Commentary: A 53-percenter's memo to Mitt Romney

The Rock Hill HeraldSeptember 30, 2012 


Mitt Romney on the tour bus at their campaign rally in Commerce Twp., Michigan


Dear Former Governor Romney:

First, a confession: Once or twice during my 67 years, I suspect my family has fallen among 47 percent of Americans whom you so cavalierly dismissed in your infamous pep talk to millionaires in Boca Raton.

The first time was during my junior year in college. My father died, and my mother applied for the Social Security Survivors Benefit to which, as a minor, I was entitled. It wasn’t a lot of money, as I recall, but it enabled me to finish college.

My mother, who was a registered nurse before she married my dad, had not been gainfully employed for more than 30 years. My father passed in February, so she was without any income for most of that year, which means she most likely paid no income tax.

She resumed her nursing career the following year, however, and soon was earning more than my father ever had. Although she was able to amass a small estate, most of her retirement income came from her monthly Social Security check, which means she probably fell back into your despised 47 percent.

The other time I can think of when we may have slipped into that category was 1967. For most of that year I was an enlisted man in the Army. I could probably find my federal income tax forms in the attic to make sure, but I can’t imagine I made enough to have to pay Uncle Sam anything that year. I will admit that I felt like a victim much of 1967, but I attributed my paranoia to drill sergeants.

Since then, I am happy to report, my wife and I have been among the 53 percent of Americans that, by inference, you do care about. I can’t tell you how relieved we are to be included with those who don’t see themselves as victims or think “government has a responsibility to care for them … (or) believe that they’re entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it.”

By now, of course, you understand – as the pundits so gleefully have pointed out – that most of the 76.1 million Americans who didn’t pay federal income taxes last year did pay payroll taxes. Also, 23 percent earned less than $30,000 that year; 12 percent qualified for either the child care credit or the earned income tax credit; 10 percent were elderly, drawing Social Security or Medicare payments; and 1 percent were disabled.

Seven of the 10 states with the lowest percentage of people who didn’t pay income taxes are considered Blue States, which means they likely won’t go for you in November. What’s more surprising is that eight of the 10 states with the highest percentage of nonpayers were Red States, South Carolina included. Before you write off half of Americans, you may want to check to see where they live.

I realize you probably aren’t as hard-hearted as the Democrats would have us think, but you need to remember the adage about the first thing one should do when he finds himself in a hole: Stop digging!

You tried to explain away the Boca Raton gaffe by saying it was made “off the cuff,” in response to a question. Unfortunately, the video makes clear that you intended to imply that half of your fellow countrymen are – how should we put it?—shiftless.

Just because you are asked a question doesn’t give you a pass for stupidity. I was reminded of the time someone asked if you were a NASCAR fan and you responded that you were friends of guys who owned racing teams.

Sooner or later, voters may wonder whether a Romney presidency would lead to a national anxiety attack every time you approached a microphone.

An even bigger bonehead remark was when you tried to backtrack from the 47 percent comment by saying you wanted more Americans to pay income taxes because that would mean they had jobs. That’s a sentiment we otherwise might endorse, but you will forgive me when I say it sounds phony from a guy who refuses to release his income tax statements.

Yours truly,

A Proud 53-percenter

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