8 Falsehoods, Lies and Misstatements From Romney Fundraising Video
Mother Jones released the first of several video excerpts secretly shot at a Mitt Romney fundraiser earlier this year, presumably after he secured the Republican nomination in late May. The first video excerpts, and a related article by MoJo’s David Corn, made big waves on Monday; they show Romney making a series of broad-brush comments insulting Obama voters as ne’er-do-wells who linger on the public payroll and don’t pay taxes.
And that’s only the start. Romney apparently says he would be doing better if he had been born to Mexican parents, says he can’t get too intellectual or specific and win the White House, says the economy would recover by virtue of his election alone—and a whole bunch of other assertions that one feels comfortable making in a room that’s apparently filled with people he believes can raise millions of dollars for him.
There are many things that are disturbing about Romney's fundraiser remarks, starting with the undignified portrayal of the American middle class. But there also are some big factual errors, which show that Romney doesn’t know the country he seeks to lead. AlterNet went through several of the video excerpts and fact-checked his claims. (Romney’s words are in italics, followed by the fact-checking and video below.)
VIDEO I: Obama and the 47 Percenters
1. “All right, 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 healthcare, to food, to housing, 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.”
Are all of Obama’s supporters on some form of public assistance—whether state welfare programs, Medicare, Social Security, a government pension or disability payment? The answer, obviously, is no. According to a JZ Analytics poll of 1,014 likely voters between 9/11 and 9/12, of which 469 backed Obama (46.3%) and 395 backed Romney (38.9%), 137 people, or 29 percent, said they earned more than $75,000 a year. That alone tells you that there is something wrong with Romney’s assertion.
The deeper you go, however, it is possible to see where Romney gets his figure of about half of Americans relying on some form of government assistance—particularly after the stock market crashed in 2008 and Great Recession ensued. According to U.S. Census information cited in various news reports, in 2011’s first quarter, 49.1 percent of the American population lived in households receiving some form of govenment aid. That figure grew by 5 percent since 2008. But, for Romney to be correct, those beneficiaries would not include any Republican households, which is absurd. In fact, landlocked red states rely on federal subsidies that come from taxes paid by coastal blue states—and have for years, as this chart, which comes via Greg Mitchell, points out.
2. “I mean the president starts off with 49, 48, he starts off with a huge number. 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.”
These tax numbers are slippery—the equivalent of cherry-picking statistics to butress a foregone conclusion. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities has examined this claim and issued this detailed analysis, which says that in 2009 about 51 percent of the country did not pay federal income tax. That figure was up from 40 percent before the economic downtown. Anyway, these households paid many other taxes—whether federal fees, levies or state and local taxes.
“When all federal, state, and local taxes are taken into account, the bottom fifth of households pays about 16 percent of their incomes in taxes, on average,” the Center’s analysis said. “The second-poorest fifth pays about 21 percent.” According to the one tax return he's released, Romney paid less than 14%.
3. “He’ll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich. I mean that’s what they sell every four years. So my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
This statement is outrageous not because it has no basis in fact (it doesn’t), but because it shows Romney’s class prejudices. He really doesn’t care about vast swathes of America’s populace, because he wrongly believes that anyone who hasn’t made their millions of dollars is a freeloader.
Again, it’s worth returning to Greg Mitchell’s chart of which states have the highest concentration of households that pay no federal income taxes, because it is clear that contrary to Romney’s biased view, it is the red states that are the “moochers.” (Of course, there are many states that are in-between, but that doesn’t jibe with Romney’s black-and-white pronouncements.)
4. “What I have to do is convince the 5 to 10 percent in the center, that are independents, that are thoughtful, that look at voting one way or the other depending on, in some cases emotion, whether they like the guy or not.”
This is a really curious statement, especially when contrasted with JZ Analytics polling data from last week. Of the 9.9 percent of voters who said they were undecided, about 40 percent said they earned $50,000 a year or less. Do you really think undecided voters in middle- and low-income cohorts are going to be drawn to Romney’s harsh rhetoric?
Video 2: Who’s Failing To Tell The Truth?
5. “We speak with voters across the country about their perceptions. Those are the people that I told you—the 5 to 6 or 7 percent that we have to bring to our side. They all voted for Barack Obama four years ago. So, and by the way, when you say to them, ‘Do you think Barack Obama is a failure?’ they overwhelmingly say no. They like him. But when you say, ‘Are you disappointed that his policies haven’t worked?’ they say yes...
“They love the phrase that ‘he’s over his head.’ …The best success I have at speaking with those people is saying, you know, the president has been a disappointment. He told you he'd keep unemployment below 8 percent. Hasn't been below 8 percent since."
Obama made many promises when pushing for his federal stimulus package in 2009, but according to PolitiFact.com, “This rephrases a tired GOP charge that consistently gets Mostly False or worse ratings. Many Republicans have claimed that Obama promised his stimulus package would keep the national unemployment rate below 8 percent. But Obama never made such a vow.” PolitiFact reported that “it came up with a list of 508 pledges of specific action Obama made when he was running for president and monitors how he’s performed on each one. The list does not include any promises to reduce unemployment.”
6. “Fifty percent of kids coming out of school can't get a job. Fifty percent.”
This is another jumbled statement. A report released last week from the Social Science Research Council found one in seven American young people (ages 16 to 24) was not attending school or did not have a job. That is a very disturbing statistic as it points to generational poverty, but it is not a wholesale 50 percent figure. Where youth unemployment is the highest and approached that 50 percent figure is in minority communities, where the foremost indicator appeared to be the lack of education, the report said—not graduating from school and not finding meaningful work.
Video 3: Mitt Romney, Wall Street Superman
7. “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.”
This claim is nothing but vanity and smugness. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is already up nearly 11 percentage points in 2012. The big problem is many Americans don’t own stocks as they used to, or haven’t shared in that economic good fortune. However, to say that a Romney presidency will send the markets soaring is absurd. Indeed, this chart shows the Dow has recovered nearly all it lost since 2007.
8. “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.
This is another dubious claim by Romney, because one of the key features of the bank credit crunch since the U.S. housing market crashed is that banks have not been lending money to home buyers or small businesses unless they have a lot of collateral. Instead, they have been extending credit to corporations that have fortified their balances sheet by making acquisitions that are not related to a national economic recovery.
Romney’s statement is curious, because when he talks about boosting the economy, you might ask, boost the economy for whom? Clearly not the 47 percenters, all presumably Obama supporters, whom Romney says are paupers on the federal dole. It’s not the undereducated young people who should be getting low-interest government loans for education and building a future, including being qualified employees or entrepreneurs. It seems that Romney is talking to multi-millionaires like himself, who seem to believe that the world turns in response to their pronouncements and business plans. And nothing else matters.