Mitt Romney's 47 Problems

If you read the papers over the weekend, you learned that Mitt Romney’s campaign hoped to start focusing its rhetoric this week to give voters a sharper view of exactly what his policy positions are. But a video leaked to Mother Jones has team Romney scrambling to clean up his latest gaffe. In the video, which was filmed this year at a Boca Raton, Fla., fundraiser for wealthy donors, Romney tells supporters that he and his team have written off about 47 percent of the population:

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 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…These are people who pay no income tax.

Romney continued: “[M]y job is is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

The problem, of course, is that the 47 percent figure is both inaccurate and far too simplistic a summary of federal tax policy. The Tax Policy Center found last summer that 46 percent of Americans don’t pay federal income tax. The reason? “They’re simply too poor,” according to an analysis of the numbers from the New York Times, which notes that “[t]he pool consists mostly of the poor, of relatively low-income working families and of old people. The tax code is specifically designed to reduce the burden on them.” But no family in America is completely exempt from taxes. Even if they’re not paying into federal coffers, they’re likely paying payroll taxes, state and local taxes, and sales taxes.

Romney and Co. held a hastily arranged press conference at 10 p.m. last night to respond to the video, in which Romney said that the his words were “not elegantly stated” and more of an “off the cuff response to a question.” But there are more snippets from the tapes that just add to the general sense that Romney suffers from foot-in-mouth disease, like this gem from the same fundraiser:

“My dad, as you probably know, was the governor of Michigan and was the head of a car company,” Mr. Romney says. “But he was born in Mexico, and, uh, had he been born of, uh, Mexican parents, I’d have a better shot at winning this.”

If you know Romney’s bio, you know that most of his life has been a coordinated attempt to become president. One has to see whether that 47 percent figure—such a solid prime number, and one that eloquently echoes the semantics of the Occupy Movement—may end up hurting him get to the number he most covets: 45.