Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Romney Fundraiser Speech

This week's news is the video of a high donor fundraiser speech (hosted by Marc Leder, who apparently likes throwing some fun parties) that Mitt Romney gave on May 17. It's really a Q&A and it mostly ends 13 mins into the second part. The rest seems to be him working the room and the background noise is too high to make anything out. Here's the full video from Mother Jones (in two parts).

"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. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what….These are people who pay no income tax.... [M]y job is is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."

This article from the not liberal Wall Street Journal gives the best description of The Data Behind Romney’s 47% Comments. Most of the Republican complaints about this I think come from the Tax Policy Center report discussed here, Why Do People Pay No Federal Income Tax?

One thing I find in looking at tax numbers is that it's easy to mix up taxed individuals and taxed households. As Reihan Salam explains, the report uses tax units, which refers "to individuals or to married couples who’ve decided to file a joint tax return, along with their dependents. A multigenerational household might include several tax units, for example."

Here are the two charts that really break it down:

This first one shows why people don't pay income taxes, broken down by income. The top line shows everyone and the red is about the progressive income tax. Notice the bottom (poorest) line is red, these are people who don't make enough to pay taxes. For a family of four that's under $26,000 a year when you include standard deductions. The green is about people who don't pay because of other tax exemptions or credits. Those are broken down in the next graph.

Screen shot 2012 09 18 at 7 38 41 PM copy

Again it's broken down by income and the top line summarizes everyone. Notice that about 75% of those that don't pay income taxes because of these exclusions, do so because they're elderly or are getting money to support the children of working poor. Notice too the purple blocks, including that rightmost 20% of the second income bar, that's people making over $100,000 paying no income taxes because of reduced rates on capital gains and dividends.

Screen shot 2012 09 18 at 7 38 55 PM copy

And don't forget that the group of people on social security and medicare are by definition seniors, a lot of whom are Republican (they get old too!).

Want a different way to look at it? Here's a breakdown by age by The Hamilton Project.

Taxpayers by age copy

As Matthew O'Brien says "This isn't a story about makers and takers. It's a story about undergraduates and pensioners."

Wonkblog of course had a field day with this. Brad Plumer explains Who doesn’t pay taxes, in eight charts and Who receives government benefits, in six charts. Dylan Matthews points out, Mitt Romney’s tax plan won’t mean more people pay income taxes. "Whatever you think about Romney’s fundraiser remarks, he doesn’t have a plan that corrects the “problem” he’s bemoaning." Suzy Khimm explains How paying no federal income taxes helps the poor get off welfare and into work.

Ezra Klein describes Romney’s theory of the “taker class,” and why it matters

"For what it’s worth, this division of “makers” and “takers” isn’t true. Among the Americans who paid no federal income taxes in 2011, 61 percent paid payroll taxes — which means they have jobs and, when you account for both sides of the payroll tax, they paid 15.3 percent of their income in taxes, which is higher than the 13.9 percent that Romney paid. Another 22 percent were elderly."

"Part of the reason so many Americans don’t pay federal income taxes is that Republicans have passed a series of very large tax cuts that wiped out the income-tax liability for many Americans. That’s why, when you look at graphs of the percent of Americans who don’t pay income taxes, you see huge jumps after Ronald Reagan’s 1986 tax reform and George W. Bush’s 2001 and 2003 tax cuts...Some of those tax cuts for the poor were there to make the tax cuts for the rich more politically palatable...But now that those tax cuts have passed and many fewer Americans are paying federal income taxes and the rich are paying a much higher percentage of federal income taxes, Republicans are arguing that these Americans they have helped free from income taxes have become a dependent and destabilizing “taker” class who want to hike taxes on the rich in order to purchase more social services for themselves. The antidote, as you can see in both Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney’s policy platforms, is to further cut taxes on “job creators” while cutting the social services that these takers depend on."

But also, don't lose sight of the fact that Romney is conflating two groups of people. The 46% who pay no federal income taxes and the similar percentage that support Obama. Here's a map listing states by percentage of their population that pay no federal income tax. I bet you recognize that a lot of these are Republican strongholds. Mitt Romney will probably get 95 electoral votes from ‘moocher’ states. Obama will probably get 5.20100524 229 nonpayers map copy

James Kwak points out there's more to the video, The Gift that Keeps on Giving. "Describing his family background, he quipped about his father, “Had he been born of Mexican parents, I’d have a better shot of winning this.” Contending that he is a self-made millionaire who earned his own fortune, Romney insisted, “I have inherited nothing.” He remarked, “There is a perception, ‘Oh, we were born with a silver spoon, he never had to earn anything and so forth.’ Frankly, I was born with a silver spoon, which is the greatest gift you can have: which is to get born in America.”"

Mark Thoma connects that to one of my favorite Ann Romney lines, discussing her student days: "They were not easy years…Neither one of us had a job, because Mitt had enough of an investment from stock that we could sell off a little at a time. The stock came from Mitt’s father." As Thoma says: "That sounds pretty tough, doesn't it? One of them almost had to get a job! Thank god (or dad) for that stock."

It's nice to see Republicans being unhappy with these remarks. I won't bother quoting him, but David Brooks dubs the GOP nominee Thurston Howell Romney. Even Bill Kristol didn't like Romney's remarks. In his Note on Romney’s Arrogant and Stupid Remarks he compares them to Barack Obama "they cling to guns or religion" quote. Though Salon gives you the full quote to compare it to while disparaging John Sununu's support of Romney, Romeny's shameful surrogates.

Then again, Romney doesn't need surrogates to screw up his defense, he's doing that all by himself. Mitt Romney To Obama: No, You Have A Hidden Video Problem.

Kevin Drum examines What the Secret Romney Video Tells Us About His People Skills. "Outside the business world, his people skills are apparently so poor that even when he's faced with truly harebrained ideas, his only defense is to simply agree. He seems to have no idea how to handle strong-minded people whose support he needs." I'd have to watch the video again to see if I agree with this.

If you're curious how these Republican fundraisers go, BloombergBusinessweek recently reported, Inside Karl Rove's Billionaire Fundraiser Also in July, Matt Bai wrote How Much Has Citizens United Changed the Political Game?

And of course, The Onion had fun, Romney Apologizes To Nation's 150 Million 'Starving, Filthy Beggars'.

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