Who are the 47%?September 18, 2012
Gotta hand it to Mitt Romney for having the courage to express his views, no matter how unpopular they’re likely to be. And wow, did he ever do that! The Internet has been rocking since Mother Jones magazine released a video of Romney telling a room of wealthy supporters that he needed their help because, in his own words:
There are 47% of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47% 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.
Romney has chosen to stand by his comments. I respect that, but have to wonder where he’s getting his statistics. According to The Atlantic, about half of the 47% are senior citizens and children of the working poor. The other half make less than $20,000 per year, which means they’re so impoverished that they wouldn’t be required to pay income taxes even if the federal government offered no “entitlement programs” at all. In other words, the 47% (if you don’t count the 7,000 or so millionaires who managed to entirely avoid income taxes last year) are mostly made up of elderly people and poor working families.
A lot of commentators are rushing to point out that the impoverished 47% do pay sales taxes, excise taxes, and the like, as if they would deserve to be vilified if they didn’t. Personally, I’m more interested in why 47% of Americans are so poor, especially when about half of that group apparently are working hard to support themselves and their families. As they struggle below the poverty line, the wealthiest 1% of America’s population reportedly controls about 42% of the nation’s wealth. There’s something seriously wrong with this picture.
The story here isn’t that a rich man pandered to the prejudices of his peers when he thought the outside world wasn’t listening in. The real story, and one we should be fiercely discussing, is the fact that nearly half of our citizens are living in poverty, and almost one in four of us is essentially subsidizing American businesses with appallingly underpaid labor. The issue here isn’t income tax, it’s fundamental fairness and economic justice. Now, let’s see if either of our Presidential candidates is willing to talk about that.
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