47%: What Bothers Me Most About Romney’s Speech
A lot has been written about Romney’s 47% speech. To save you the time of having to click over to it, here’s an excerpt:
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 that 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, 48—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. And 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 that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives. [Mother Jones]
The first thing that bothers me about Romney’s remarks is that I believe that the citizens of the most powerful nation on this earth are entitled to healthcare, food, housing, and education—not as handouts but as by-products of a well-functioning and just society.
The second problem I have is with his phrase “…my job is not to worry about those people…” Even if I give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he’s referring to those voters that he will never be able to convince because they “will vote for this president no matter what,” I cringe at his next sentence, “I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” As David Brooks pointed out in his article Thurston Howell Romney, the people who Romney is referring to in his speech do take responsibility for their lives: ”..the Iraq war veteran who goes to the V.A…the student getting a loan to go to college…the retiree on Social Security or Medicare.”
The third thing that bothers me is his allusion that a big portion of President Obama supporters have a welfare mentality (or are actually receiving some kind of welfare), which of course, inadvertently or not, carries racial undertones (in no small part due to past Republican campaigns equating welfare to poor African-Americans). Once again David Brooks clarifies:
The people who receive the disproportionate share of government spending are not big-government lovers. They are Republicans. They are senior citizens. They are white men with high school degrees. As Bill Galston of the Brookings Institution has noted, the people who have benefited from the entitlements explosion are middle-class workers, more so than the dependent poor.
But, as disturbing as I find the Romney speech, the thing that bothers me most is not the speech itself but his response to the public outcry that it has rightly generated. Even though Romney has insulted half of the country and many of his own constituents, the closest apology Romney has given is that his remarks were “not eloquently stated.” Then he has doubled down in defense of his remarks by saying that he was speaking about government dependency. I still don’t understand why he had to insult half of America in the process, but I’m not surprised about Romney’s typical cluelessness.
Nor am I surprised by his next move: the unearthing of a 14-year old Obama audiotape where he spoke about wealth redistribution. The candidate whose policies overwhelmingly favor the rich while penalizing the middle class wants to open the door to the subject of redistribution. I can’t wait to see what PBO’s camp does with this.
So, this is the bottom line: Romney messed up, big time. A bigger candidate would man up, apologize, and move on. But not Romney, in his typical fashion, he makes a lame comment and then starts pointing the finger. How ironic that a man who believes so much in personal responsibility refuses to take on his own.