In the Arena

Bitter, Clinging Moochers

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I went back and listened to Barack Obama’s 2008 fundraising gaffe about people in small towns who have grown “bitter” and so they “cling to their guns or religion or antipathy toward people who are not like them …” to compare it with Mitt Romney’s “47%” monstrosity. And it’s interesting: there are similarities, but the differences are greater, and Romney’s is far worse. The greatest similarity, of course, is that both candidates were playing to the prejudices of their funders: Democrats boggled by (mostly white) working-class people who don’t “vote their economic self-interest,” Republicans convinced that they are carrying a nation of (mostly minority) freeloaders and government employees on their backs. The greatest difference is that Obama was describing a part of the country that actually exists, although in a patronizing and inaccurate way, and Mitt Romney was giving credence to a statistical chimera — in fact, he was slagging off a majority of his most devoted supporters.

(LIST: All Campaign Gaffes from 2008)

In context, Obama was talking about small-town America, a place where the jobs “have been gone for 25 years now” and “nothing has replaced them.” Both Republican and Democratic administrations have failed to address this central economic problem, he said, and so the residents grow “bitter” and start to cling to their guns and Bibles. But Obama, the Whole Foods arugula shopper, ignored the fact that a great many gun owners are not bitter but joyful in the hunt — indeed, that they derive as much pleasure from their sport as Obama does from basketball or golf. Nor did he understand that in many small towns religion is a source of service and good deeds and community, of drug treatment and food banks, as well as the pure peace of prayerful meditation. But Obama was right about the larger picture: there was a fear and bitterness in white small-town America that had its roots in the changing economy and expressed itself in anger that some people — immigrants, welfare recipients (and especially, now, those on Social Security Disability) and those lazy folks at the Department of Motor Vehicles — were getting over. Those sentiments, obviously, gave rise to the Tea Party. They are undiminished today. And clearly, Obama was saying something he really believed, although — to borrow a Romney locution — inelegantly.

(PHOTOS: Political Pictures of the Week, Sept. 7–14)

I’m not so sure about Romney. I’m pretty sure he’s smart enough to know that the 47% he summoned was in the category of “damned lie” statistics. I’m pretty sure he knows that the vast majority of those people work their butts off, pay federal payroll taxes (and a raft of state and local levies) or are senior citizens receiving Social Security and Medicare. I’m not sure that he has put two and two together: that a great many of the 47% — the white working-class voters and senior citizens — are Romney voters. Or that they don’t pay income taxes because of Republican tax cuts and Republican child and earned-income tax credits. But I am absolutely convinced that Mitt Romney has been inured to Republican fat-cat audiences complaining about how much they have to pay to keep the American enterprise afloat, and that he was well aware of the Fox-Rush echo-chamber formulations about food-stamp growth and dependency and people not paying federal taxes, and he was playing to those prejudices. The exigencies of fundraising have forced him to spend more time with plutocrats than average citizens this year. It’s not surprising that he’s lost track of the world as most people see it. Hell, he’s spending today — the day after this momentous gaffe — fundraising rather than trying to change the topic.

(PHOTOS: The Rich History of Mitt Romney)

That’s the biggest difference: Romney was playing to the fantasy prejudices of fat cats; Obama was trying to explain the very real prejudices of the white working class, especially — and this absolutely essential part of the quote was not picked up — their “antipathy toward people not like them.”

There is another difference: Obama’s gaffe was a minor tributary off the main story of the 2008 presidential campaign, which was the economic collapse. Romney’s adoption of the Fox-Rush neolibertarian sensibility, and the remedies that it assumes, is the main story of the 2012 campaign. He will have to defend his fantasy in the debates. He will have to say why he believes that 47% of the American public don’t want to “take responsibility” for their lives. He will have to say why the Republican policies at the heart of this problem — eliminating income taxes for the working class, expanding food stamps (a George W. Bush initiative), expanding Medicare to cover prescription drugs (Bush again) — are bad for the country.

Romney has placed himself in an impossible position, and he’s gotten there the old-fashioned way: he’s earned it by pandering to the worst elements in his party, by embracing a phony narrative that vastly exaggerates what’s happening in this country. (Yes, entitlement programs, including Social Security Disability as well as the middle-class entitlements, do need to be reformed.) He has preached pessimism about America, seen the dark side of every issue — especially immigration, by the way — and, as we’ve now seen on Israel, taken the side of a foreign leader against our nation’s best interests. (The very Netanyahu notion that a two-state solution is a bad idea and the best way to deal with it is to pay it lip service and kick the can down the road.) All this has rendered his campaign a parachute jump into quicksand, and he is sinking fast.

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Jill Louis
Jill Louis

 

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JohnYuEsq
JohnYuEsq

Money means power. Concentrated wealth at the top means extraordinary power at the top. The reason Romney pays a rate of only 14 percent on $13 million of income in 2011 -- a lower rate than many in the middle class -- is because he exploits a loophole that allows private equity managers to treat their income as capital gains, taxed at only 15 percent.

And that loophole exists solely because private equity and hedge fund managers have so much political clout -- as a result of their huge fortunes and the money they've donated to political candidates -- that neither party will remove it.

In other words, everything America is learning about Mitt Romney -- his tax returns, his years at Bain Capital, the video of his speech to high-end donors in which he belittles half of America, his gaffes, the budget policies he promotes -- repeat and reenforce the same underlying reality.

So much wealth and power have accumulated at the top of America that our economy and our democracy are seriously threatened. Romney not only represents this problem. He is the living embodiment of it.

ROBERT B. REICH, Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley

Cranios
Cranios

Joe Klein, blind apologist for Obama.

stalkinghorse
stalkinghorse

Romney's comment perfectly illustrates the difference between today's Republican party and the Republican party of 25 years ago.

Back then, Republicans were for creating opportunities for poorer Americans so they could pull themselves up and not have to be dependent on the government.

Today's Republicans say that the poorer half of the country consists of lazy, irresponsible victims who shouldn't be bothered with.

ChowT
ChowT

Today GOPers are taking apportunities away from poorer Americans.

cal_culus
cal_culus

I suspect that a morally bankrupt political party will drive us off the fiscal cliff.

Fatesrider
Fatesrider

It's not that Romney dissed at least one person in the country someone else knows.  It's not that he has the erroneous rightist attitude that people who don't pay federal income tax are automatically moochers for those who do and are dependent on the government.  It's not that he thinks people who don't pay federal income tax don't take any responsibility for their lives.

It's that he's a candidate for President of the United States and he thinks  he won't "worry about them" when he's President.

I don't care how off the cuff that was, that is one he can't walk back in my book.

Nora Channing
Nora Channing

 I think you need a teleprompter.  Using ignorant and idiot in the same sentence is redundant.  You're also abusing one of the freedoms we enjoy in this country. Freedom of speech does not mean lack of respect  for another or their opinion.  In fact, the more we respect and embrace the different ideas, the better this country is.

Nora Channing
Nora Channing

 Agree. However, if he's blind to his faults, it because being blind has served him well.  Being elected in no way guarantees he would be given the miracle of sight.

In my book, refusal, inability (whatever) to see one's own faults=overly large ego=ignorance of the true problems and solutions needed.

Nora Channing
Nora Channing

 She spelled it EXACTLY the way it is, regarding so many in the news media who dictate, or dictated to, the information the general public is 'allowed' to know.

Nora Channing
Nora Channing

 Neither.  He walked into a nightmare.  Those in D.C. who didn't support him gave threw every obstacle possible in his way.  If you compare his promises and the conditions of this country to past presidents, their promises and conditions at the time, Obama has actually done far more.  It's  is important to not discount where this county was when Obama took office.

Nora Channing
Nora Channing

Agree!  Romney referred to those supporting Obama as moochers. The 'moochers' are those forced to accept help because people like Romney do not care about those who helped make them rich.  That's been proven again and again. It's a given that Romney is hideously inaccurate because those voting for Obama are comprised of a great cross section of this nation.

wdmll
wdmll

My wife and I are receiving social security (we both paid our share into it); we have retirements and investments. I was in Navy and later worked for over forty years and my wife worked almost forty years. One of our daughters had real good grades and received a half scholarship and we paid for the other half. We have always paid our share of taxes (including federal income taxes) for more than forty years. When we started out, we didn’t buy more house (a small home) than we could afford. Also at first, we bought low cost small cars.

We played by the rules and didn’t over spend and saved for the future. We are now upper middleclass and are proud of it.

The people on government handouts from the day they are born until they die, are Obama’s people.

When I was a kid, I was bounced from home to home, my parents were divorced. I had multiple stepparents and was exposed to a lot of negativity. I did things I'm not proud of (Drinking and etc. were the norm). On the plus side, we got some financial help from church. After I grew up, my daughters waited until they were married to have families and are now living normal happy lives.

So you can come from a problematic upbringing and not have to, live off the government.

Godzilla1960
Godzilla1960

Guess what?  You and your wife are part of the 47% Mr. Romney is talking about.  

Both you and your wife will, assuming you live the average lifespan, take out of social security twice as much as you put in.

wdmll
wdmll

No, Romney is talking about those people who live off handouts, most of their lives. We lived productive lives (lean times and better times) for over forty years and are still paying more taxes than over 50% of the population.

Godzilla1960
Godzilla1960

Nobody within the 47% thinks Mr. Romney was talking about them.

BobJan
BobJan

 are you telling us that under all the other presidents everyone was working and then when Obama took office the Congress changes all the requirements for collecting food stamps, rent subsidy and all the other good stuff that the working poor get just so Obama can be a food stamp president? You mean that when the banks, brokerages and other multi-billion dollar financial institutions collapsed and we (taxpayers) bailed them out that was Obama's fault too. You need to get your head on straight and stop bashing people that have less control than you. GW Bush lost business after business before his rich friends bailed him out so he could build the Texas Rangers a new stadium at  taxpayer expense. Yup, he played by the rules. You'll never get to play by them rules. They're called "stick it to em" rules.

wdmll
wdmll

I stand by what I wrote, you can come from a broken family and still make it without help from the government.

BobJan
BobJan

 you are one hard person. those investment you talk about, what would you do when they're all gone because of the laws protecting the financial industry from their stupidity? you sure aren't making money by yourself. you just don't have a clue. have a nice day.

JohnYuEsq
JohnYuEsq

STOP the GRIDLOCK in Washington.  TAKE BACK the USA for the MIDDLE CLASS as ONLY the DEMOCRATS WILL DO.  

VOTE the DEMOCRATIC TICKET!

Paul H
Paul H

This "analysis" would have been more convincing if he hadn't already been biased against Romney.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

 And Republican "Analysts" would be more convincing if they weren't biased against reality.

priestson
priestson

Also the problem Romney either missed, or pointedly

didn’t mention, was the large-scale sponging 

off government by what a former Canadian politician once described as “

corporate welfare bums”.

Not so long ago the CEO’s of the big three carmakers

were off to Washington DC with their begging  bowls, except that beggars don’t normally  go begging in Lear jets.

Moreover,  several, very large  world class banks in America and Britain went

cap in hand to their governments and were accorded massive support. Nevertheless,

their senior management still  received

immense year-end bonuses despite poor performance.  They were not 

film  or sports star with  exceptional skills but more or less pedestrian

folk  lucky enough to have a good

position.

Well,Romney might say, the banks were too big to fail and look what happened when they  pulled the plug on Lehman

Bros.(Who was in th White House then)? Okay, but if the normal  individual “welfare bums” were not given hand

outs then consumer  spending would weaken

so where would  the big corporations be?

The feeling by the “successful” , many of them born with  a silver spoon in their mouths, that if you

are poor it’s your own damn fault is

an antediluvian concept. I am not a  socialist

but in a big society the more support given to the weak, be they poor  households or seriously weakened banks and

corporations, the better it is for the economy and overall well being of the

people.

andthereiis
andthereiis

Wow... at least the author wqas unbiased in this article.  Geez.  What horsecrap.

"Let me defend all of Obama's stuff, but tell you why Romeny meant what he said".

You should be picking up trash, not writing them. 

priestson
priestson

 Who the Hell is Romeny? I have never heard of  such a person.

BCanuck
BCanuck

The bitter clingers just can't get any darned respect.

First it's the arugula-latte Obama dissing them now it's fat-cat-monopoly-top-hat-Mitt-Antoinette getting down on them.

Who will defend the clingers?

g1001
g1001

47% don't pay income tax.   I would like to ask President Obama if he stands by his "pay their fair share" montra.  note to readers the top 10% pay 70% of the income taxes. 

Godzilla1960
Godzilla1960

But they do pay payroll taxes, sales taxes, property taxes...and all a greater percentage of their income than all of Mr. Romney's taxes combined.

Grant MacDonald
Grant MacDonald

Romney as President; would

mean the darkest amp; meanest period in the United States of America’s

history. Homophobic -- witchcraft would rule the government from Rome amp;

Salt Lake City …!

Godzilla1960
Godzilla1960

I don't like the man either, but life would go on.

AugustineThomas
AugustineThomas

Well at least the evil pagan leftist Nazis ruining San Francisco wouldn't be able to outlaw Jews..

I for one want to live in a country where religion is permitted, not regulated by Dear Leader and his commissars!

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

 Yes we would rather be governed by a Mormon Bishop and his Space God worshiping cult.

Grant MacDonald
Grant MacDonald

John F. Kennedy September

12, 1960, address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association: I believe in

an America where the separation of church and state is absolute--where no

Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be Catholic) how to act,

and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote--where

no church or church school is granted any public funds or political

preference--and where no man is denied public office merely because his

religion differs from the President who might appoint him or the people who

might elect him.

Separation of

church and state was enshrined in the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,

which states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of

religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

What the religious radicals don't tell

people, and what, tragically, many Americans apparently don't know, is that

when it comes to determining what the laws of the United States mean, the only

document that matters is the Consti­tution. The Constitution, a completely

secular document, contains no references to God, Jesus or Christianity. 

AugustineThomas
AugustineThomas

You take your advice from a guy who pimped a 17 year old girl in the White House to an overweight fifty year old lackey with a wife and children older than the girl he was raping ?

creativitygirl
creativitygirl

Redistribution is the theme of the day! Stick it to the wealthy, I say! For every worker that puts in their 8 hours and goes home to their couch and beer, there is a business owner doing the books until midnight and risking their capital on growing their business. To say that they are equal and deserving of the same parts of the pie is just ridiculous. You choose your path. You make it happen. Don't cry when you haven't taken any risks what so ever. What a nation of babies. 

AugustineThomas
AugustineThomas

I know....You and me should go get chicken wings at midnight when we're done with the books..

Be_Skeptical
Be_Skeptical

Romney couldn't have said it better himself.  That's why you are going to get creamed.

thommythomas2012
thommythomas2012

Hey people. Do not forget the GWB  elections and despite his several negatives in thought, word and deed proved on film; - how GWB won 2 elections without any sweat against 2 gentlemen of good sense Al Gore and John Kerry. Even though Mitt is a far better candidate than GWB was, his current statement that 47% of Americans supporting President Obama are moochers may just be a ploy, not to get all likely voters for the President to the election booth and to vote. To make them complacent! Remember this election is very very close with regards to those likely to actually vote and Mitt potentially has the cash advantage to bring his supporters to vote for him!

Robert Williams
Robert Williams

But I haven't heard much about Obama's off-mike remark to Putin. I paraphrase...after the election I can show you my true colors but it has to be AFTER, otherwise I won't get elected...

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