Political Animal


September 18, 2012 4:13 PM Class Warfare On Taxes Not Real Smart For Romney

By Ed Kilgore

I understand that when Mitt Romney made his now-infamous comments about “the 47%” in Boca Raton months ago, he was not anticipating it all going public and becoming a major campaign issue. But since some (if not all) conservatives, including the Big Blowhard from just up the road in Palm Beach, are encouraging Mitt to “go with it,” it’s worth noting that there’s little or no evidence a class war on tax burdens would go real well for the GOP. Here’s Greg Sargent:

In July, Pew asked Americans what they think about the amount lower income people pay in taxes. Only 20 percent think they pay too little, versus 34 percent who say they pay a fair amount and 37 percent who say they pay too much — a total of 71 percent.
Pew also tells me that only 23 percent of independents, and 18 percent of moderates, say low income people pay too little in taxes, while big majorities of both say they pay a fair amount or too much.
Are these numbers are skewed by the large number of respondents who pay low federal income taxes or none at all? Guess what: Only 22 percent of self-described middle class people think lower income folks pay too little, versus 69 percent who say they pay their fair share or too much.
Meanwhile, the reverse is true about rich people. A majority, 58 percent, say the wealthy pay too little in taxes, while only 26 percent say they pay their fair share. Fifty six percent of independents, and 69 percent of moderates, say the rich pay too little.

Greg goes on to note something we all understood well before this latest incident: Mitt Romney is the one presidential candidate in recent history who needs to stay far, far away from issues about the morality of various folks’ tax burdens:

It’s hard to see how the sight of the extremely wealthy Romney dismissing nearly half of Americans as freeloaders — even as he pays lower tax rates than many middle class Americans while refusing to release his tax returns so we can learn how low those rates actually are — hurts that case. This revives the class warfare debate in the worst possible way for Romney.

I suspect Team Mitt will decide to deny he said what he said or didn’t mean what he said or they’ll just blame the media or change the subject. So it could turn out this will just be a fresh excuse for the Limbaughs of this world to label Mitt as “not a true conservative” and this election—like every election—as not a fair judgment on their ideology.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • punaise on September 18, 2012 4:19 PM:

    Mitt Math: 99 - 47 = 0

    Take the 47% from the 99% and that leaves zero chance for Romney to be a decent president.

  • BillFromPA on September 18, 2012 4:21 PM:

    It's fortunate that Mittens is doing such a good job of self destruction because our side is not making nearly as much as it can to club these clowns with their own heartfelt words. A 13% tax burden for the one, incomlete, year we have, a refusal to release more, and he's mocking the poor for being 'under taxed'? And we don't have a junkyard dog tearing him a new one over it?


  • c u n d gulag on September 18, 2012 4:29 PM:

    Before lecturing the rest of us, Mitt needs to prove to the people that he's not one of the 47%ers who don't pay taxes.

    Every, and I mean EVERY, Democrat needs to say, "Mr. Romney, before you talk about the 47%ers, prove you ain't one of 'em! SHOW US YOUR TAX RETURNS!!!"

  • emjayay on September 18, 2012 4:31 PM:

    And those survey numbers would differ a lot if the question was phrased as just "low income people" or "low income people including those living on Social Security, physically or mentally handicapped people, adult college students, and minimum wage earning parents."

  • T2 on September 18, 2012 4:39 PM:

    Romney has caught much criticism for not being specific with any of this plans. The 47% speech was as specific as it can get, at the end of the day, all Romney was doing was reading right off the Ryan Plan for gutting any program that benefits anyone and giving the money to the Pentagon and Super Rich.

  • kevo on September 18, 2012 4:53 PM:

    Tis me, Mitt, as President to thee (for those who make more than $250,000),but not for our nation's poor, working and middle class citizens!

    We need a decent political funeral for the Republican brand this November. For me, I will wear black to the polls and vote for the death of the Republican party!

    Oh, and nicely stated c u n d gulag!-Kevo

  • lou on September 18, 2012 4:53 PM:

    The history on the Gilded Age is a pretty fair judgement on their ideology.

  • muffler on September 18, 2012 5:05 PM:

    I view this speech in the pale light of almost teetering on being prejudiced about anyone who isn't like the people in the room. It's as though being a "real American" is about being a millionaire or white. Oh and then having the absolute rationalization that they are entitled to somehow not pay taxes by using loopholes and offshoring because those "other people" might benefit from the money is one heck of a way to look at our Republic. It is absolutely these people who have divided the country and used their influence to pull up the ladder, withdraw our generational investment to the future and walk away from America. Capitalism without patriotism is what they want and now it's very clear they now resent those that they left behind.

  • Doug on September 18, 2012 5:16 PM:

    Romney complaining about people not paying Federal income tax? The only response is "Pot, meet kettle"!

    BillfromPa, I sort of dount there won't be a few political ads from the Democrats pointing out the obvious:
    - Paying taxes makes you a more worthwhile citizen? Then why does Romney want to pay so little in taxes?
    - Most people who don't pay taxes do so because they don't earn enough. That's certainly NOT Mitt Romney's reason!
    Perhaps we should have a contest?

  • jjm on September 18, 2012 5:22 PM:

    @muffler: it's not just 'almost teetering' on being prejudiced about those people unlike the ones in the room. It's outright. And Mitt gets enraged at the thought that 'those people' or as his wife said, "you people" might make any claim to his interest or time.

    Whenever this big rat opens his mouth he makes perfectly clear that he scorns anyone not white or millionaire.

  • DFH on September 18, 2012 5:24 PM:

    Isn't this a great illustration of Romney's admonition to have discussions of income inequality in "quiet rooms"?

  • T2 on September 18, 2012 5:30 PM:

    looks like the 47%ers are taking a stand....new NBC poll has bad news for Romney.

  • JR on September 18, 2012 5:43 PM:

    I'm more than happy to sit down with Mitt and compare tax returns. My tax Federal income tax rate, about 28%, is twice Mitt's. My legal secretarial job pays a perfectly decent living. I neither own my home nor have kids, so my only deduction is the standard one. Now, I do load up my 401(k), which is probably the reason I get a little refund, most of which goes to pay my state taxes. Who's he saying pays no taxes?

  • Grumpy on September 18, 2012 8:37 PM:

    "This revives the class warfare debate in the worst possible way for Romney."

  • del on September 18, 2012 9:18 PM:

    By the way Mitt, where are those tax returns so we can see what taxes you've paid. I'm surprised that this request has died down with only days left before the election. It appears that he will be successful again in not showing his returns like he did when he ran for Governor of MA. What have you paid in taxes as you attack those who you say do not pay their fair share of taxes.

  • neil b on September 18, 2012 9:30 PM:

    It is ironic that anyone who actually does *earn* their income would be a fool to vote for Romney/Ryan, since Romney presumably supports Ryan's tax plan that removes taxes for those making money from capital gains (no excuse since trading does no good, only the original start-up capital deserves a break) and dividends. The latter is possible excusable, but still: people getting money from those activities would join that "47% who don't pay Federal income taxes" - yet I am *sure* they are not at all a lost cause for Mr. Romney, they are after all his backers right there at that secretive meeting we heard about.

  • beejeez on September 18, 2012 11:25 PM:

    Thank God the son of a tycoon governor and former CEO of GM is here to decry those "entitled" types.