“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…
“And I mean the president starts off with 48, 49 … he starts off with a huge number. These are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect. So he’ll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich. I mean that’s what they sell every four years. And so my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives. What I have to convince the five to ten percent in the center that are independents that are thoughtful, that look at voting one way or the other depending upon in some cases emotion, whether they like the guy or not.”
As a factual matter, this reflects gloomily poor staff work and preparation by Team Romney - roughly 3/4 of non-Federal filers are either retired or the working poor (benefiting from the Earned Income Tax Credit and personal and child breaks). Telling an elderly retiree who spent forty years paying Federal, Social Security and Medicare taxes that they are now a dependent who never took personal responsiblity for their lives is probably not a winning message. Since Romney is positioning himself as a smart guy, he ought to focus on saying smart things.
That said, I am hoping the AllahPundit is right with the notion that if the shoe doesn't fit, people won't wear it:
...my hunch is that Ben Domenech’s right in believing that no one really thinks they’re part of the 47 percent. Everyone thinks they’re a “maker,” not a “taker,” due to whatever little tax they pay, so when Mitt lays into freeloaders, even people who pay no income tax think he’s talking about someone else.
MORE: The WSJ has two pieces on the mysterious 47%; both buttress the point that Mitt cast his net too widely and collected far too many natural Republican voters in his Disorganized Dependent Democrats club.
Let me add this - I am not a tax expert, although I would welcome a chance to play one on television. However, the good folks at H&R Block are experts, and their website includes a quick tax calculator.
I just poked some numbers in quickly - assume a 40 year old man, 40 year old wife, two kids at home. I have them renting (no mortgage deduction) and deducting nothing for state and local taxes, or for charitable contributions (very Bidenesque!).
The fellow earns $45k per year, the wife is at home with no reportable income, and the net Federal tax liability is a bit less than zero -in fact, they are due $279 due (I presume) to the child credits and the EITC. (If his income rises to $50,000 his tax bill rises to $690, a marginal rate of nearly 20%, or $970 on $5,000.)
So, if such a family exists, they have just been denigrated by Romney as dependent and disorganized. Is that really our genius message du jour? Is that the message of a smart guy saying smart things? Is that helping to connect with likely Republican voters?
Well, since such a family is clearly not in the DDD club, we can hope that since the shoe doesn't fit, this guy and his wife won't wear it, and will just assume Romney had some other free-loaders in mind.
As a caveat, even if I have managed to screw up the seemingly simple H&R Block calculation with income of $45,000, it is pretty clear that at some lower but still credible number the tax liability would be zero.