Who Are the 47%

A Visual Snapshot of the People the Romney Campaign has Written Off


I was planning a commentary on Mitt Romney’s infamous 47% assertions. As I started my research, however, I discovered that much of what I would have added to the conversation has already been adequately covered. Since it’s my goal that this blog serve as a source of innovative thinking on the issues, rather than as an echo chamber for the commentariat, I scrapped my original idea. However, I did find many graphs and charts (and you know how I love graphs and charts) and tidbits of information on the subject that I think are important for highlighting the insulting misconceptions perpetuated by the Romney campaign and his 1%er patrons.

The most surprising revealing information I found was that much of the reason why many in the 47% pay no federal income taxes is because of exemptions and tax credits passed or expanded under Republican administrations. Notice the sharpest increases of those who do not pay federal income tax (according to the conservative Heritage Foundation) happened under Ronald Reagan, and the Bushes. We might also note that the 47% quoted by Romney, which is actually just over 46% according to the most updated research, is lower than the 49.5% who did not pay federal income taxes when President Obama took office. According to Ezra Klein, at the Washington Post, the reason for such compassionate conservatism was a clear case of political compromise. Republicans needed these credits for low income earners in order to justify tax cuts for the wealthy. Now that tax cuts for the wealthy are secured, it’s time to pull the rug out from under the poor.

As you can see in the graphs above (Click the images for the sources) the majority of the 47%, whom Romney so blithely brushed aside, are old people, children and poor people. Those deadbeats and free-loaders!

Of course, the word “deadbeat” might need to be amended. It turns out that the majority of those who do not pay federal income taxes actually pay Payroll Taxes. This means that they…um…have jobs. Play the ‘awkward moment’ music now.

And what of that percentage of 47%ers who don’t work? Well, as it turns out, they almost all have a history of working. More often than not, they are simply regular folks, like you and me, who have fallen on hard times. Above is a graph you will find on the Krugman Blog at the New York Times. It shows that, except for old people and young people, between seventy and eighty percent of people between 25 and 60 pay federal income taxes and eighty percent pay both income and payroll taxes. Those who are not paying income taxes when they are thirty-one are likely to pay when they are thirty-two, just as they paid when they were thirty.

Also among the 47% are the wealthy. According to Dailyfinance.com, “About 162,000 people among the top 10% of earners have found ways to avoid paying any federal income tax.” This includes about three thousand members of the exclusive .1% of income earners. They are able to do this because of federal law that allows them to write off losses from the year before against their current gains. Perhaps some of this number were sitting in that very room, watching Romney bewail the deadbeat old, young and unfortunate. For all we know, it may have included Mitt Romney at times during the last ten years.

It’s Romney’s claim that this section of the population not only represents a significant portion of Obama’s supporters, but, almost all of them if recent polls are to be believed. Really? Is this an attribute of tax avoiders overall, or does Romney exclude those at the top end of the economic spectrum? Hmmm! In fact, about half of low income earners do not vote. Among those who do, about a third actually vote Republican. Among the elderly, a majority often vote Republican. As the chart above indicates, those states that have the most “deadbeats” in Mitt Romney’s eyes are actually consistent red states.

Despite the overwhelming amount of data calling “balderdash!” to the inane Romney statements on the 47%, don’t expect an apology or an adjustment in the conservative rhetoric. Romney, like Todd Akin before him, is guilty of nothing more than revealing to the public what Republicans say only in private. In this case, Romney didn’t know that he was speaking to the general public, but in the YouTube generation elitist plutocrats pretending to popular appeal must be more careful. This was not a gaffe in the traditional sense of the word. It was a revelation on video of what we’ve always known the Republican Party believes. According to conservative dogma, there is a small knot of people at the top of the socio-economic spectrum who deserve government largesse, namely the investor class. Those of us who work for a living are lucky to have such investors around, the so called job-creators, and should be prepared to sacrifice ourselves at the capitalist altar. As far as the investor class is concerned, it’s us against them. We are “those people”, the hangers on in their world.




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