On Mitt Romney's 47% Comments

What Ezra said. Romney’s comments were so shocking – and disgusting – on their face, that it’s tempting to simply point to them or mirror the video and assume that the reader/viewer will know without thinking what’s wrong with them. Truthfully, most people probably will intuitively understand most or all of why Romney’s comments were so vile. But merely using implied assumptions to carry the day on a revelation of this magnitude is to do a disservice to the public record. In short, it’s not enough to simply point and roll our collective eyes at Romney’s despicable, divisive comments. It’s important, for the record (and even if it seems obvious), to point out exactly why Romney’s comments are so revealing about his character, his campaign, and his plans for the country.

In yesterday’s Washington Post, Ezra Klein does exactly that (so I don’t have to!). Go read it all, but here’s a taste of Ezra’s devastating takedown of Romney’s remarks and the broader implications of what they mean:

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.

So 83 percent of those not paying federal income taxes are either working and paying payroll taxes or they’re elderly and Romney is promising to protect their benefits because they’ve earned them. The remainder, by and large, aren’t paying federal income or payroll taxes because they’re unemployed.

Ouch. And spot on. It’s devastating because it simply lays out the facts of who pays what kind of (and how much) taxes in modern America. I especially like Klein’s point that, at 15.3%, even someone who pays only payroll taxes is paying a greater percentage of his or her income than Mitt Romney himself paid in the one year we have complete data for (2011, in which Romney paid 13.9%). Romney’s surreptitiously-recorded statements, made behind closed (and presumably gold-plated) doors to a private audience of top-dollar donors when he thought nobody was listening, are in truth nothing new on the right. Their tone strongly echoes Ronald Reagan’s welfare queens, riding around in the free Cadillacs the government bought them. Such noxious nonsense wasn’t any more true in Reagan’s day than it is today when Romney says similar words.

Klein’s service in this column is reminding us of exactly how and why it’s so false. That’s worth remembering, and especially worth repeating, loudly and often, when it rears its ugly head, as it has this week. So, gratitude to Ezra for remembering this stuff doesn’t do itself. Go read the whole thing; it’s more than worth your time.