As the dust settles – as it always does – regarding Mitt Romney’s now-publicly-aired comments which allege that 47% of Americans don’t pay taxes, there are a few inspiring realities that Romney and his supporters can hold on to. First and foremost, the 47% of Americans he refers to – many of whom may be offended by his comments – leaves 53% of Americans who weren’t targeted and offended by his comments. Other than this obvious calculation, finding the inspiring realities in the latest Romney headlines becomes a bit more challenging, to say the least.
The poor guy thought he was talking amongst his teammates in the locker room last May 17 at a high-priced fundraiser only to find out that there was somebody on the other team hiding behind the lockers. Had he known a member of the other team was lurking back there, he would have aptly chosen his words more carefully and had presented more carefully-chosen data than the data of which he swiftly generalized.
What is most harmful to Mitt Romney with the release of this video is that his comments once again make his opponent President Barack Obama an opportunist. Once again, Obama has the opportunity to say that his is for all Americans – even the ones he attacks as not paying their fair share, commonly referred to as the wealthy – and to claim that Romney is not for all Americans – specifically those feeding off the government.
Of course, with the video, Obama has truly been blessed. Even though it’s easy to persuade people who feed off the government to vote against the guy who wants to cut taxes, like a gift out of the heavens, Romney just made that easy task even easier for Obama to do.
At face value, there is nothing newly offensive that the Obama-supporting segment of society didn’t dislike Obama for already. Therefore, it could be seen as minimal “additional” harm done.
But Romney’s “careless” remarks – for the lack of a better term – regarding the percentage of people not paying taxes has now been analyzed, reanalyzed, and skewed to be grossly inaccurate by some.
But again, despite alleged inaccuracies, Romney’s assertion that those not paying taxes in this country are for Obama is true. Regardless of the exact percentage of people who have the government supporting them, that segment of society won’t want to take a chance of altering that “good deal” by putting someone else in charge. So Romney is right in saying that those potential voters aren’t going to vote for him no matter what other conditions there are in this election. He’s even smart in suggesting that he’s not going to worry about bringing them over to his side because it would be a waste of his time and effort.
Additionally, the entire incident – which Romney calls an issue he did not address “elegantly” – has spotlighted the needed topic of who doesn’t pay taxes – or some taxes – and why. It’s an education many Americans need in order to stop the blatant generalizations about a segment of society that should not be lumped in with alleged governmentally-abusive “free lunchers” that are lunching all-too-comfortably among us.
According to the Wall Street Journal, 49% of Americans are receiving some sort of government check on a regular basis. If this seems like a lot of people, it’s because – let’s face it – it is. The more “elegant” point Romney could have detailed is that this is an increase of 4.6% since Obama has taken office – due primarily to the current economy.
Also, Romney was right in saying that about half of the U.S. population doesn’t pay any taxes. He probably would have spoken better in saying that one reason the country finds itself in this situation of giving out so many government checks and only taking in taxes from about half the population is because of the many tax breaks that have been created – primarily by Democrats. As the leader of the Republican Party right now, that would have been an accurate and harder-hitting comment.
Romney was wrong by lumping people who have worked for their government checks with the “free lunchers” who may have never worked a day in their lives. By putting these government check-recipients together in one category, he makes it difficult for people to defend him as much as they might agree that the “free lunchers” of the government check-recipients may be getting too much too easily – especially in a time when the government is having a financial crisis.
It is apparent that there are some people who are not paying taxes who have an appropriate reason not to do so. Romney, even speaking off-the-cuff and thinking he was speaking confidentially to his strong supporters, should have been more careful and more detailed in his comments as to not lump his alleged-47% together.
However, the data now being thrust in print by the media tends to guiltily go too far in the other direction of overstatement as well. As one who has read article-upon-article on this topic since the Romney-secretly-taped video broke via Mother Jones’ web site on Monday, there are some things being claimed that we know simply are not true. Those sites and sources who claim that only 6% of all Americans or less are paying absolutely no taxes, leaving 94% paying some sort of taxes, doesn’t completely add up. The publications can “data us to death”, but – truth be told – if we’re only talking about 6% of the population paying no taxes, there really would be no issue here.
Deep down, even in the most liberal of hearts, it’s tough not to admit that there are more than 6% of Americans getting a “free lunch” right now. Anyone who has stood behind someone using food stamps at a grocery store has likely seen the kind of “free lunches” these people are buying on the tax payers’ dollars. There’s a problem with the system, and it’s difficult to talk about it “elegantly”.
As far as Romney and his recovery from this unsuspectingly-being-recorded incident from last May surfacing on Monday, he will logically survive. He is standing his ground that he believes many government-supported people consider themselves to be victims. If you’ve ever heard people capable of doing for themselves – but won’t – whine about America and the system having done them wrong, you know the alleged “victims” of whom Romney speaks. Unfortunately, such a group of Americans really does exist. If you don’t know of these people who believe they are victims, come out from that rock you’re living under – there’s fresh air, sun, and a smack of reality out here.
If Obama could survive his unscripted moment in San Francisco in 2008 when he spoke about people who “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them” as well as his recent “you didn’t build that” controversy, Romney will be able to survive his “47%” comment, too.
After all, as Alexander Pope said: “To err is human”. And even though Romney has a hard time saying he erred, I believe he erred in his statement. But, of course, in politics such events are all about the timing of the event. Erring much closer to the election could have been politically deadly, but we’ve still got seven weeks to go.
About Scott Paulson
Scott Paulson writes political commentary for Examiner.com and teaches English at a community college in the Chicago area. The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of CBS Local.