Why am I not tired of talking about stupid politics yet? The recently leaked Romney fundraiser video is a great example. It's being spun in some places to be a stark escalation in the polarizing, classist rhetoric from most of the things he says. Fuel for the fire of the barbarian liberal hordes.
Actually, I agree with Romney's own clarification that, yes, the language was blunt, but he was merely selling big campaign doners as strategic a package as he could; why not write off the minimum 47 percent of voters who are statistically just not going to vote for him? Emphasizing the closeness in size of the opposing groups to your own is a predictable strategy to get those you're soliciting to help out. And the people he's selling to are no doubt already his voters at the ballot, but $50,000 buys a lot of bumper stickers. Nothing he claimed was anything he hasn't claimed before, he stood by it when questioned, and it was likely exactly what the donors wanted to hear. To recap, Romney claimed 47 percent of Americans are "victims," "dependent upon government, who believe that the government has a responsibility to take care of them," and "pay no income taxes," thus being immune to any message about lower taxes.
To suppress any explosive moral outrage and simply clarify—you know, contribute a little bit of damage control to objective reality, you know, that thing that gets smashed to pieces every day—more than 47 percent of those people do pay taxes in meaningful ways. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, "these figures cover only the federal income tax and ignore the substantial amounts of other federal taxes—especially the payroll tax—that many of these households pay. As a result, these figures greatly overstate the share of households that do not pay federal taxes. Tax Policy Center data show that only about 17 percent of households did not pay any federal income tax or payroll tax in 2009, despite the high unemployment and temporary tax cuts that marked that year. In 2007, a more typical year, the figure was 14 percent. This percentage would be even lower if it reflected other federal taxes that households pay, including excise taxes on gasoline and other items."
Moreover, a majority of people who don't pay income or payroll taxes are "low-income people who are elderly, unable to work due to a serious disability, or students, most of whom subsequently become taxpayers."
Information from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy also shows that the "poorest fifth of households paid a stunning 12.3 percent of their incomes in state and local taxes in 2011." With federal, state and local taxes, it's more like 16 percent of their income. The second poorest fifth pays more like 20 percent.
To really do anything about increasing income taxes on the lowest-income Americans, policymakers under Romney would have to do things such as lower the personal exemption, or standard deduction—"which would tax many low-income working families into, or deeper into, poverty; weaken the EITC or Child Tax Credit, which would significantly increase child poverty while reducing incentives for work over welfare; or par back the tax exclusion for Social Security benefits, which would subject more seniors with modest fixed incomes to the income tax."
Basically, every single mentally and/or physically able citizen pays or will pay significant taxes in their life, and is therefore entitled their share. But regardless of how absurd these arguments are, lately it's been too easy to make self-indulgent claims about the differences between conservatives and liberals, Obama and Romney. Yes, in the vein of always asking the most questions when you find yourself with a lot of like-minded folks, good questions lead to the nature of the conflict itself. More on the highly disillusioning similarities between the presidential candidates next week.
— Wiley Robinson is a senior in ecology and evolutionary biology. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.