Big Story

Is Mitt Romney Calling You a Freeloader?

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, by Flickr user Tobyotter.

Well, maybe and maybe not.

Watch this video – which was taped in secret – of the Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, speaking at a fundraising event:

The clip is part of longer video of the same event, in which Romney talks about other issues. (For one thing, he says Obama bases his diplomacy on trying to use his "charm" to sway leaders of other countries.)

Watch the whole video >>

Was he talking about you? Let's take a look.

Who are the 47%?

Simply put, they are:

"[T]he portion of American households that owe no income tax for 2009."

If you don't pay income tax, it's very likely because you are low income or unemployed.

(Which raises the question: Is Romney saying that low-income Americans and the unemployed are "entitled" people who not only see themselves as "victims" and sponge off the government, but also are in the tank for Obama? More on this later.)

By the way, some people other than the poor don't pay income tax, either. A lot of those people are young, perhaps partly because many young people are employed on a very part-time basis.

And military veterans don't pay income taxes on their combat pay.

And that's just income tax. It doesn't mean they pay no taxes. (Most people pay payroll tax, which goes to Medicare and Social Security, as well as sales tax and other taxes.)

And if you pay no income tax or payroll tax, that's usually because you're either elderly and living on Social Security, or because you're low-income.

Here's where "non-payers" of income tax live:

If that section at the bottom reminds you a little bit of those red state / blue state maps, you're not wrong.

Red state, blue state

So it looks like Romney might have been referring to a lot of people who tend to vote Republican, not Democratic. Whoops.

What's Romney saying about it?

He admitted his comments weren't "elegantly stated."

Responding to the part in the video where he says "my job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives," he said this:

"Of course, I want to help all Americans, all Americans, have a bright and prosperous future."

He also said this to a Fox News reporter, according to Politico:

"And the problem right now is you see in this country so many people have fallen into poverty that they're not paying taxes - they have to rely on government. And the right course to help them is not just to have government handing out but instead government helping people to get back to good jobs."

Let me guess. People are getting hysterical about this, right?




It's way beyond gaffe level. It's a full-blown firestorm.

Of course, it also became an instant joke, partly because Romney is very rich and has refused to make public how much he himself pays in taxes.

And some are saying that the Romney campaign's handling of the whole situation raises larger questions.

On the other hand, are some people supporting what Romney said? Absolutely.

Has Obama ever had a moment like this?

Well, when he said "you didn't build that" to small business owners a few weeks ago, that ticked off a lot of people too.

And some are saying the Romney video reminds them of when Obama was running for president in the first place and said some people who are frustrated with government "get bitter and they cling to guns or religion or antipathy towards people who aren't like them":

Still, President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are saying the Romney video shows that their rival is "out of touch" and "doesn't get it."

By the way, Obama said the same thing four years ago about his opponent then, John McCain:

What really matters here?

Here are some of the big questions:

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Is Mitt Romney Calling You a Freeloader?

Holly Epstein Ojalvo

Holly’s mission is to inform, inspire, and empower engaged activists who will change the world. She was previously an editor at The New York Times and a high school teacher. She spent her brief 20’s slump at a mousepad factory. Holly earned a B.A. at Lafayette College and M.A.'s at U Delaware and NYU. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, daughter, and cat, Tomie Twotone. Follow: @heoj.

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One Response

  1. dabenger says:

    Ms. Ojalvo,
    First of all, I would like to thank you for this website. I think it really fulfills a need in young people’s access to reliable news. I just want to note one important factor about this story that a lot of commercial news sources have overlooked (often intentionally, in my opinion). First of all, thank you for posting the video itself. I believe too few people have seen it. That video shows us that Romney is essentially planning campaign strategy, not domestic policy. Irrespective of whether or not he was right about the demographic he was discussing, he was talking about who the campaign should be targeting for swing votes. He is not claiming that he does not care about 47% of Americans. He is simply claiming that he has little hope of swaying the opinion of these people. Again, this may or may not be trued, but seeing his quote in this context, makes him much less of a monster. You mention it as one of the “big questions” at the end, but I think that it is quite clear that he is talking about campaign strategy.
    I think this website is wonderful. I love the format, and all of the elements. Is there any way to sign up for a daily email update or something like that?
    I hope all is well with you, Jason, and Zoe.
    Thank you very much for this website,
    Dave Benger