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About Mitt Romney’s 47% Gaffe

Much has been written, and rightly so, in the past 24 hours about Mitt Romney’s video-taped comments to rich donors claiming that 47% of Americans rely on government for “their lives.”

Attempts by Mitt Romney supporters to clarify and defend his comments are almost as breathtaking as the comments themselves.

Before I explain, let me remind you of the most damning Romney quote from the video:  “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.”

Former New Hampshire Governor John Sununu (let’s hope Sununu continues to be a top surrogate!), blamed Obama for the comments claiming the President is “trying to make class warfare a divider.”  Wow, so Romney declares 47 percent of Americans are lazy bums who depend on government for everything, but this episode is Obama’s fault?  Who knew?

Rep. Allen West (R-FL), a proud member of what I call the House Earth is Flat Caucus, said Romney’s comments were “clumsy” but then lectured us about how the insulting remarks were really about our democracy being at risk because of government dependency.  Not a word about how Romney insulted half of America including millions of seniors, many of whom live in his own state of Florida.

I am still scratching my head after reading and watching Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) defense of Romney.  “The way to get those 47 percent of Americans who are not income tax payers to become tax payers is to get them jobs.”  Ryan also said Romney’s remark was “inarticulate” but said the “point still stands.”  What point is that?  Clearly, the running mate doesn’t even understand why Romney’s comments are insulting.

As fact-checkers have pointed out repeatedly, nearly 2/3 of households that didn’t pay income tax paid payroll tax.  And the vast majority paid all or most of the other taxes such as state, local, sales, gas and property taxes.  But in case Romney and Ryan care to know, about half of the people who didn’t pay income tax in 2011 earned less than $16,812 and most of the others fall on the lower rung of the earnings ladder, according to Lucy Madison for cbsnews.com.  Said Madison:  “In other words, the poor are least likely to pay federal income taxes…”  Interestingly, even 27,000 tax filers who earned $533,000 or more paid no income taxes.  Shhhh, don’t tell Romney but a few of those might be his voters.

And the rest?  Millions are seniors who have worked 40 or more years and are now trying to enjoy some form of retirement.  Rep. Ryan, they probably don’t want a job after decades of paying taxes and playing by the rules – they just want politicians like Romney to respect them and stop calling them freeloaders.

Lastly, as I’ve written before, every American and every business has some dependency on government.  Our transportation system didn’t appear overnight – it cost generations of Americans massive public investments that were necessary to make America the world’s most powerful economy.  Our education system didn’t just appear one day – it was built by Americans for Americans who wanted their kids to have a chance at the American Dream.  And our public health system didn’t just drop out of the sky – no, it was paid for by the hard work of Americans who embraced the system decades ago as a way to keep Americans safe and healthy.  And users of that system aren’t deadbeats who “want more government dependency,” as Rep. Ryan says.  No, they want to use the public health system they built and paid for.

Gov. Romney’s comments in Boca Raton, Fla., confirm what we already know about him — he thinks you’re either extremely rich or dependent on government.  The truth is that everyone depends on some program run by government; not even billionaires own their own bridges, airports or highways.  No, we all built them. Even the 47 percent pitched in.

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