Tuesday, September 18, 2012


perhaps the most lasting effect of this 47% video is that we might finally get that 47% figure debunked.

the 47% number was popularized about a year ago as a response to the occupy movement's "we are the 99%" slogan. in response, conservatives jumped behind the tax policy center's study that found that 46.4% of the american public paid no income taxes in 2011. they rounded that up to 47% and then launched the "we are the 53%" campaign, whose tumblr site showed that many of the people identifying themselves as part of the 53% of taxpayers, were in fact part of the 47%. (it is somewhat sad that both sites are now inactive)

the power of the 53%-47% meme is that no one thinks they are part of the moocher class. so more than 53% of the population can jump on the bandwagon to demonize an imaginary 47% that always begins with someone else over there. that's why the right wing echo chamber has been railing against the 47% for the past year, and that is why they have mostly embraced romney's leaked comments in the past 24 hours. what seems shocking to so many people is pretty much what the wingnuts have been saying to each other for a while.

but as long as the "47% doesn't pay any taxes" line is on the fringe (even if it an influential fringe), no one bothers to look into the accuracy of the number. which sends us back to that original tax policy center study. of the 46.4% who did not pay income taxes, more than half paid payroll taxes. in other words, they did have a job. so how did they avoid paying income taxes? because they took advantage of some of the tax breaks that the republican party has been championing for years, things like the child tax credit, or soldiers in combat zones. what about the other half that didn't pay income or payroll taxes? most of them are elderly. that is, they are people who used to work but who are now retired and are living off their social security and their pension rather than income from a job.

so if you take all of them out, that leaves somewhere between 7 and 8% (6.9% plus less than 1%) of the adult population, who don't pay income or payroll taxes and who are not elderly. at best, they are the people living off of public assistance who rush limbaugh et. al. rail about. but they are such a small percentage of the population (and are from a demographic that largely doesn't vote). so there is no way that they can account for the fact the majority of obama's support. thanks to romney's leaked video, that is the story that the mainstream press is beginning to pay attention to.

not that any media is going to convince any of the wingnuts. but it may help convince, in the immortal words of mittens himself, "the five to ten percent in the center, that are independents, that are thoughtful, that look at voting one way or the other depending upon in some cases emotion, whether they like the guy or not."