterns. That said the correlation of strong Democratic districts with lower income populations might suggest some truth in the argument.

jafs 3 years, 1 month ago

I'd have to look for the story I read about the issue.

Note I said "mostly", not "all".

Rural poor white folks tend to be conservative, and vote R.

Your opinion is faulty - the 47% who pay no federal income taxes is composed mostly of seniors and the working poor.

Some poor guy who makes little money, and pays no federal income tax is not the same thing as somebody on welfare, no matter how many times those on the right want to conflate those two. And, are you really wanting to say that seniors on SS are on government assistance? In the past, you've claimed they purchased their benefits and are entitled to them.

George Lippencott 3 years, 1 month ago

I have never correlated the two - I hold them distinct. I am not sure conservatives consider them distinct as they have in common the fact that they do not pay income tax.

The former are and should be exempted from income tax. The latter (people with incomes from $25K to $50K) should not. I don't know who you consider the working poor - I use the demographic of employed with income below the poverty level - and I don't think they should pay taxes.

I saw data posted to support the "seniors" article. It was based on numbers not amount. The senior deduction is for those who file a standard deduction - mostly poor seniors. The real demographic is poor. Even using numbers it was about half of the 47%.

Now I might note that here is an example of you using emotion rather than data to put forward a point that is irrelevant. The 47% include appropriately the poor (as defined) of all age groups (including the working poor), rich SOBs and a whole bunch of people who make between $25K and $50K who have children and are not poor. They are distinct groups but are all part of the 47%.

You are making distinctions where Mr. Romney made none. Your distinctions are fine but they do not invalidate what Mr. Romney said.

Remember set theory?? The big circle is those not paying income taxes. Inside that circle there are little circles some wholly distinct and some partially overlapping that are the groups you and I have listed. In common they are all part of the 47%.

Again, do you have data that Obama voters are significantly educated and middle class because I have data that shows that poor people vote significantly for the Democratic Party. Do you have data that supports that people in poverty vote heavily fro Republicans?? Rural poor (if they do vote as social conservatives) are a smaller subset by far then urban poor. Where do you put the almost half of the 47% comprising those making between $25K and $50K who pay no income tax (old, young or whatever)?

Again, a lot of misinformation and assertion (documented above) and a start of demonization (“faulty” logic). What is the real issue – you do not like Mr. Romney???

jafs 3 years, 1 month ago

I have no particular feeling about Romney one way or the other - I don't know him.

He conflated 3 mostly distinct groups, and ascribed an entitlement mentality to his imagined group.

Claiming that the about 47% who don't pay federal income taxes is the same group as "likely Obama voters", and those on government assistance is simply incorrect.

My point to you is that when you say the folks who don't pay federal income taxes are on assistance, etc. you must be saying that seniors on limited SS benefits are on assistance, and that the guy who works but gets tax credits is likewise.

Not usually the way I consider the term to be used, as if those folks are somehow dependent on welfare.

Of course, one could think of SS/Medicare as welfare programs, given the disparities in contributions and benefits, but I doubt you think of it that way.

And, again, the working people who support themselves and get tax breaks aren't on welfare either, right? They're working, making a living, supporting themselves and their families (if they have them), and they get a tax break.

Tax breaks are given to many people for many reasons - I'd have no problem discussing whether or not they're warranted, but I'd prefer to do it more broadly. Mortgage interest deductions? Lower rates for married couples? Etc.

Otherwise it feels to me that people are slamming those at the bottom of the income scale, while ignoring many other aspects of our tax system.

You know, I've tried to stop talking with you a couple of times, but you seem intent on continuing our conversations - I wonder, given your expressed attitudes towards me, which are generally not that positive, why you want to talk to me, and why you think I should want to do the same?

George Lippencott 3 years, 1 month ago

TWIMC I generally respond on here to posts that I feel are inaccurate or biased. I am selective and focus on financial and certain social issues. There is nothing particularly about you other than you tend to have longer more detailed posts that draw my response. It is hard to respond to those who are simply negative but provide no substance – the result at best is a flame war.

I have made my points on the 47%.
I believe the 47% is composed of the definitional poor, people with incomes between $25 and $50K with children and a smattering of other players.

I do not believe that voters for Mr. Obama are significantly dominated by educated middle class people. The data shows all kinds of people report voting for Mr. Obama.

I do not believe the rural poor are exclusive Republican although I do believe they lean that way while the urban poor (larger set) tend to vote democratic.

I have no data to correlate voting patterns with public assistance. I do believe (opinion) that people do tend to vote their pocketbooks but I am well aware that many vote their social conscience. Having said that I believe the urban poor tend to vote Democratic as there is data to support that.

notajayhawk 3 years, 1 month ago

"You have some data to back up that most Obama voters are well educated middle class and that few if any of those in the 47% vote for him?"

Of course he does: 47% of all statistics are made up on the spot, after all.

tbaker 3 years, 1 month ago

Come now Jafs, the man stated a simple fact of smart campaign strategy; that expending resources on folks with a high likelihood of not voting for you would not be a wise move. I’ll leave the quibling over irrelevant numbers/percentages to other posters and simply tell you that it is safe to say that people who depend on government handouts are far less likely to vote for the candidate who promises to limit said handouts. That’s not only common sense, it’s the point of this whole debate.

Now all that said, I don’t care how you parse the numbers, or how right or wrong Mr. Romney may have been - it was still a stupid thing to do. It is devisive. Nothing good comes from it. Correct doesn’t equal smart. I don’t care if it was a “republican” luncheon or not. Public speaking is PUBLIC and he should have known better than to make the remarks he did in such a forum. I’m sure he regrets it, just like Mr. Obama regrets those candid moments where he has uttered equally devisive remarks that tend to reflect his true beliefs on a subject.

But all this is such small potatoes. As I have said before, the two major political parties simply must keep us at each others throats sparring over pointless crap like this, and they will stop at nothing to make sure we keep it up – because they are both terrified by the prospect of the country ever being united on anything.

On those very rare occassions when the majority of Americans are united in our republic, we are in control – not the politicans. Not being in control scares the crap out of them.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 1 month ago

"Correct doesn’t equal smart."

But in this case, as jafs rightly pointed out, he was neither correct nor smart.

jafs 3 years, 1 month ago

Yes, that would be smart strategy.

His mistake was in the conflation of the groups, and the assumption that his mythical group won't vote for him.

Since poor white rural folks, often on assistance, tend to vote R (don't ask me why), and so do wealthy folks who don't pay federal income taxes (also a part of that group), it's a mistake to write them off, in my opinion.

Your post said "Romney didn't say a single thing that was incorrect" - in fact, he said a number of things that were incorrect.

"I don't care....how right or wrong Mr. Romney may have been" is a rather different statement.

tbaker 3 years, 1 month ago

Assuming this not-so-mythical group will not vote for him is a very well informed assumption made almost a fact by his misguided remark.

Poor white rural folks (from which I come) tend to vote R becuase they tend to be a lot more independant and generally preferr to take care of things themselves with as little government involvement as possible.

Nowadays, R doesn't necessarily mean less government so that tendancy is not a guarantee anymore.

Like I siad, you can quible about the math, but Romney's remark was correct in essence.

jafs 3 years, 1 month ago

Well, that would be a self-fulfilling prophecy then, and not quite how he meant it, I think.

It was incorrect in essence, from my perspective.

fiddleback 3 years, 1 month ago

No, it's not only an uninformed assumption, but one that undermines the very support upon which Mitt will depend on 11/6. Even if your common sense says that these dependent folks don't vote against the gravy train, many actually do. They aren't quibbling numbers, either. http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/18/how-do-the-47-vote/ Moreover, it's not only foolhardy to discount that subset, it's outright stupid for Mitt to insult all of them, even elderly from the Greatest Generation, as playing the victims and shirking personal responsibility.

And it's rather funny how much you would strain to trumpet the "correct essence" or "truthiness" of a patently sloppy remark from a guy for whom you claim you're not voting...

fiddleback 3 years, 1 month ago

Moderate and Quantrill,

I have no polling data on likely Obama voters; I'll let you Google that one.
As to how those 47% with no income tax vote, you have to look at demographic data:


WIth the working poor and elderly it's obviously a mixed picture, and when these people are mostly in red states, it becomes even harder to even determine how a majority of them vote. Thus, Romney chose a really dumb way to categorize people, even if only intended as political shorthand. A good deal of his base is within groups 2 and 3.

As to whether such people would defy "common sense" and bite the hand that feeds them, it's a well-documented form of cognitive dissonance and externally projected self-loathing:



George Lippencott 3 years, 1 month ago

Thank you for whay I suspect was JAFS source. I went back to the Brookings article referenced in the NYT blog. It and I have little to quibble about. It names the same groups I do. It points out that both childrens benefits and senior benefits go to poor people. It also points out that children's benefits (it does not specify the EIC) exempt many with income up to $50K (as I have).

My one quibble is with calling the tax exemption on social security a tax expenditure. For low income people a non -trivial portion of their SS is simply a return of contributions that were already taxed. Since the article did not specify how Brookings handled the SS I have inferred they considered all of it and that would be inappropriate.

By the by it also discussed other deductions available to the more affluent payers. Interesting article

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 1 month ago

Fact Check Time Regarding Food Stamps--

"Mitt Romney claims President Barack Obama caused a doubling of able-bodied persons on food stamps by taking “work out of the food stamps requirement.” That’s an exaggeration. All but four states had already received waivers from specific work requirements for some or all of their residents before Obama became president.

The total number of persons getting food stamps is up 46 percent since Obama took office, a big jump but far short of a doubling. Romney is referring only to single, childless adults of working age, who normally qualify for food stamps for only three months unless they work part-time or live in areas where jobs are scarce or unemployment tops 10 percent.

The number of those single adults getting food stamps did double about the same time that Obama granted a blanket suspension of that work requirement for 18 months as part of his 2009 stimulus law. But the Bush administration had already granted waivers covering some or all of 46 states and the District of Columbia, and more waiver requests were pending as the economy tanked. And despite the rise under Obama, these working-age adults without dependents still made up less than one in 10 on food stamps."


notajayhawk 3 years, 1 month ago

"The point is made for the benefit of Mitt Romney. Of course, he’d likely consider Peters herself a freeloader. I’ve not seen her W-2, but it seems a safe bet that, working less than full time for fast-food wages, she doesn’t pay much if anything in federal income taxes."

What's market rate for an apartment in Charlotte these days, Lenny? Betcha' it's more than $335/month. Did Section 8 pay the rest? And who paid her medical expenses? We keep hearing these horror stories about people that can't get care because they have no insurance, so we can probably guess that this woman and her child's medical expenses were paid by Medicaid? And how much does this woman and her (at least) two children get in food stamps? I wonder why Lenny didn't ask any of these questions.

Whether she's hypocritical enough to say that the administration should get rid of "girls on welfare that just sit up and have baby after baby and never try to better themselves" ... well, at least the other ones, not her, of course ... is irrelevent. The fact is she IS dependent on the government, Lenny, and only dimwitted liberal buffoons would hold her out as an example of a person that disproves Romney's contention (although I have no doubt the kool-aid drinking lemmings of Lawrence will completely agree with you, as usual).

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