The “47%” isn’t the bit that should bother you

I’ve been sequestering myself away from the front page since Friday as I’ve been working on projects, but decided to quickly jump in and weigh in on what is now, I assume, The Big Topic on the Internet: the “secret” recordings of Mitt Romney.  Like just about everybody else not on the Mother Jones payroll, the only bits I have seen are those that have been released via David Corn’s article.

Since I haven’t been on the front page in several days, I’m not sure exactly how this story is shaking out at the League – but my assumption is that it is similar to the rest of the intertubes, and that the “47%” comment is winning the bandwidth wars.  I must say, however, that of all the things to be concerned about on the video segments shown, the 47% line does not bother me so much.  Oh, don’t get me wrong – it should absolutely concern the Romney campaignAfter all the mileage “you didn’t build that” got, I fully expect to hear this quote repeated constantly for the next 50 days:


“[M]y job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

Despite the way the quote looks out of context, however, the obvious intended meaning is far more innocuous: Romney is clearly talking election strategy and identifying the people he most needs to reach out to in order to win.  He isn’t saying the 47% don’t matter as people, he’s saying he can’t focus the campaign on them because they’ll never vote for him anyway.  I also assume that the whole “47%” thing is a bit of fiction played for the room.  My guess is that once facts are checked this 47% will turn out to be largely Republican as well as Democrat; and if that turns out to be the case, it will of course  be an even more boneheaded thing to say in front of a microphone – even a hidden one.  But as boneheaded ass-pulls in front of donors go, this one is pretty small potatoes. In a lot of ways, this actually makes it the perfect chickens-home-to-roost response to the cynically overblown “you didn’t build that” brouhaha.

So regardless of whatever political damage does or doesn’t befall Mitt, the whole 47% thing doesn’t really bother me as a voter so much.

I think the part about his plan to rebound the economy, however, is a huge red flag:

Romney, who spoke confidently throughout the event and seemed quite at ease with the well-heeled group, insisted that his election in and of itself would lead to economic growth and that the markets would react favorably if his chances seemed good in the fall:

‘They’ll probably be looking at what the polls are saying. If it looks like I’m going to win, the markets will be happy. If it looks like the president’s going to win, the markets should not be terribly happy. It depends of course which markets you’re talking about, which types of commodities and so forth, but my own view is that if we win on November 6th, there will be a great deal of optimism about the future of this country. We’ll see capital come back and we’ll see—without actually doing anything—we’ll actually get a boost in the economy. If the president gets reelected, I don’t know what will happen. I can—I can never predict what the markets will do.’”

Let’s set aside for a moment the fact that of all the things that haven’t grown in Obama’s economy, the market ain’t one of them.  Instead, let’s focus on Romney’s actual plan: He’ll win the election, and everything will just magically be fixed by the mere fact that he won.  Mitt wins, the economy flourishes just because he’s Mitt; Obama wins, 1,000 years of darkness just because Obama’s Obama.

I really hope when the entire video is released, we’ll hear more of an economic plan than what Romney gives here. If there aren’t policy details given beyond this, I’ll have to do a major reassessment of the man.  Since last May, I have steadily maintained that Mitt Romney could not win the election; but despite this inevitablity I have also said that I felt he has the makings to be a good president.  But if this is really all he has – if this is the secret plan he’s been keeping from us all since he began this campaign – then I was very, very wrong.  If this is the plan, than Mitt Romney has no business being anywhere near the White House, and he should never, ever be allowed to be Commander-In-Chief.

I am very much hoping there is more to this video than what I see now.

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92 thoughts on “The “47%” isn’t the bit that should bother you

  1. There is a Golden Corral/ Iron Skillet all you can eat buffet of dumb and/or loathsome in what Mr. Self Made said. Yes this is epic stupid about the economy. He somehow doesn’t know how the market is doing or thinks that actual reality is irrelevant. And he has an MBA doesn’t he….oy.

    The worst part about the 47 is not the apparent ignorance of why people don’t end up paying net Fed Income Tax or all the other taxes those people pay but the utter disdain for almost half the population of the country. He said the 47 don’t take responsibility for themselves and just want to be taken care of. He can sit on a large pine cone as the LOOG’s good doctor might say.

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  2. The reporter indicates that indeed there is more, and Mother Jones mag is parsing it out slowly. Boosts readership, keeps their commentary front and center. I’d do the same thing if I were their editor.

    If I were a betting man, I’d put good money on there being no real explanation for why the markets will turn bullish under President Romney but bearish under Obama Part II. It will turn out to be simply a matter of faith, requiring no more explanation than gravity, that Wall Street would prefer a Republican to a Democrat in the same way that religious conservatives and defense hawks would prefer a Republican to a Democrat.

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  3. I think we should be bothered by the “47%” line. He basically said that half of America – anyone who’s on a pension, or who’s low-income, even low-income people who are working 8 or more hours a day – is a lazy bum with no sense of responsibility. Even if you don’t interpret “it’s not my job to care about them” as relating to who he’s going to be targeting his campaign at, and not being at all relevant to how he’d act as president, writing off nearly half of America as a lost cause doesn’t indicate any interest in broadening his support base or in caring what people who aren’t already solidly on his side think.

    I also think we should be bothered by the sentiment that anyone who think of food, shelter and health care as basic human rights is also a lazy moocher. He appears not to comprehend that 1) those who are not rich actually do have value as human beings and 2) that “unemployed” does not equal “lazy”, especially in a recession and 3) that it is possible, and in fact frequent, to be working and still be poor. Nope – if you’ve every needed something your parents can’t buy for you, you’re just an entitled bum.

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    • “He basically said that half of America – anyone who’s on a pension, or who’s low-income, even low-income people who are working 8 or more hours a day – is a lazy bum with no sense of responsibility.”

      What he said was that 47% of the population of the United States is dependent on the government for a large part, if not the entirety, of their income; and that 47% are not going to vote for themselves to get less money.

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  4. Tod, you talk about “the market” and point to a graph (indirectly via the link) which only references the DJIA. Let’s talk about what the Dow is and isn’t. It is a collection of 30 stocks, and THOSE stocks’ makeup has changed constantly. We don’t see RCA high on the DJIA today, but at one time it was. Therefore it is an inaccurate measure of “the market” and always has been. It is artificial and arbitrary. But like Libor the artifice creates real world implications. There are hundreds of mutual funds which are obligated to invest in DJIA stocks by their charter.

    Today, the stock market is literally ‘driven’ by high frequency trading software. That software is making a mess of accurate pricing of equities. When the sell off occurs (and it will be sooner rather than later) the software algorithms will have the computer market “makers” run for the exits and the illusory value of the market will disappear in an instant, followed by very real value as the software continues to bail and then reverses and short sells the remainder. It only needs a trigger event. Meanwhile the economic policies of the Fed are pushing investors out of safe haven cash into equities. That is creating a bubble atmosphere, which is why you see the stock market rise every time Bernanke says he’s going to do another round of quantitative easing. The pros smell a bunch of new rubes coming into the casino.

    Would the market do better under Romney? Snark aside (and that will be impossible for someone like Greginak) he is a business man who doesn’t despise business the way the sitting President appears to. Long term traders could decide to put real money into the game instead of the thinly traded illusionary volumes we’re experiencing today. Yes, billions of shares are trading hands, but they are trading back and forth between computers, it is day trading on steroids with no underlying investment value and no consistency. This is not Warren Buffet buy and hold, this is software driven pump and dump.

    Finally what is the real future for these stocks? For example, Obama isn’t allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built (while illegitimately taking credit for “allowing” the southern leg to proceed, since he has no authority over the portion of the pipeline that doesn’t cross an international border). Romney will allow the pipeline (which will carry ever increasing Bakken oil south to the refineries) and that is only one tiny smidgen of the things he will allow that Obama has resisted. If you don’t want to vote for Romney because you’d rather hug a tree, so be it, say so and don’t pretend it’s because he’d be bad for business because he won’t be. Obama on the other hand most certainly is and has been, and will be. And that’s the crux of the “secret” tape.

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    • “When the sell off occurs…the software algorithms will have the computer market “makers” run for the exits and the illusory value of the market will disappear in an instant, followed by very real value as the software continues to bail and then reverses and short sells the remainder. It only needs a trigger event.”

      Indeed, all it takes is someone accidentally reposting a story from a few years ago about a company having financial troubles, and your stock is gone. Just ask United Airlines.

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    • Can we at least get one thing straight?

      Wall Street != Business.

      I’m sick of those overentitled sociopaths being made the official spokesmen of America’s “business” community, when in reality they are closer to casino magnates playing off the productive sectors of the economy and the regular people who have to invest in the market for any semblance of retirement savings.

      If the President uses rhetoric that sounds like “us vs them” on the financial services sector, it might actually be because the vast majority of Americans despise those same people and bailing them out was extremely unpopular. (Not to mention the subsequent lack of any remorse or even anything other than overwheening self-importance.)

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      • Nob, exactly correct. I’ve said as much in my post above, “The pros smell a bunch of new rubes coming into the casino.” I lived in Vegas, I know a thing or two about casinos. Those huge buildings weren’t paid for by the gambling /winners/. Those “sociopaths” would happily sell their own grandmother down the river for a profit. When 9/11 happened, they couldn’t short the stocks fast enough. Now unfortunately the sociopaths have been replaced by algorithms that are even more cold-blooded.

        It isn’t Wall Street but Main Street that matters. Lost in all the argument about raising taxes on “the rich” is the problem the Left can’t address. Currently a lot of folks who pay taxes as if they were “rich” are in reality struggling S-Corporation owners. Struggling in the sense that they are only one mistake or disaster not of their own making from going out of business. They don’t have the luxury like JP Morgan bank of shrugging off a $9 Billion trading loss.

        Case in point. I know the owner of a chain of hardware stores. It is a family run business and at one time he had his 4 sons and their 5 cousins each running a store. He paid taxes every year on “income” in the millions for his S-Corp. Then over the course of about a year his CFO embezzled about $900K from the company. Only $900K you say, he’s a rich bastard he should have just shrugged it off. In reality they ended up closing 9 of their 11 stores, laying off over a hundred employees and very nearly going under. Small businesses exist on the razor’s edge in our economy, and it is them and only them in the real scheme of things who hire employees. Major companies like Apple don’t hire you unless you’re the cream of the cream, and if you’re not, you’d better hope you can get a job with some mom and pop, build up experience and maybe then have the good fortune to get nabbed by a major corp. Ultimately those big companies don’t help the unemployment needle a bit because they don’t hire unemployed, they steal currently working employees from smaller businesses.

        Small business is and always has been the backbone of this country. They are a very critical part of the economic food chain. Limousine liberals ignore them at their peril, imagining that everyone can work for the government and the few blessed corporations currently in political favor. Unfortunately reality doesn’t work that way.

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        • Oh, c’mon. The software’s only operating on assertions any sensible trader would use if only he was consistent enough to apply their own policies. What’s wrong with a disciplined trader taking a profit when he’s reached his preassigned threshold?

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          • Kimmi, the difference is using a GPS in your car or letting the GPS do all the driving for you. Oh, and /this/ GPS likes to play demolition derby.

            Blaise, we’re not disagreeing here. Giving or taking a haircut is the name of the game in the casino called “the market”. The problem is the casino market impacts so much more of society in often deleterious ways. Small traders can make a living in the market akin to ants eating the flour that falls out of the bags stevedores haul around the docks.

            People point to the stock market crash of ’29 as if it caused the Great Depression directly. Although it had a horrible effect causing vast (but illusory) wealth to instantly disappear, the Depression continued and in fact was made worse by the policies intended to combat it. Bernanke studied those policy mistakes and swore he wouldn’t repeat them. He hasn’t, but whether some future economist will study Ben’s moves in the same way Ben studied his predecessors remains to be seen. If you had money in the Depression things were great. I just met someone this weekend who was talking about all the land his father acquired during then from ruined ranchers and farmers. Consumption drives economies and broke consumers can’t spend. Wall Street is the tail end of a long chain of events but the tail shouldn’t wag the dog.

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            • Wow, Ward. I had to check to make sure it was you saying this. I guess it makes a difference around here who says what. A while back, I said almost the same thing you are, making a distinction between real economic investment (like the classic farmer buying a new tractor) and financial investment (gambling on stocks), and Roger jumped down my throat claiming it was all virtuous and productive.

              I don’t expect you to care, but you’ve risen a big notch in my respect-o-meter.

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    • Ward, the S&P 5000 and later Wilshire “total stock market” indices track the DJIA pretty closely, so your point about the DJIA not representing the (stock) market is not correct.

      Also, the rise in the stock market isn’t a sudden event. It’s been going up for a while, and that rise has been during an era of historically low Treasury rates. That seems inconsistent with your “Meanwhile the economic policies of the Fed are pushing investors out of safe haven cash into equities. That is creating a bubble atmosphere…” If people were exiting cash (of various forms, all of which are correlated with short-term Treasuries) and heading into equities, we’d expect the government to have to offer higher interest on its Treasuries. We’re not seeing that.

      The rise in the stock market is probably better explained by corporate profits, which have been doing quite well recently.

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      • Brian you are wrong, sorry. The FED is /buying/ the TREASURIES. You need to look up what QE and Operation Twist mean.

        Let me try this a different way. You are sitting on $1,000,000 cash. You could put it in the bank and earn a whopping .25% interest. What does that mean at the end of the year? How much money have you earned? How does that square with inflation? When corporations like Apple have cash, they can’t just put it “in the bank” because they have too much. Therefore they have “cash equivalents”, which are highly liquid ‘investments’ such as Treasuries, AAA bonds (if they can find them) and so on down the line. Unfortunately while they are preserving their asset, they are getting a miserable return on investment (thanks to the Fed’s policies). Their next option is to invest in shares of companies, including themselves. Unfortunately they have a lot of company in that idea, so the prices are bid up constantly, /because there is no other good place to put the money/. This is my point, now I will respond to Nob above to further flesh it out.

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  5. Just to be really clear about the 47% that don’t pay income taxes?

    a) Its “federal income taxes”
    b) Its does *not* include payroll taxes
    c) Its the Dirt Poor(15%), Retired(13%), Unemployed(9%), Disabled(5%), Students(%3), Misc(%2).

    So, the next time you hear about the 47% that are moochers, and don’t “take personal responsibility and care for their lives”, just ask “Who in the above category do you intend to make pay more in income taxes?

    “Hey Mr. Unemployed! You need to take personal responsibility! Pay up on your taxes! I *don’t* care ‘With What?’, just pay dammit!”

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  6. Shorter:
    1. Romney’s secret video audience is the sector sucking most off the government teat/treat.
    2. I agree that the teaborg subcrowd of 47% non irs payers will remain oblivious. They were pwned long ago.
    3. During the GOP caucuses, I gave Romney a probationary chance as a “numbers” man, but knew that the teathug/kochsuchin milieu would overcome (to incalculable multiples) any moral core Romney may possess.
    I remain correct. Romney consistently demonstrates that he is more of a pushover than Obama is.

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  7.  Since last May, I have steadily maintained that Mitt Romney could not win the election; but despite this inevitablity I have also said that I felt he has the makings to be a good president.

    You’re overly optimistic. Nothing about Mitt has ever suggested to me that he’d make a good president, just that he maybe be a little less bad than Bush II. He’s never offered a rationale for running or any vision of what he wanted to do if elected. I think the line about the market rallying just because he’s elected pretty much sums up Mitt in all his over-weening conceit. If there was ever any doubt that Mitt thinks he’s better than almost anybody else and should be elected by acclamation, this video should put an end to it.

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  8. You know, it is sort of compulsory for a candidate to claim that he’ll be good for the economy, and that the markets will rise is just the obvious corollary to that.

    I really think the other remark was both foolish and mean-spirited. But this one? Ehh. It’s to be expected.

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  9. Romney quote: “[M]y job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.

    Tod quote: “Despite the way the quote looks out of context, however, the obvious intended meaning is far more innocuous: Romney is clearly talking election strategy and identifying the people he most needs to reach out to in order to win. He isn’t saying the 47% don’t matter as people, he’s saying he can’t focus the campaign on them because they’ll never vote for him anyway.

    You’ve gotta be kidding. If he’d meant your interpretation, he’d have said that. He very clearly considers them to be morally deficient in some way and therefore he hasn’t anything to say to them. What makes his quote shocking is the total lack of empathy that might lead him to wonder why people might be on government assistance – nope, it’s just some personal flaw in them and that’s that.

    And that lack of insight on his part does not auger well for a President.

    Also: the things-will-get-better-just-’cause-I’m-MEEEEEE!!!! thing? Can we spell “Messiah Complex” much?

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      • I go back to Jaybird’s comment of a few days ago.

        I don’t think he actually believes anything. I think he says what he believes the audience that is listening to him wants to hear. Whenever you hear Mitt say anything, it’s not informative to imagine it reflects what he thinks.

        It’s informative to imagine that it reflects what he thinks his current audience wants to hear. This tells us more about what Mitt thinks of the people who were in the meeting than anything else.

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        • I am reminded of a weird dynamic that existed during the campaign of 2004. The whole “other candidate said (this) and I am exercised!” thing and the difference between certain things that Bush said and certain things that Kerry said.

          One of the things that Bush said, remember, was “bring it on”. This is an example of an exercising statement that gets people on this side saying “OH MY GOSH HOW DARE HE INVITE TERRORISTS TO TRY TO KILL US ALL” and people on that side saying “YEAH! HELL YEAH!!! BRING IT ON!!!! WOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! USA! USA! USA!”

          One of the things that Kerry said, remember, was “I voted for it before I voted against it”. This statement got people on that side to say such things as “HE’S A FLIPFLOPPER! HE TRIES TO HAVE IT BOTH WAYS!!!” and people on this side saying “Well, you have to understand, the Senate has many kinds of archaic rules and there are bills that have these traits on Monday and those traits on Thursday and a bill that could well be worth voting for or against on Monday could be rewritten in committee and come out being the exact opposite and so it makes sense that someone would vote for a bill then vote against it later on in the week and if you weren’t so stupid and partisan you’d know more about the Senate and thus wouldn’t need me to explain this to you.”

          If you’re going to have a statement that exercises people, it’s better to give the former rather than the latter.

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  10. “If there aren’t policy details given beyond this, I’ll have to do a major reassessment of the man.”

    Shouldn’t the fact that he’s releasing policy details in a secret big-donor confab rather than at public campaign events also concern you?

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  11. Hmm, perhaps someone already made this point above Tod, but:

    “Despite the way the quote looks out of context, however, the obvious intended meaning is far more innocuous”

    He’s literally saying that these people are irresponsible and will never be convinced (at least not by him) to take repsonisbility for themselves. That is completely outside the context of voting and election support.

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    • No it isn’t. The idea is that those who expect the government to take care of them will almost certainly vote for Democrats. Only if they decide to take responsibility for their own lives, giving up the expectation that the government will take care of them, will they consider voting for a Republican.

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  12. So you got Sullied again…

    But uh, Tod, next time can you not mix up “than” and “then” in a front page post, so we don’t have to see it show up on the Dish?

    (This is just a jealous Nob making a comment.)

    If this is the plan, than Mitt Romney has no business being anywhere near the White House, and he should never, ever be allowed to be Commander-In-Chief.

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    • I’m stealing this from David Frum’s site; I never would have found it as I’m not a Dickens fan. It’s a quote from Hard Times (1847):

      Surely there never was such fragile china-ware as that of which the millers of Coketown were made. Handle them never so lightly, and they fell to pieces with such ease that you might suspect them of having been flawed before. They were ruined, when they were required to send labouring children to school; they were ruined when inspectors were appointed to look into their works; they were ruined, when such inspectors considered it doubtful whether they were quite justified in chopping people up with their machinery; they were utterly undone, when it was hinted that perhaps they need not always make quite so much smoke. …

      Whenever a Coketowner felt he was ill-used – that is to say, whenever he was not left entirely alone, and it was proposed to hold him accountable for the consequences of any of his acts – he was sure to come out with the awful menace, that he would ‘sooner pitch his property into the Atlantic.’ This had terrified the Home Secretary within an inch of his life, on several occasions.

      However, the Coketowners were so patriotic after all, that they never had pitched their property into the Atlantic yet, but, on the contrary, had been kind enough to take mighty good care of it. So there it was, in the haze yonder; and it increased and multiplied.

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      • Ayn Rand, you have been pwned!

        I’m not a Dickens fan either, so I’m stealing this from George Orwell:

        When one reads any strongly individual piece of writing, one has the impression of seeing a face somewhere behind the page. It is not necessarily the actual face of the writer. I feel this very strongly with Swift, with Defoe, with Fielding, Stendhal, Thackeray, Flaubert, though in several cases I do not know what these people looked like and do not want to know. What one sees is the face that the writer ought to have. Well, in the case of Dickens I see a face that is not quite the face of Dickens’s photographs, though it resembles it. It is the face of a man of about forty, with a small beard and a high colour. He is laughing, with a touch of anger in his laughter, but no triumph, no malignity. It is the face of a man who is always fighting against something, but who fights in the open and is not frightened, the face of a man who is generously angry — in other words, of a nineteenth-century liberal, a free intelligence, a type hated with equal hatred by all the smelly little orthodoxies which are now contending for our souls.

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  13. Actually he makes a very good point. There are a certain percentage of folks who are “on the dole”. You can parse that how you like. Those getting transfer payments wouldn’t vote for a cannidate that would decrease those payments if elected. This is a no brainer.

    That’s the beauty of “entitlement” programs, their vested interests. No one wants their ox gored, making it harder to reduce/eliminate them, so they continue and grow. Contempt? Hell yea, I’m tired of half my income going to folks that are abled bodied but refuse to work.

    *std disclaimer that there are SOME who cannot work, but there are a lot that could.

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  14. We’ll see capital come back and we’ll see—without actually doing anything—we’ll actually get a boost in the economy. If the president gets reelected, I don’t know what will happen. I can—I can never predict what the markets will do

    Nice contradiction there…

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