One of the things that hasn't been often mentioned in the wake of the release of the Mitt Romney secret tape is that someone decided to tape record him talking to a group of his own supporters, and he or she did so surreptitiously. I don't condone this type of secret recording and it reinforces the notion that politics is not a noble pursuit but actually a very dirty business. President Obama has been similarly recorded when he was not aware, and that type of thing shouldn't happen.
That being said, the remarks uttered by Mitt Romney at the $50,000 a plate fund raising dinner in Boca Raton are really quite telling. Romney's remarks were unusually candid, and contained little compassion or empathy or even a real understanding of how 47% of America lives.
Ironically, Romney's central point is that so many Americans see themself as a "victim." But hypocritically, Romney then spends the better part of an hour whining about a wide variety of topics, and in no uncertain terms, portrayed himself in the victim's role. He grouses about the difficulties of winning an election when President Obama has a guaranteed starting point of 47% of the electorate. He then laments that his father was born in Mexico and came to the United States as a "refugee," but he would have a better chance of being elected President if he was born a Latino.
Really, Mitt? Mitt Romney is a white, 65 year-old multi-millionaire. Indeed, he has enjoyed a life of privilege and wealth since the first minute he was born. He grew up in one of the most affluent suburbs in Michigan. His father was the CEO of a American car company, and later, Governor of Michigan. He attended private schools and boarding schools. When many of the men his age were drafted and sent to combat in Vietnam, Mitt enjoyed a draft deferment and spent two years in Paris on a Mormon missionary. He went to the finest universities, and his father loaned him the money for their first home...all of the $42,000 it cost. After graduating from Harvard Law School and Harvard Business School, Romney found himself at a private equity firm, where he amassed considerable wealth and is now worth over a quarter of a billion dollars. And now, he bemoans that he would have a better opportunity at being elected if he was a Latino? What happened to that "personal responsibility" mantra you were complaining about? Romney might also want to check in with some Latinos to see if they agree that he would have a better chance of being elected President if he was of similar descent.
Romney's remarks do not just portray a realistic opinion of his chances of being elected. They show a real and bitter disdain for those he considers in the underperforming 47%. Here's exactly what he said:
"There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. But that's an entitlement, and the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what."
With one sweeping, belittling, condescending and whining brush, Romney painted almost half the country as lazy takers who don't have personal responsibility or care for their lives. It's a completely inaccurate view of America, but one that appears to be popular in country clubs, or private jets, or yachts, or mansions in the Hamptons or in Boca. Romney, who pays a lower tax rate on his $21 million in annual income than most middle class Americans, is complaining about those who don't pull their weight. And apparently, he believes that President Obama doesn't have support of any hard-working, productive, responsible, tax-paying citizens.
Am I the only Obama supporter who works and pays federal income tax? We pay plenty of income taxes, and at a higher rate than Romney.
The right wing extremists who now control the Republican Party have long claimed that President Obama has played the politics of class warfare. They say he has compartmentalized and divided the electorate. But behind closed doors, we get a peek at how class warfare and compartmentalization really plays out. And class warfare Romney-style is full of anger, it's cynical to the core, and it doesn't reflect an accurate view of the 47%.
Many of those 47% (actually 46%) are senior citizens, whose Social Security income is not subject to federal taxation. That's more than 1/5 (22%) of the group he's referring to, and many of those seniors are Romney's biggest supporters. A large number of the 47% are those who are working very hard, but they don't make enough money to have a federal income tax liability after deductions for mortgage interest, charitable contributions, state and local taxes, medical expenses, and the child tax credit. These are gainfully employed people who pay the 7.65% payroll tax. They aren't takers or moochers, Mitt. They are middle classers trying to do the best they can for their family.
Some of the 47% are working poor, trying to get by on the minimum wage. Some are disabled and can't work. Some are the veterans who served in Iraq, or the soldiers Mitt forgot to thank in his convention speech who are serving in harm's way in Afghanistan. Some are people who have worked their whole lives, but were brought down in this Great Recession and are unemployed, but they are not happy about it, they are not lazy, and they don't want to be dependent on anyone but themselves. And they are not all voting for President Obama, by any means.
Incredibly, Romney's remarks could be applied to his own father at an early point in his life. Earlier generations of the Romney family fled the United States of America in the late 1800's for Mormon colonies in Mexico to avoid newly passed laws which made polygamy illegal. Romney's ancestors preferred plural marriage to living in the U.S. His grandparents practiced monogamy, however, but returned to the United States in 1912 after fleeing the Mexican revolution. The United States Congress passed a measure giving 2,300 Mormons who fled Mexico with little more than the shirts on their backs $100,000 ($2.2 million in today's dollars) in government relief. Romney's father, born in 1907, was one of those refugees. Yes, young George Romney was one of the 47% that his son lamented about at the dinner with rich donors.
Thankfully, many Americans will reject this divisive and warped view of America promulgated by Mitt Romney. I believe that most Americans will reject Romney's thesis. I believe that most Americans are more tolerant and inclusive, and are more compassionate and kind. I believe that most Americans prefer President Clinton's mantra that he articulated in his convention speech in Charlotte, when he said that we are all in it together.
When those planes hit the World Trade Center, and hundreds of heroes emerged saving lives and helping others, no one asked each other what half of America they were in. When the brave passengers stormed the cockpit on United flight 93, no one checked to see who was a member of the 47%. We are all Americans, and we should not let any politician angling for his own political gain split us in two with such arrogance and disdain.
We need leaders who will bring us together to solve our problems and overcome our differences. We need an optimist, not a cynic. We need a uniter, not someone like Romney who seeks to tear us apart with anger and resentment.
It would be poetic justice for President Obama to defeat Mitt Romney with Romney getting 47% of the vote on November 6. I think the election will be considerably closer, however.