Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.


Questions for Mitt Romney after his explanation of what he meant to say

Late this afternoon, Mitt Romney went on Fox’s “Your World with Neil Cavuto” to take another stab at what he was trying to say at that Florida fund-raiser about the 47 percent of Americans who pay no income taxes. Some pundits are saying that Romney “doubled down” because he didn’t apologize or retract. After watching the interview, my impression is that he tried to mush up what he had said in Florida so that it could not offend as many people and that he succeeded to the point that in the new version he said nothing about anything except that maybe he thinks it would be really great if more people had jobs and fewer people were poor. 

This time, he acknowledged that not all of the 47 percent of Americans who pay no income tax are moochers, especially not the retirees and the military personnel. He still wants to say that his unfortunate Florida remarks about the 47 percent was simply an effort to acknowledge the group of Americans who will not vote for him because they will not benefit from either of the things he wants to do — cut income taxes and shrink government. (Well, actually he wants to cut income taxes in a way that is “revenue neutral,” so it’s not exactly a cut. We can’t really figure out how that works unless he describes the offsetting changes he will make in the tax code to make up for the rate cuts, but he won’t specify any of those. And presumably, the 47 percenters don’t like the idea of a smaller government because they might lose some of their government benefits, but he won’t specify which benefits, if any, he might cut. And, he also acknowledged to Cavuto that a lot of those 47 percent who don’t pay income taxes actually will vote for him, for example retirees.)

Romney wasn’t willing to say that having 47 percent of the population not paying income taxes was too many. (Cavuto asked him, but he ignored the question.) And he specified that under his vision, people in need will continue to get government assistance because “we’re a compassionate people.” He did bring up the alarming growth in the number of people on food stamps, but didn’t suggest that he would do anything about it other than  get the economy moving so people can get jobs. Of course, in Florida in May when only his donors were listening, he described the 47 percent as people “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.” But all of that was gone on Cavuto where Romney thinks that the non-taxpayers want to become taxpayers if only they could get jobs, which will happen under President Romney. You want specifics? How about this Romney restatement of what he meant to say in Florida:

“The intent that I want to talk about and that that was intended to speak about was the fact that you have a great divide about whether we want a government that’s larger and more intrusive and redistributing income or whether instead you want a government that sees its role as protecting freedom and letting free people build more wealth for all people.”

 Here is a video of the eight and a half-minute Romney/Cavuto interview via Mediaite:

You can also learn about all our free newsletter options.

Comments (13)

  1. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 09/19/2012 - 07:50 am.

    ‘Tis a glorious part of the game if you are wealthy to minimize or entirely evade income taxes.

    It’s soul-destroying and anti-American to be “working poor” and not paying income tax.

  2. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 09/19/2012 - 09:17 am.

    Among the interesting things…

    …brought out by the current campaign – and by the overall political debate of the last decade or so – is the reversion by a surprising number and range of political figures to the Puritan belief in an “elect.” That is, a belief that the acquisition of wealth and property are a sign of God’s favor, indicating a pious and morally-admirable way of life, while a failure to have or acquire wealth and property indicate God’s displeasure, usually attributed to a lifestyle that lacked piety and/or was thought to be morally diminished in some fashion.

    Thus, those who are poor become “moochers” and parasites, no matter why they’re poor or what their circumstances might be, while those who are wealthy, regardless of how that wealth was acquired, become, at least relatively, paragons of virtue. For those in the one percent, or who hope to be like them, it’s a very comforting worldview, and very much of a piece with Neal Rovick’s comment about tax-paying.

    Also interesting – well, to some of us – is that when income taxes first began to be assessed, nearly a century ago, having to pay income tax was very much a status-confirming activity, since it indicated that your income was substantial enough that you were required, along with other “solid citizens,” to pay taxes, while the riff-raff were those who weren’t affluent enough to qualify. I’m not sure we’ve gotten entirely away from that. Even though one-percenters might talk privately about their successes at stashing money in the Caymans or other kinds of tax shelters, the few really affluent people I’ve known over the years typically don’t mind bragging about how much they pay in taxes, especially if what they pay in taxes is more than my annual income.

  3. Submitted by Roy Everson on 09/19/2012 - 12:36 pm.

    Modernizing the “welfare queen”

    On right wing websites it’s routine attitude that people who get government aid are moochers, lazy, and intend to live out their lives on the dole. That’s the base Romney panders to. It’s the basis for belief in Ryan’s draconian cuts in social spending. If you believe that public assistance is meant to help people short term so they can get back on their feet, well nobody would want to cut that. No, dehumanize people so they seem unworthy. And pretend that everyone will benefit if only we stop the “gravy train.”

    • Submitted by Robert Gauthier on 09/19/2012 - 09:58 pm. he newest spin on the old Atwater style

      Lee Atwater was quoted as saying that instead of using words that become “verboten”, like the N word, you change the focus and the direction to a proxy. That is what is going on here. They cannot attack Obama for his race, but hey can attack everything he does with code words, like socialist, anti-colonial, Kenyan. Obama cannot respond because the Right would play that up, so the focus changes to another proxy code word. And his supporters? Don’t mention their race, mock their financial plight and imply it is part of their race/culture. We will see more of this as the end of he race approaches. It validates their insular and self centered position.

  4. Submitted by James Hamilton on 09/19/2012 - 01:08 pm.

    My god, Mitt.

    Quit trying to spin the unspinnable. Anyone who’s taken the time to watch the video knows you intended exactly what you said when you said it. Whether you meant it or were simply playing to yet another audience is between you and your god.

    Those who have listened to or watched the video also know that some have distorted your reference to not having to worry about winning the vote of the 47%.

    Your most alarming comments, however, were about kicking the can down the road in the Middle East and hoping it doesn’t explode and then admitting that you completely ignored the suggestion by a former Secretary of State that peace might be possible after the Palesinian elections. That’s a pretty big stone to leave unturned by a man who would be president. That alone is going to kill you come the foreign policy debate.

    Frankly, you’re the scariest serious presidential candidate of my lifetime.

    • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 09/19/2012 - 02:48 pm.

      Don’t worry – If Romney wins, he won’t be making…

      …the foreign policy decisions, since in this subject matter, he obviously has no training, experience, knowledge, original thinking, nor even intellectual curiosity.

      Others will be advising him and framing his choices, then nudging him towards the “right” answer, and that’s how his decisions will come down. He will be more of a puppet and won’t have much to do with it, actually. I recall Bush the Younger, prior to his first campaign, and also quite ignorant, was crash-tutored down in Texas on the important things to know about foreign policy by the neo-con’s great thinkers – you know – Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, et. al. – the whole gang who later cooked up the Iraq invasion on false premises (or was it really later? – perhaps they already had a plan in hand, and would wait for the right opportunity). It’ll be some outfit like this who’ll tutor Mitt Romney.

      But who will these people be, if Mitt wins ?? Likely, they will be people who previously were deeply involved in the war industry, and probably deeply involved in policy-making based on ideology.

      If Mitt wins, expect no solutions to our foreign policy problems, which are substantially of our own making. Has it ever occurred to those in the foreign policy establishment that “terrorism” is largely a response to our foreign policy, that modification of that foreign policy, not military domination, holds the key to our security ??

  5. Submitted by Mark Stromseth on 09/19/2012 - 01:39 pm.

    The noblest victims.

    For those who watched the entire video released by Mother Jones, it was yet another display of the victimization mentality by Willard and his highbrow contributors.

    They’re paying $50,000 per plate for some food and a talking head, while complaining that they are victims of government because the 98% can’t afford to do the same.

    Apparently, they don’t see the irony in their beliefs, which is no surprise to the critical thinkers in the world.

  6. Submitted by Beryl John-Knudson on 09/19/2012 - 06:28 pm.

    I speak more gently now…

    I do wonder if the Cayman islands were annexed to the US, rather than under British rule…who would then be exempt from paying taxes…or tapped for failure to pay what is due?

    Romney protects the few over the many, the rich over the poor which in a democratic society seems strangely consistent with more patriarchal societies which have, and still do dominate European societies?

    The Romney doctrine should be listened to and hopefully he will expose his honest views and attitudes more often…the better to know him in all his ignorance; weaknesses and insensitivity?

  7. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 09/20/2012 - 06:56 pm.

    But we’ll always have


  8. Submitted by Dan Gerber on 09/24/2012 - 01:46 am.

    Campaign soundbite

    I heard Governor Romney say last week in an NPR story that he wants
    to put people back to work so they can pay taxes! Shocking! Explain
    that one to the base.

Leave a Reply