In an interview on Fox News yesterday, Governor Romney tried to get his campaign back on message following his widely-deplored attack on 47% of Americans. “I do believe that we should have enough jobs and enough take-home pay such that people have the privilege of higher incomes that allow them to be paying taxes. I think people would like to be paying taxes.”
At first glance, this is consistent with the main message of Romney’s campaign, that he wants to create good jobs for the 23 million Americans who are unemployed or underemployed. Wanting to create jobs and wanting people to become taxpaying citizens less dependent on government are, of course, entirely compatible goals.
But here’s the rub. If Romney’s top priority were really job creation, wouldn’t he be actively courting the voters who will most benefit from the new jobs? Wouldn’t he expect a lot of votes from, say, part-time cleaning women who currently earn too little to pay income tax? Instead he writes off the most needy part of the electorate, assuming they prefer to be dependent and take no responsibility for their lives. Unemployed and low-wage workers make up the biggest chunk of the 47% who pay no federal income taxes. (The next biggest chunk is the elderly, but Romney has exempted them from his criticism of non-taxpayers.) If he really believes that most low-income people want to earn enough to pay more taxes, which is what he now says, how can he square that with his description of them as freeloaders? And by the way, earned-income tax credits were a bipartisan reform to give poor people more incentive to take low-wage jobs. Now we condemn those who did so for not paying the taxes from which they were exempted. Wasn’t it Romney who said that people shouldn’t pay one more dollar in taxes than they legally have to? Or does that only apply to rich folks?
Romney’s disdain for the very Americans he claims to want to help leads me to suspect that his jobs message is more of a slogan than a plan. That would explain why he refuses to provide any details about it.
What then does he want to accomplish, and for whom? Well, primarily, to cut federal income taxes for the 53% of the population who pay them. He hopes, of course, and maybe believes, that more money in the hands of upper-income Americans will be used to create jobs, but that’s a much less direct way of going about it than, say, spending money on infrastructure. Bigger tax cuts also have the potential to deprive government of revenue, forcing more layoffs of public employees and cuts to the social programs on which the poorer 47% depend. But that doesn’t matter if Romney doesn’t concern himself with that 47%, as he admitted.
To me, then, the “47%” statement was a lot more than an “ineligant” (Romney) or “inarticulate” (Ryan) way of making a reasonable policy point. I think it’s exactly what it appears to be, a revelation that Romney wants to be President only of the 53% of Americans with which he identifies.