In politics, there's nothing more fun than watching a politician self-destruct. Mitt Romney's doing a better job of it than most.
Let me count the ways. First, his disastrous trip to Europe, where he managed to insult the population of every country he visited. He came home only to name extreme right-winger Paul Ryan as his running mate, thereby automatically assuming the questionable mantle of the candidate who would eliminate Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
Romney and Ryan then presided over the dullest political convention ever, remembered only for Clint Eastwood's empty chair act, which Romney capped with his ham-handed comments on Libya, accusing President Obama of siding with the murderers of Ambassador Chris Stevens.
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And now Romney's made his biggest gaffe to date, denouncing 47 percent of Americans as good-for-nothing moochers who pay no federal income tax, take no responsibility for their own lives, and instead just loll around, waiting for the next government handout. They all support Obama anyway, says Mitt, so he's not even going to waste his time asking for their vote.
Romney made his snooty comments behind closed doors at a $50,000 per napkin reception in Boca Raton on May 17. But when they surfaced this week, on a video filmed at the event and released by Mother Jones, Romney didn't back down. He doubled-down, insisting that his view of takers vs. makers sums up the difference between him and Barack Obama.
Now, we knew Mitt Romney was out of touch with average Americans. Unless you own a NASCAR team, or an NFL team, or three or four dressage horses, you don't exist in his universe. As Current TV's Jennifer Granholm told the Democratic Convention in Charlotte, "In Romney's world, the cars get the elevator; the workers get the shaft!"
So, we knew he was out of touch. We just didn't know how out of touch he was – until he maligned half of the American electorate. Yes, according to the Tax Policy Center, it's true that 46.4 percent of Americans pay no federal income tax. But Romney has no idea who they are, or why they pay no taxes. They're not freeloaders. They're military families. They're working poor and middle-class families. They're senior citizens on fixed incomes.
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Of course, they do pay some taxes: payroll tax, sales taxes, local taxes. The main reason they pay no federal income tax is one Romney will never understand: They don't make enough money. According to the TPC, half of those paying no income tax earn less than $16,812 per year. Most have incomes less than $33,542 per year. Sixty percent of them have jobs. Twenty-five percent of them are elderly, living on Social Security. And most of them live in red states. Romney's insulted his own base!
Apparently, Romney also doesn't understand that another reason those families owe no income tax is because they take advantage of certain tax credits for the poor, which the Republican Party has long championed. The earned income tax credit, for example, was signed into law by Gerald Ford in March 1975. The child tax credit, adopted under Bill Clinton, was extended under George W. Bush. Under existing law, the Tax Policy Center notes, "a couple with two children earning less than $26,400 will pay no federal income tax because their $11,600 standard deduction and four exemptions of $3,700 each reduce their taxable income to zero."
Yet, in Romney's perverted world, it's wrong for those poor families to accept any tax relief. They're freeloaders! While it's perfectly acceptable, even honorable, for Romney and his billionaire buddies to take advantage of every tax loophole on the books, including hiding their money offshore in the Cayman Islands or a Swiss bank account. He's one of the biggest "takers" of all.
Romney doesn't get it. The problem with so many people paying no income tax is not with those poor or middle-class families who don't make enough money to qualify. It's with the super-rich, like him, who can afford to pay more, and should pay more, but who pay less than their fair share or, perhaps, no income tax at all.
The big question: Is Mitt Romney himself part of the 47 percent he disdains? Is he one of those lazy bums who pays no federal income tax at all? I suspect he is. Only he can prove he's not, by releasing his tax returns.