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Romney: Nearly half 'believe they are victims'

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney addresses delegates before speaking at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012.  (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney addresses delegates before speaking at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Already scrambling to steady a struggling campaign, Republican Mitt Romney confronted a new headache Monday after a video surfaced showing him telling wealthy donors that almost half of all Americans "believe they are victims" entitled to extensive government support. He added that as a candidate for the White House, "my job is not to worry about those people."

At a hastily called news conference late in the day, Romney offered no apologies for his remarks and when he was asked if he was concerned he had offended anyone, he conceded the comments weren't "elegantly stated" and they were spoken "off the cuff."

President Barack Obama's campaign quickly seized on the video, obtained by the magazine Mother Jones and made public on a day that Romney's campaign said it needed a change in campaign strategy to gain momentum in the presidential race. Romney aides were already working behind the scenes to calm dissension in the GOP ranks and reassure nervous donors and consultants about the state of a race some Republicans worry may be getting away from their nominee.

"There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what," Romney is shown saying in a video posted online by the magazine. "There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that 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."

"Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax," Romney said.

Romney said in the video that his role "is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."

In his remarks to reporters before a fundraiser Monday night in Costa Mesa, Calif., Romney did not dispute the authenticity of the hidden-camera footage, but he called for the release of the full video, instead of the clips posted online. He sought to clarify his remarks but did not apologize.

"It's not elegantly stated, let me put it that way. I was speaking off the cuff in response to a question. And I'm sure I could state it more clearly in a more effective way than I did in a setting like that," Romney said. "Of course I want to help all Americans. All Americans have a bright and prosperous future."

About 46 percent of Americans owed no federal income tax in 2011, although many of them paid other forms of taxes. More than 16 million elderly Americans avoid federal income taxes solely because of tax breaks that apply only to seniors, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.

Obama's campaign called the video "shocking"

"It's hard to serve as president for all Americans when you've disdainfully written off half the nation," Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said in a statement.

An Obama adviser said the Democratic campaign might use Romney's comments from the fundraising video in television advertisements. The official wasn't authorized to discuss campaign strategy publicly and requested anonymity.

Romney's 2010 federal tax returns show he paid a tax rate of about 14 percent on an annual income of $21 million. The vast majority of his income came from investments, which are taxed at a lower rate than wages. His wealth has been estimated as high as $250 million.

Democrats have tried to make an issue of what Romney pays in taxes and what he is willing to divulge about his taxes and investments. While he has released his 2010 tax returns and a summary of his 2011 returns, he has rejected calls for releasing as many as 10 years of tax returns. His campaign has pledged to release his complete 2011 returns before the election Nov. 6.

The private remarks are the latest in a string of comments from the multimillionaire Republican businessman whom Democrats have criticized as out of touch. During the primary campaign, Romney insisted that he was "not concerned" about the very poor, said he knew what it felt like to worry about being "pink-slipped," and said that his wife drove a "couple of Cadillacs." Aides to Obama's campaign said the latest video would help them continue to make the case that Romney doesn't understand the concerns of average Americans.

Romney said he would not shy away from the message behind the remarks — that Obama believes in a "government-centered society."

"It's a message which I am going to carry and continue to carry, which is that the president's approach is attractive to people who are not paying taxes because, frankly, my discussion about lowering taxes isn't as attractive to them," Romney said. "Therefore I'm not likely to draw them into my campaign as effectively as those in the middle."

Voters say they believe Obama has a better understanding of their problems and concerns than Romney does. A CBS/New York Times poll showed 60 percent of likely voters said Obama understands the needs and problems of people like them, while 37 percent said he did not. For Romney, the same question found that 46 percent felt he did understand people's needs, 48 percent said he didn't.

Mother Jones writer David Corn told MSNBC that the video came from a May 17 fundraiser at the Boca Raton, Fla., home of Marc Leder, co-CEO of the investment firm Sun Capital Partners.

The magazine had said earlier that the date and location of the remarks were not being disclosed to protect the identity of the person who provided the video. On MSNBC, Corn said the source had allowed those details to be released.

Many of the Americans who owe no income tax are reprieved because basic exemptions — such as the "standard deduction" — took their taxable income below the cutoff levels. The other half rely mainly on a variety of tax breaks, such as the credit that helps offset child care costs.

These Americans range from the very poor to solidly middle-class families with jobs, homes, cars and vacations. The Tax Policy Center says "relatively few nontaxable households" have incomes exceeding $100,000; families that make between $50,000 and $100,000 often owe no income tax because of breaks for their kids and for education.

Americans who pay no federal income tax still often pay an array of other taxes. They include payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare, sales taxes, property taxes and state and local taxes.

A handful of extremely wealthy families do not pay federal income taxes. This summer the Internal Revenue Service reported that six of the 400 highest-earning households in America owed no federal income tax in 2009.

Still, many are low-income Americans. According to the August 2010 AP-GfK poll, a majority of Americans who make less than $30,000 a year are Democrats. But 27 percent identify as Republicans, and 15 percent say they're independents. About 57 percent say they will vote for Obama, while 38 percent back Romney. About 43 percent identify themselves as conservatives.

Obama faced a similar moment in the 2008 campaign, when he told donors that many Americans who are angry about their struggles "cling to their guns or religion."

Romney's running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, made reference to that remark Monday at a campaign event in Des Moines, Iowa.

"I remember that one time when he was talking to a bunch of donors in San Francisco and he said people like us, people from the Midwest like to cling to their guns and religion," Ryan said.

Ryan went on: "And I've got to tell you this Catholic deer hunter is guilty as charged and proud to say so. That's just weird. Who says things like that? That's just strange."

Comments

waltspecht 2 years, 3 months ago

Just what is wrong with that statement? It is a view held by many of the Working Class. What if everyone just said the heck with it and let the Government support them, who would support the Government? So there is a reason all canidates should be more into addressing those who pay the bills, instead of those who create the bills. The fact that the numbers are what they are should concern every Citizen.

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FryarTuk 2 years, 3 months ago

He's talking about the working class, waltspecht.

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FryarTuk 2 years, 3 months ago

Romney just needs to keep his mouth shut. He is so stupid politically he doesn't even comprehend statistics. The data comes from a legitimate study by the nonpartisan and highly respected Tax Policy Center – it is actually 46 percent, as of 2011. It also said that half of the house holds in the 46% work but are too poor to pay taxes. "The Tax Policy Center gives as an example a couple with two children earning less than $26,400 a year: The household would pay no federal income tax because its standard deduction and other exemptions would simply erase its liability." The other half of the 46%, the Tax Policy Center concluded, consists of households taking advantage of tax credits and other provisions, mostly support for senior citizens, military and low-income working families."

These are not people who are lazy and "shirking their tax liabilities. "The pool consists mostly of the poor, of relatively low-income working families and of old people. The tax code is specifically designed to reduce the burden on them (just like it allowed Mitt Romney to make tens of millions of dollars and pay next to nothing)." Part of the group is 7000 millionaires who paid no income taxes and probably includes Mitt himself.

Mitt Romney is trying to identify any household who makes under $200,000 as shiftless Lester Jeters or Sambos. No presidential candidate in the history of the United States has ever made such a striking divisive political assertions. There will be more coming from this tape. You can bet on it.

You neocons have really chosen a nut for a standard bearer. Write in RON PAUL! YEE HAA!

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MisterEd 2 years, 3 months ago

It also said that half of the house holds in the 46% work but are too poor to pay taxes.

Nobody is too poor to pay taxes. Everyone should pay the same %.

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USTPC 2 years, 3 months ago

Actually that is not true. Everyone is entitled to the same standard deductions, exemptions for self, spouse and children. If they make equal to or less than the sum total of those exemptions/deductions then they are too poor to pay taxes.

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FryarTuk 2 years, 3 months ago

And yet another Mitt private meeting with a Hispanic Chamber of Commerce where he actually tells them that had his father who was born in Mexico been born of Mexican parents he would have a lot easier time campaigning among them. Everyone knows Mitt's grandfather moved to Mexico to keep practicing polygamy with his 5 wives. Now that would make a group of Mexicans proud to vote for Mitt.

The GOP stalwarts will be begging Ron Paul to assume the nomination. Why aren't we discussing issues dealing Obama's bumbling economics, his failed negotiation with Boehner, misadventures in Afghanistan, disastrous energy policies, jobs, jobs, jobs. Instead we have been fed one cartoonish mishap after another since Mittens became GOP candidate.

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albanyherald1 2 years, 3 months ago

Sounds like Mitt has had a recent visit to South Georgia, where those figures sound about right. His comments can easily be taken out of context when the clips are chosen specifically for the media to stir things up. The way I take it is, he is aware that most all of those folks with the entitlement mentality are going to vote for Obama no matter what Mitt Romney says. So in order to try to secure a win, he has to stop trying so hard to change the minds of that group of people (because you never will) and concentrate on other groups. I see nothing wrong with his statement. I have always said if Obama and some of those other folks up in Washington had to live down south for awhile, their eyes would be open alot more than what they are right now.

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FryarTuk 2 years, 3 months ago

Abh1, think about what you reading, hearing and saying. The 46.4% includes primarily white males who plan to vote for Mittens. He's calling WM population working class the indolent. Food stamps are not primarily black. White males make under the taxing schedules which have been primarily the work of the GOP. These are not essentially Tobacco Road people. These are plumbers and waitresses who make less than $18 per hour and feed a family. These are military men and women. These are retired people who have fought in all kind of wars and worked in all kind working circumstances. These are the sick people. All workers pay payoll taxes and sales tax and property tax. The people Romney is judging and mocking are contributing members of communities. Do you really comprehend what 46.4% of three hundred million people are?

Write in Ron Paul! Bring our men and women home. Address our energy problems.

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RedEric 2 years, 3 months ago

Fanatics can certainly find things to be enraged about. People on welfare do not want it to end, be reduced etc. and it is correct that, by far, most people on welfare are white. The farmer taking a huge subsidy is a form of welfare. Oil companies being paid to drill is a form of welfare. A huge percentage of welfare is fraud and the government knows it. It is going to be difficult to get it under control. It is certainly time for a change in government. It will be interesting to see how it is achieved.

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Sister_Ruby 2 years, 3 months ago

Sometimes when politicians tell the Truth, they get in trouble with the "PC Police" aka the liberal media. This will always be the case when the politician is a Conservative and the Liberal Media have just been hanging on their every word, praying for some minor something they can make an issue of. Just like this time.

What happens when Obama or Biden say something just as extreme? ......nothing.......nothing whatsoever.

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TRUTH101 2 years, 3 months ago

SMH.... You do realize he was talking about YOU and ME!!!!! To your own admission your total household income is less than $100,000 (nothing is wrong with that). Romney does not identify with you! His example of him and his family working hard and struggling to make a better way was the fact that his wife "HAD TO DRIVE A FEW CADILLAC IN HER DAY". Some of you have the slave catcher/indentured servant syndrome.....The Slave catcher was at the bottom of the southern society but wanted to feel important and better than the slave. His views where the same as the big time plantation owners but what he was to dumb to realize the plantations owners viewed him as poor scum of the earth as well.........

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Jimboob 2 years, 3 months ago

Sis, Mitt Romney is no conservative... Paul Ryan is but the Mitten is anything but. But you go on and ignore what he says. Most white folks around here already made their minds up so don't confuse them with facts, even out of the horse's mouth... So to speak.

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FryarTuk 2 years, 3 months ago

Asked what he considers the middle class income Romney's response was "Between 200 and 250 thousand dollars annually." This guy is so out of touch with the United States of America he will never be able to develop a governing process.

We need jobs! Write in Ron Paul. We need a rational energy policy. Write in Ron Paul. We need a self protective foreign policy. Write in Ron Paul. We need a veteran with military action experience. Write in Ron Paul! Mitt and Barry are two peas in a pod.

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Jimboob 2 years, 3 months ago

Except that "Barry" knows what it means to be poor...

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gotanyfacts 2 years, 3 months ago

Fryar.. can you verify this quote? Who do think will be president for the next four years if all Ron Paul supporters write him in?

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Shinedownfan 2 years, 3 months ago

Jimboob, Here's some background on the Obamas: Michelle's dad, Fraser Robinson, was a pump operator at the Chicago city water plant. He earned $55,000 back in the '70s. After going to the inflation calculator, $50,000 in the 1970s is equivalent to $282,000 today. Michelle's mother, Marian Robinson, was a long-time secretary at Spiegel's, the catalog store. Michelle went to Whitney Young, a public magnet school for Chicago's upper class. Barack went to Punahou, which is the private prep school for the top echelon of Hawaii society. It had swimming pools, tennis courts, and photo studios! They both attended elite schools. Obama himself went on vacation to Indonesia, Pakistan, and India. He has written about the family going on month-long vacations to national parks and flying over from Hawaii. Who does this? Then they were both attended Ivy League schools. They didn't come from poverty, no matter what you might have been led to believe. Yep, life for Barack and Michelle has been a "struggle".

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TRUTH101 2 years, 3 months ago

Well according to your boy, that $282,000 EQUIVALENT is still middle class.........

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Shinedownfan 2 years, 3 months ago

He ain't my boy! If you add momma's pay to the mix, might throw them up to the upper class, eh?

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