A secret video released Monday and Tuesday by Mother Jones shows Mitt Romney telling a group of wealthy donors that 47 percent of Americans think of themselves as “victims” and that President Obama’s supporters just want government handouts. Reaction has been swift and damning from both sides of the blogosphere. Liberals are decrying the facts and conservatives are distancing themselves from the tone-deaf message of their candidate dissing half the country less than two months before the election.
But how far off was Romney from the truth? Here are five facts about that 47 percent you might not know.
1. While its true that 47 percent of Americans don’t pay federal income tax, most Americans still pay some taxes, including federal payroll and excise taxes as well as state and local income, sales and property taxes. The Tax Policy Center found that only 18 percent of Americans pay no taxes of any kind, and most of them are elderly or those with incomes under $20,000 per year.
2. Ironically, the tax breaks Romney cites as causing dependency are designed to fight the very dependency he sneers at. Ezra Klein notes the Earned Income Tax Credit was passed in 1975 with bipartisan majorities to encourage low-income people to work, diverting government resources from handouts toward incentives built into the tax code. Presidents Reagan and Clinton expanded the tax breaks, with full support from congressional Republicans.
3. Romney’s theory that low-income earners are more likely to support President Obama is pretty accurate. A Gallup poll in June found a clear preference for the president among those who earn less than $36,000 per year.
4. Romney’s geography of dependency is way off. The Tax Foundation finds that the 10 states with the highest percentages of “nonpayers” are mostly Republican territories in the deep South. Luckily, they are the deepest of deep red, leaving Romney free to focus on the swing states.
5. According to August data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, one out of every seven Americans, just over 40 million Americans, receives food assistance from the federal government.
Whether Mitt Romney’s comments prove a lasting problem for him in this final phase of the campaign remains to be seen, but there are hints that his negative views on federal assistance might not be too far off from the views of the American people. Gallup notes today a majority of Americans (54 percent) continue to believe the government is trying to do too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses, although that is down from the record high of 61 percent earlier this summer.
Tonight’s show brings a powerhouse lineup of political watchers to “The War Room.” Time senior national correspondent Michael Grunwald joins Jennifer Granholm to share his input on exactly how this video affects of the votes of the 47 percent. The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin will talk about elections politics, the power of money as political speech and his new book, “The Oath: The Obama White House and the Supreme Court.”
We’ll also talk to former Democratic National Committee campaign strategist Donnie Fowler and political consultant Tad Devine on the fallout from this secret Romney video in the final 50 days of the campaign. Tune in to Current TV at 7 p.m. PT.