by Benjamin Studebaker
Recently, Mother Jones leaked a video of Mitt Romney talking to some potential donors, in which he says the following:
The video (ironically discovered by a grandson of Jimmy Carter) shows Romney claiming that 47% of Americans pay no income tax, that this 47% is dependent and has a mentality of dependency, and that he has no hope of gaining their votes. Since this amounts to almost half the electorate, he argues, it will take quite a bit of money from these donors to help him win the election. But who are the 47%? Are they really dependent welfare scroungers? That is today’s topic.
Now, it is true that 47% of Americans do not pay income taxes. The wonderful folks at the Tax Policy Centre can confirm that:
However, what Romney doesn’t mention is that most of that 47% is in employment and pays payroll taxes, the chunk of money that is withheld from workers’ wage checks to go into American programmes like Social Security and Medicare. People who are in employment, working jobs that do not pay enough to qualify for federal income tax but who do pay payroll taxes are certainly not dependent welfare scroungers. If we take them into consideration, the Tax Policy Centre shows we get this:
This leaves us with 18.1% paying no federal taxes whatsoever. Now, it would be enough to show that more than half of the people Romney accused of being dependent on government are the working poor, but we can go even further, because thanks to the Tax Policy Centre, we know that more than half of that remaining 18% are the elderly and retired:
Some of that remaining 8% is jobless college students. However, it gets even worse for Romney, because not only do most people who don’t pay income tax pay payroll tax, not only are most of the people who pay neither elderly or retired, but the people who pay no income tax are not, for the most part, Obama supporters. How do we know this? The Tax Foundation knows where they live:
Overwhelmingly, the red states in the deep south are where the highest percentage of non-income tax paying people live. Of the 10 states with the highest incidence of non-payment, only one, New Mexico, went blue in the 2008 election. Of the 10 states with the lowest incidence, 7 were blue (Wyoming, Alaska, and North Dakota were exceptions, but they are also the three least populated states in the country).
The moral of the story? Romney is not merely lacking in empathy, he either is completely ignorant of the federal tax structure or he is a deeply manipulative human being for whom facts hold little or no meaning whatsoever. In either case, we are all best off steering clear.