If You’re Not Part of the Solution . . .

Great line from today’s Maureen Dowd:

Team Romney has every reason to be shellshocked. Its candidate, after all, resoundingly won the election of the country he was wooing.

Mitt Romney is the president of white male America.

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Until now, Republicans and Fox News have excelled at conjuring alternate realities. But this time, they made the mistake of believing their fake world actually existed. As Fox’s Megyn Kelly said to Karl Rove on election night, when he argued against calling Ohio for Obama: “Is this just math that you do as a Republican to make yourself feel better?”

The 47%-ers

In a video taken a few months ago at a private fundraiser Mitt Romney stated that “[t]here are 47 percent [of the American people] who are with [President Obama], 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.” This 47% number has been circulating since the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center “estimated last year that 46.4 percent of American households would pay no federal income taxes in 2011.”

Is Romney’s premise correct, that these non-income-tax-paying Americans are government-dependent leeches with no affinity for Republican candidates? The Boston Globe reports that the study

did not support Romney’s suggestion that almost half the country is made up of people who do not take responsibility for their own lives and instead rely on government handouts.

Half of the households that pay no federal income taxes earn so little—typically less than $30,000—that standard deductions and personal and dependent exemptions shrink their taxable income to zero.

On a 2012 IRS filing, for instance, a family of four with a household income of $27,100 would have reported no taxable income because of an $11,900 standard deduction for married couples and personal and dependent tax exemptions of $3,800 each.

Among the other half of those whose income is not taxed by the federal government, 44 percent are exempt primarily because they receive tax deductions for the elderly or Social Security benefits that are not taxable because of low incomes, or both. Another 30.4 percent are working households that earn so little that benefits such as the child tax credit and earned income tax credit reduce their tax liabilities to zero.

Other people who could not be called irresponsible—including members of the military deployed in combat zones—do not pay federal income taxes. About 6 percent of nonpaying households are exempt mainly because of education credits, and 1.3 percent pay nothing because of low rates on capital gains and dividends, which, combined with tax credits, erase their federal income tax obligations.

Many in the latter group are wealthy people who derive much of their incomes from investments. The Tax Policy Center estimated that 4,000 households that earned more than $1 million last year paid no federal income taxes.

If you believe that the liberal Boston Globe has cherry-picked the Tax Policy Center report to make Romney look bad, consider the blog post from conservative William Kristol of The Weekly  Standard. Titled “A Note on Romney’s Arrogant and Stupid Remarks” Kristol’s post first criticizes Obama for remarks he made in 2008 about people “in small towns in Pennsylvania” and throughout the Midwest: “[I]t’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

After repeating Romney’s fundraiser remarks Kristol says:

It’s worth recalling that a good chunk of the 47 percent who don’t pay income taxes are Romney supporters—especially of course seniors (who might well “believe they are entitled to heath care,” a position Romney agrees with), as well as many lower-income Americans (including men and women serving in the military) who think conservative policies are better for the country even if they’re not getting a tax cut under the Romney plan. So Romney seems to have contempt not just for the Democrats who oppose him, but for tens of millions who intend to vote for him.

Kristol still urges his readers to vote for Romney (although he’d prefer a “Ryan and Rubio ticket”), but he notes “that shouldn’t blind us to the fact that Romney’s comments, like those of Obama four years ago, are stupid and arrogant.”

Profiles in Cowardice*

When an opportunity arises to show moral courage Mitt Romney covers his eyes, ears, and mouth until it passes. After Rush Limbaugh called Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke a “slut” and “prostitute” and “round-heeled” after she testified before Congress on contraception Romney didn’t condemn Limbaugh; Romney said “I’ll just say this, which is, it’s not the language I would have used.” (A friend asked what language would he have used? Trollop? Harlot? Wench?”) The Washington Post reported this week that Romney led a group of prep-school classmates in tackling, pinning down, and cutting off the bleached hair  of another male classmate–the hair offended Romney (“He can’t look like that. That’s wrong. Just look at him!”). Interviewed about the story and incident on Fox Radio

Romney laughed as he said that he didn’t remember the incident, although he acknowledged that “back in high school, you know, I, I did some dumb things. And if anybody was hurt by that or offended, obviously I apologize . . . I participated in a lot of hijinks and pranks during high school, and some might have gone too far. And, for that, I apologize.”

I agree with Gail Collins that “stuff politicians did when they were in high school shouldn’t count. And while this appears to be a particularly mean, and possibly homophobic, incident, it is really a good idea to stick to that rule.” What fails is Romney’s response. Bullying is a significant issue for middle- and high-school students. Homophobic bullying has been linked to high-profile suicides. The Washington Post story served Romney a juicy teachable moment he could have knocked out of the park.  He didn’t even swing at the pitch. “If I hurt you, I apologize” is not an apology. Lawyers use this sleight of hand to make an argument without admitting to the facts underlying it. It’s called “assuming arguendo“–assuming for the sake of argument. It signals no contrition, no acknowledgment of error. It’s chicken, craven, and cowardly.

See also Charles Blow’s “Mean Boys,” Gail Collins’ “The Anatomy of a Jokester,” and the WaPo article.

*For younger readers who don’t recognize the association: www.aclibrary.org/hottopics/pdf/profiles_in_courage.pdf