The Gift That Keeps on Giving

By James Kwak

By now most of you probably know about the video of Mitt Romney at a fund-raiser for rich people dissing 47 percent of Americans, including seniors, one of his core constituencies. (Many seniors don’t pay income tax because they don’t have enough income, since Social Security is not taxed except for high-income households. For more on the “47 percent,” see here.)

Still, this is standard Tea Party fodder that Romney et al. have been dishing out for months now. But what about this?

Describing his family background, he quipped about his father, “Had he been born of Mexican parents, I’d have a better shot of winning this.” Contending that he is a self-made millionaire who earned his own fortune, Romney insisted, “I have inherited nothing.” He remarked, “There is a perception, ‘Oh, we were born with a silver spoon, he never had to earn anything and so forth.’ Frankly, I was born with a silver spoon, which is the greatest gift you can have: which is to get born in America.”

Mitt Romney saying that he inherited nothing? The son of the CEO of AMC and governor of Michigan? (And Mark Thoma remembered how Mitt and Ann didn’t have to work because of stock from Mitt’s father.)

Then there’s the campaign’s response:

Gail Gitcho, the communications director for Mr. Romney, said in a statement that Mr. Romney is “concerned about the growing number of people who are dependent on the federal government, including the record number of people who are on food stamps, nearly one in six Americans in poverty, and the 23 million Americans who are struggling to find work.”

Um, Gail, the people on food stamps, in poverty, and struggling to find work are precisely the people who don’t pay income taxes—about whom your candidate said, “my job is is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

Some people are thinking (hoping) that this means the end of the Romney candidacy. I’m not so sure. Remember George W. Bush addressing a group of the “haves and have-mores” and saying, “you are my base”? Didn’t seem to hurt him. Still, there is—or should be—a difference between making a joke about your rich friends and insulting half of the electorate.

41 responses to “The Gift That Keeps on Giving

  1. Elect Romney for a new Pottersville.

  2. Does it matter that every statement he made was essentially accurate?

  3. So much better to give free medical care to millions who pay little to no taxes, while giving Amnesty to illegals who get free medical care, free schooling, food stamps, and Section 8 housing, giving free contraception and abortion to idiot feminist witches who hate America and all that it stands for, while supporting stupid wars in the ME that benefit Israel and put American citizens in greater danger…..I could go on and on. I used to like the Baseline when you were less partisan and were willing to admit that Obama is just a tool for Wall St. and his financial “reforms” were a joke. But now you’ve jumped the shark.

  4. “Does it matter that every statement he made was essentially accurate?”

    Yes, it does matter. He is running for national political office. Those he demeans or insults will not vote for him.

  5. Actually its very simple Romney is a neoFederalist in the mold of our second president John Adams who thought that removing the property qualification for voting would be the downfall of the republic. It is interesting that few call this what it is neoFederalism, which held that only the rich knew how to vote and the poor were sheep to be lead. There was great fear of the mob by the Federalists (after what happened in 1789 in Paris) and they felt that allowing the mob to vote would be the end of the country.

  6. Guys? Nemo? The 47 percent is NOT accurate. The “I inherited nothing” is a lie. You really have to dig into Romney’s words to find anything that is not misleading; with Ryan it’s impossible. You know this, right?

  7. VAIN CAPITAL: Portrait of a con-artist as a hungary man

  8. What it sounded like to me was that Romney’s agenda as president includes reducing government spending by eliminating programs and resources that provide food, housing, medical care, and other benefits to the “undeserving” poor, those he describes as not being willing to “take responsibility and personal care for their lives”.

    He doesn’t have to worry about the poor or seniors or the middle class because he isn’t planning to do anything that would help them. The real clincher is that he is proud of this.

  9. Romney is a pathological liar. He was not born with a silver spoon, but a golden spoon as his father was a billionaire. And if want to look at or criticize Amerikans who are DEPENDENT on the federal government – look no farther then the den of vipers and thieves in the socalled TBTF oligarchs who would be, and are now INSOLVENT were it not for the federal government socializing of finance oligarchs, and dishing trillions of the people dollars into the offshore accounts of these fiends. Welfare to the predatorclass is fine and dandy in Romney jaded eyes, but assisting our children, the old, and the poor is the devils work????

    Anyone this forkedtongued, this hypocritical, this sociopathic, this detatched, and this fascist has no place in American politics. It’s a sad testimony to how dim and uneducated the Amerikan public is, to even consider a fencewalking, flipfloping, mormon, fascist billionaire as a legitimate candidate for president. Idiots!!!! We all get what we deserve!!!

  10. Thought you might enjoy this TED video that explores some of the decision making biases common to investing and being in love. Keep producing great content on behavioral finance!

  11. Bruce E. Woych

    http://www.thelittleblueblog.org/2012/07/30/the-public-obamas-and-romneys-opposed-visions-for-a-free-america/

    The Public: Obama’s and Romney’s Opposed Visions for a Free America
    By George Lakoff and Elisabeth Wehling On July 30, 2012

    “America is divided about its future. Should it keep and expand the system that brought past opportunity, prosperity and freedom? Or should it dismantle that system?”
    [and]
    “This is a central issue, not a minor one. It underlies the political division in our country. Obama and the Democrats want to continue the public provisions upon which freedom and material success has been built in our nation. Romney and conservative Republicans want to dismantle the public, and would thereby end the freedoms, the opportunities, and the conditions for success that the public provides.”
    ===========================================
    [This is a first rate discussion of the distinctions and directly on topic for this article and its comment stream:
    …it is a highly recommended read, save it, post it and pass it on aggressively to every thinking individual you can reach}:
    http://www.thelittleblueblog.org/2012/07/30/the-public-obamas-and-romneys-opposed-visions-for-a-free-america/

  12. Something tells me that, right about now, Herman Cain feels a lot better about screwing around with skanks at Restaurant Industry Conventions.

    Of course, I could be wrong.

  13. Bruce E. Woych

    Romney demonstrates that it is not so much a “class” war as much as it is a war of the private sector against the PUBLIC sector; and all its resources.
    ==================
    Romney demonstrates that it is not so much the individual and business against Big Government; as much as it is how the individual, utilizing big business, can actually BECOME BIG GOVERNMENT.
    =======================
    Romney has here demonstrated that he believes not only that the ends justify the means; but that having the MEANS has become the defining American end in itself.
    All the rest:
    USELESS MOUTHS !

  14. Bruce E. Woych

    @TonyForesta: The “Frogs” in the “TeaPot” don’t sense the heat! The “merger” of managerialism with political economy was a function of the economic cold war; but facilitated (and still does…) a class war as well. See: http://www.utc.edu/Academic/MasterofPublicAdministration/managerialism.htm, …for an interesting summary review of managerialism and Public Administration.
    ..Romney’s campaign strategy has power at the center of its managerialism and mergers rational choice theory with public choice theory of control fraud and capture. His model is private equity where only the survivors are counted as real.
    Factions have already been noted in political party positions while the finance campaign of right wing class capture has been fueling the fires with front groups financed (…high irony: tax free…) by so-called “non-partisan” think tanks. Asymmetrical information and the promise of a provisional corporate government’s invisible hand of finance has been centering demographic markets strategically utilizing well greased media advertising techniques and repetitive talking point sound bites.
    This process has superceded simple group factional divisions ruling on issues. It has become an issue of POWER itself. Under such demise of individual perspectives, the conglomerate of “citizenship” has become a mere backdrop to history as an over generalized, disintegrated, detached, depersonalized, servile (sequacious), and particularly just a dangerous but manageable “market share” to manipulate . All superseded by corporate persona as the leviathan and the state as its gatekeeper. The dismantling of constitutional guarantees as a social and cultural expectation among individuals has given up a new “what else is new, and what can we do” attitude of eroded beliefs and overwhelming defenselessness: This is all part and parcel of controlling the demographic markets.
    Meanwhile, membership in some sort of a coalition is essential even for identity while the politics of alliances and (essentially veto) power are the “real” norm in constant translation to the circumstances of the moment and the successions of momentum (media spun moment to moment historicism in real time). If you are not part of something, you lose even the delusion or illusion of significance in the system. Hence Romney points to hope from Obama, but it is truly a membership and identity with escaping helplessness and hopelessness that is the authentic motivator. In this it is not so much that Obama has misled as much as the fear that Romney is the personification of private equity greed, stealth and privatizing wealth will actually produce helplessness and real hopelessness in the PUBLIC sector…{with Greece in the background warning us like a Greek chorus…BEWARE!).
    And the target has been the domination of the public domain through crisis driven intervention for the purpose of authoritarian opportunism and political economic capture.
    We are, and have been in a constant test of constitutional crisis by public paralysis, debt, default and complacency to the insidious accumulating outcome. Every major corporate product we buy now contributes within its price to facilitating the unequal distribution of power advantages in our nation, because their political power has become a function of corporate finance dependency. The people and their public assets are, indeed, close to bankrupt. But this historic bankruptcy of the public domain will cost us our souls…after it buys out and breaks our spirits!

  15. Hang in there Bruce, always remember that the ace in the hole, can’t be seen by people who believed that it died. And those that don’t believe in ghosts, are the ones most afraid of them.

  16. @dane wise–really? You think Romney would be a better choice to keep us out of wars in the ME? Of course, your comment about “feminist witches” tells me that you’re probably beyond rational thought

  17. Is this really any different then Obama’s statement about repubs “clinging to guns and religon”?

  18. The 47% number is basically accurate, but half of that is seniors and those on disability, and the other half are mostly low-wage working families with children. And the 10 states that have the highest number of zero-federal-tax households are mostly lower-income Red states (AL, AK, FL, GA, ID, LA, MS, NM, SC, TX). There’s a smattering of investment class folks in there as well, but what is so ironic is that GOP administrations created the legislation that created this situation – Reagan’s Earned Income Credit and Bush II’s 2010 Tax Reduction took millions off the federal tax roles. The cognitive dissonance within the GOP right wing about this is jarring. The GOP faithful should be trumpeting their support of working-class Americans, but instead seeth with resentment.

  19. Sorry, I meant “Bush II’s 2001/03 Tax Reductions”

  20. Daniel Barkalow

    Romney’s statement and his campaign’s statement aren’t at all contradictory. He said that he doesn’t care about those people, and his campaign clarified that he is still concerned about how many of them there are.

  21. No one wants a misanthrope like Romney, and probably Obambi on occasion, sneering, lying and disparaging the citizens of his own country for 4 years via the TV. It’s too stupid of a situation.

    PATHETIC that a foreign leader is the person who LIKES USA people more than our own hand-picked eliza doolittles;

  22. The “secret” video is mainly the same pap that one hears on the Sunday morning political talk shows from David Gregory, Chuck Todd, etc. I guess the pundits are afraid that they might lose their jobs and have to learn an honest trade. Their feigned dismay matches the “concern” they noised when Romney actually put a line in the sand and said “no apologies for the U.S. Constitution”.

  23. Here’s a concept GOP. If employers pay their workers a living wage, which means enough money to keep them off of welfare and/or government food programs then taxes could eventually go down and more would most likely pay some type of tax.

    If employees were given wage increases based on inflation, and for skill development including just for being on the job for X years, plus additional wages for added education, etc, maybe people would be able to purchase more. Instead we have a steady decline of wages by $2,000 per person over the last few years. So, if there is a $2,000 decline in spending power per worker, one might also easily find a correlation where as wage decline the rate of unemployment goes up — if about 67% of the population is working and they are all making, since it is an average, $2000 less in real dollars we are talking about a significant drop in money that could go into the economy, which could be the difference of 5% unemployment versus 8.2%. If wages went up, then unemployment should drop and those on unemployment would not need that handout either. Oh, but wait ,that would be inflation and we cannot have that either at least in the wages of the lower 75%. So I guess we keep more people on government programs.

    If States would keep the funding of their colleges and tech schools at the rate it was in the 1980’s, students might not need as much tuition aid today.

    If health costs were in check and insurance companies were in check and lawyers were in check and pharmaceutical companies check so that employees and employers did not have to have ever increasing payments for insurance there would again be more money and possibly the need for less government programs.

    Finally, I keep hearing that government programs at the federal level are socialist in nature because they redistribute wealth. Here is the rub, pay people a living wage and then governments do not need to redistribute wealth through government programs.

  24. I’m voting for Obama and I think Romney represents those who are solely interested in power, property and privilege.

    BUT, let’s be fair. If you watch the video, it’s obvious that he is saying that, for the purposes of getting elected, it isn’t his job to worry about the 47% who are committed to the other side. He is going to concentrate only on the so-called swing voters. That’s not offensive. back in Obama’s headquarters, they’re saying the same thing –albeit about a different 47%.

  25. @philip: correct, Romney is talking about election strategy and tactics, but the characterization of that 47% beyond the simple statement that he’s concentrating on the middle and holding his base is not. Considering that that doubling of people taken off the federal tax roles was a GOP administration accomplishment in the first place, the GOP is effectively running against its own policies.

  26. Icouldabenacontendah

    This guy was talking to donors! How does he think this is going to raise money? He condemns the moral character of 47% of the electorate, says that it would be pointless even to try to win votes from this group and tells his backers don’t worry, we’re zeroing in on the 8% to 10% of voters in the middle. Does this 8% to 10% bear no relationship at all to the 47%? Were none of these swing voters in the 47% at any point during the last several years? Are none of them worried that they might soon be there? Do none of them also receive benefits from government programs? By dissing and writing off the 47%, he is also dissing a significant portion of the 8% to 10% that he needs — and he’s already two to four percentage points behind. So what’s a cold, calculating big Romney donor to think about plowing more money into this campaign when the candidate presents electoral math like that? Romney is acting like he knows he has lost, instead of looking like someone with a plan to bear in on his opponent and win. It’s like a football coach saying that his strategy for the championship game is to get to the fourth quarter trailing by six points with 12 seconds left and the ball on the team’s 14 yard line, and then throw a Hail Mary pass. This is supposed to encourage supporters of Team Romney?

  27. The video was recorded in May, when Romney was still slogging through the primary season. At that time, Obama looked rather weaker than now, so the comments were from the standpoint of a candidate who felt he was in a strong position to win in November. The video was classic insider talk.

  28. Dear Robert Palmer

    Yes, there is a difference. Mitt didn’t learn a damn thing from Obama’s gaffe.

  29. When you speak nowadays, presume you are doing so on the record.
    Privacy is a quaint notion made obsolete by smart phones and other high tech gadgets.

    I’ve seen where Romney has been described as both having been born with a silver spoon and a gold spoon in his mouth,

    It appears he was born with a golden foot in that cavity. He’s dense if you ask me.

  30. @Robert Palmer, yes there is a difference between what Mitt Romney said and what Barack Obama said. Here is Obama’s full statement:

    “We’ve got a couple of folks who are heading out to Pennsylvania to go door to door with us. And the question was: What kinds of questions should I expect them to get? … The places where we are going to have to do the most work are the places where people feel most cynical about government. The people are misapprehend—I think they’re misunderstanding why the demographics in our—in this contest have broken out as they are. Because everybody just ascribes it to “white working-class don’t want to work—don’t want to vote for the black guy.” That’s—there were intimations of that, there was an article in the Sunday New York Times today that kind of implies that it’s sort of a race thing. …

    “Here’s what it is: In a lot of these communities in big industrial states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, people have been beaten down so long, they feel so betrayed by government, that when they hear a pitch that is premised on not being cynical about government, there’s a part of them that just doesn’t buy it. And when it’s delivered by—it is true that when it’s delivered by a 46-year-old black man named Barack Obama, then that adds another layer of skepticism. (Audience laughs.)

    “But—so the questions you’re most likely to get are going to be: ‘Well, you know, what’s this guy going to do for me? What’s the concrete thing?’ And what they want to hear is—you know, so we’ll give you talking points about what we’re proposing: to close tax loopholes and roll back, you know, the top—the tax cuts for the top 1 percent. Obama’s going to give tax breaks to middle-class folks, and we’re going to provide health care for every American. You know, we’ll have a series of talking points.

    “But the truth is that our challenge is to get people persuaded that we can make progress when there’s no evidence of that in their daily lives. You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, Ohio—like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years, and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration and the Bush administration. And each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are going to regenerate. And they have not. So it’s not surprising then that they get bitter, and they cling to guns or religion, or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them, or anti-immigrant sentiment, or, you know, anti-trade sentiment [as] a way to explain their frustrations.

    “Now, these are in some communities. You know, I think what you’ll find is that people of every background—there are going to be a mix of people. You can go in the toughest neighborhood, you know, working-class lunch-pail folks, and you’ll find Obama enthusiasts. And you can go into places where you’d think that I’d be very strong, and people will just be skeptical. The important thing is that you show up and you’re doing what you’re doing.”

    Obama didn’t denigrate the people who wouldn’t tend to vote for him; He expressed understanding of their skepticism.

  31. Dear Mr. Kwak, Thankyou for helping me to understand the news that we hear. I saw an interview of you with BIll Moyers and since have been a fan. I appreciate your simple, conversational style of explaining things and have come to look forward to reading your perspectives on current topics. Again, thankyou it is so helpful to get a grip of what is actually going on in politics. Seems like if you only hear the news, you will never know which side is telling the truth…

  32. @James Taylor – I laughed at your comment.

    @Keith Campbell – Well explained. That said, I’m not the only one who had that thought pop in their heads … Savanah Guthrie (sp?) led off the Today show this morning by asking Nancy Pelosi the same question. Her explanation answer was not as good as yours.

  33. Here is what I want America, Obama, voters maybe even foreign banks to ask. Just who did Mitt depend on for most of the money he made.
    Who did he depend on to lend him the money he leveraged time and time to protect him for losses.

    What Bank regulations does he want to remove for those of us dependent
    on them for protecting the deposits, the banks the retirement.
    Who is he and TO BIG TO FAIL dependent on?

  34. I’d say his wife, he would crumble like a cookie if she abandoned him. Now TBTF, that’s another story.

  35. nfischhoff@gmail.com

    Bush’s “haves and have-mores” thing was at the Al Smith dinner–the public reaction probably would have been different if it had been a Republican fundraiser rather than a neutral charity event where the candidates are supposed to be funny.

  36. Steve Blogger

    The things it seems that no one has yet mentioned in regards to some of the predictions and statements that Mr. Romney has made, is in regards to what President Clinton said at the DNC. Where is the math? And as Mr. Biden would say, “come on folks, think about it”. When people can’t meet their financial obligations, they seek assistance by all means. Some of which they don’t want; but who in his right mind will refuse a needed gift; especially when it come to providing for his family: even if it means “food stamps”. Lastly, how can you even consider it a solution – all the people that are already without jobs (EXCLUDING THE MILITARY THAT WILL BE COMING HOME SOON), yet you intend to fire more. (Not that it matters where they work) – THAT JUST DOSEN’T ADD UP.