Only Journalists Offended by Romney's "47 Percent" Remarks

Who is it really that's out of touch?

EBT Nation has spoken. Its citizens, the ones who will bother to show up to the polls on November 6, have decided to vote themselves more of Mitt Romney’s money. The inhabitants of Section 8ville second the motion.

The Republican nominee may be aghast that so many strangers enjoy so much of his money. Why are the sponging strangers, and the class-war Hessians of the Fourth Estate, so shocked that Romney has written off their votes?

“There are 47% of the people who will vote for the president, no matter what,” an out-of-focus Mitt Romney says on a four-month-old surreptitiously-obtained grainy video. “All right, there are 47% 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.” The presidential candidate tells donors that his job is to convince the unbribed undecideds to cast their ballots for him.

Obama campaign manager Jim Messina found Romney’s comments “shocking.” He shouldn’t have. With more flash, makers-versus-takers rhetoric has been a staple of Republican presidential stump speeches for several generations. Why the feigned outrage over something so pedestrian?

In 1976, Ronald Reagan colorfully invoked a Cadillac-driving Chicago woman receiving food stamps, relying on Medicaid, and collecting more than six-figures in welfare money under her numerous aliases. Buffalo congressman Jack Kemp, a candidate for the 1988 Republican presidential nomination, repeatedly warned that the social safety net had become a hammock. Texas Senator Phil Gramm ran for president eight years later incessantly reminding voters, when he wasn’t invoking the ink-stained fingers of his printer friend Dickey Flatt, that there were more people riding in the wagon than pulling the wagon.

They weren’t wrong, just premature.

A record-high 89 million Americans do not participate in the labor force, with the three percent drop under the Obama administration nudging the rate—63.5 percent—to its lowest level since the Great Depression. People who have given up on work haven’t given up on a paycheck. A record 46 million Americans rely on food stamps, up 44 percent since the president took office. The 8.8 million Americans accepting Social Security disability checks, spiking nearly 1.5 million since inauguration day, is also a record.

Romney’s argument that income tax hikes aren’t as unpopular as they once were because fewer people actually pay income taxes meshes with the numbers. The Tax Policy Center reports that 46 percent of Americans, a number too close for coincidence to Romney’s 47 percent, pay no federal income tax. With more than one in three workers not working, one in twenty workers on disability, and more than one in seven Americans depending on food stamps, an electoral tipping point may be near where so many voters depend on government that the party of government can count on Election Day majorities.

And if the grim statistics don’t convince, remember the jubilation of Peggy Joseph over a potential Obama victory during the 2008 campaign? “I never thought this day would ever happen,” the Sarasota voter explained. “I won’t have to worry about putting gas in my car. I won’t have to worry about paying my mortgage. If I help him, he’s going to help me.’

Surely in conveying how handouts corrupt Americans Ronald Reagan’s “welfare queen” story has nothing on Miss Peggy’s YouTube clip, right?

Romney asked for Mother Jones to release his remarks in full, which the magazine promised to do until it acknowledged that the remarks weren’t captured in full. Mother Jones claims the camera “inadvertently turned off” while recording Romney before being turned back on. Romney could credibly claim to have been taken out of context. But with the context of Peggy Joseph, and record numbers of Americans asking what their country can do for them rather than what they can do for their country, Romney’s remarks work parsed as well as they do in full. Everyone, save for journalists, seems to understand the context.

It’s not necessarily that Romney’s media detractors find his off-the-record remarks off putting. They find conservatism off putting. Living in deep-blue cities, working alongside partisan crusaders, and educated by an ideologically-narrow professorate, the scribes find uncontroversial remarks so foreign because they’ve been marinated in environments so foreign to their fellow Americans.

Who, really, is out of touch here?

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