Anatomy Of The 47 Percent

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Chuck Marr of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has posted on his Web site a pie chart that everybody should see, but most especially Mitt Romney. It's a breakdown of the "47 percent" of Americans (actually, 46 percent) who don't pay federal income taxes. This group was famously labelled, by the Wall Street Journal editorial page, "lucky duckies."

Here's how Romney, in his demented talk (since disavowed) to rich donors in Boca Raton, broke the duckies down (I will never get tired of this quote):

All right, there are 47 percent 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…. These are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect. ... And so my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives. 

And here is how Marr breaks them down:

Sixty-one percent are working duckies. They just don't happen to earn enough to pay income tax. They do earn enough to pay highly regressive payroll taxes, excise taxes, and state and local taxes. For the bottom quintile that constitutes, respectively, 9 percent, 2 percent, and 12 percent of their incomes.

Among their occupations are retail (4.5 million), food service (3.5 million), health care (2.7 million), construction (2.1 million), and manufacturing (2.1 million). Next time you're in the hospital be sure to tell the person who empties your bedpan that Mitt Romney doesn't think he or she takes personal responsibility for his or her life.

Twenty-two percent are elderly duckies. These folks really do expect the government to give them health care and income support via Medicare and Social Security. When I think about this group, Romney's Boca fugue brings to mind Steve Martin's classic joke about his elderly mother:

I'm so mad at my mother. I dunno. She's 102 years old. She called me up the other day, she wanted to borrow ten dollars for some food! I said, "Hey! I work for a living!" So I loan her the money. I have one of my secretaries take it down. And yesterday, she calls me up and says she can't pay me back for a while! I said, "What is this bullshit, man?" So I worked it out with her. I'm having her work on my transmission. And if she can't fix that I'm having her move my barbells up to the attic.

Seven percent are sick (or disabled) duckies. The fact that they are sick (or disabled) doesn't necessarily mean they collect government benefits. But whether they do or they don't, Romney has effectively labelled them weaklings or malingerers.

Three percent are student duckies, but not to worry; that ratio will likely go down as higher education becomes more unaffordable. As Rick Santorum has pointed out, higher education is for snobs.

Seven percent are "other" duckies. A significant subset likely collect welfare or unemployment. All joking aside, these are the true objects of Romney's distaste. (Never mind that he himself has been unemployed and clipping coupons, apart from the occasional speaking gig or publisher's check, these past five years.)

Somehow Romney's talked himself into believing that these less-than-7-percent constitute nearly half the country. Forget contempt; the sheer country-club-pinhead ignorance of this remark disqualifies him to be president.

There's more useful data on Marr's blog post concerning the Earned Income Tax Credit and other stuff. Check it out.

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