Miscalculating the 47 Percent

Nico Salvatori
Opinion Editor

Earlier this year at a private fundraiser for his presidential campaign, Mitt Romney unabashedly made a sweeping and entirely misinformed assertion about a significant portion of voters who support President Obama: that they suffer from some sort of victim complex, of an unwavering dependency on government which emerges from their own sense of entitlement. Romney claimed that:

“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 they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it…These are people who pay no income tax, 47 percent of Americans pay no income tax.”

Though Romney failed to distinguish between the individual groups that make up that 47 percent — those too poor to pay income taxes, some undergraduates, the elderly on Social Security, and those who pay a payroll tax at a higher rate than Romney himself — he also failed to acknowledge the other half of the debate. Romney assumes that Obama supporters see the President the same way he does — purely through an economic lens, as if Obama supporters only voted for him because of his economic policies.

Many political pundits claim that this election is entirely about the economy despite the concerns voters still have about social issues. No election is just about one issue, and Mr. Romney can’t seem to fathom that. He lauds himself as an agent of the free market, a man of business with a deep understanding of capitalism whose primary concern is job creation. Because of this, Romney lives in an economic bubble alienating him from the social concerns of the populace outside of it. One would think that at a fundraiser full of wealthy donors — those quite comfortable financially — Romney would have appealed to them from a social standpoint, offering them a future in which conservative values can flourish, unhindered by the freeloading liberals about whom he so disparagingly speaks. Instead, he grumbled about taxes to those who have never needed to worry about paying them.

This approach to his donors reflects Romney’s limited area of expertise. We know much about his economic policies, but almost nothing specific about his social positions. Sure, he’s against same-sex marriage and abortion, but these aren’t nuanced beliefs; they’re just the generic and static platitudes of the Republican party.

At least President Obama eventually came out in support of same-sex marriage after “evolving” on the issue for quite some time. Critics can claim that his evolution was purely political; nonetheless, President Obama is willing to accept different demographics, unlike Romney.

If Romney wants to appeal to the 47 percent (He doesn’t: 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.”)he should stop insulting them and start looking at the bigger picture, focusing not only on the economy, but on the values of each Amercian citizen.

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