I almost feel a bit sorry for Mitt Romney. Running for president after making a fortune by putting companies out of business as a corporate raider, and being apparently congenitally incapable of showing normal human affection, he’s basically had an uphill battle in attempting to project an image of himself as something other than a rapacious corporate vulture of a Pander-bot who is simultaneously comically out-of-touch with the needs and concerns of the unwashed masses. So, given that challenge, it’s especially tragic for Mitt Romney that he has this bad habit of saying stuff that seems to confirm said entirely accurate perception of him.
It was bad enough when he was quoted as saying that he “likes firing people who provide him services“, or when he makes $10,000 bets during a debate, or calls a six-figure speaking-fees income “not that much”. Even “corporations are people , my friend” didn’t really do him any favors, really. However, his campaign was right that his most recent Kinsley gaffe has been getting a lot of attention because of the way that’s being used out of context. Now, a lesser person might point out that turnabout is fair play, as this is the same Romney campaign that used one of the most aggresively dishonest out-of-context quote of recent memory in one of its early ads, where it attributed to Obama remarks that were quoting John McCain’s ’08 campaign.
BUT, I’m a bigger man than all that, so I’m going to grant Romney the context for his remarks that have so often been denied. It is, after all, the HONEST thing to do. Of course, much like his “I like firing people” moment, taking his remarks within context doesn’t actually make them look any better, but instead reveals even deeper levels of insulting and wrong. Anyway, here’s Willard’s full remarks:
“I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs a repair , I’ll fix it. I’m not concerned about the very rich…. I’m concerned about the very heart of America, the 90-95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling.”
Comparatively innocuous, right? Just as long as you don’t look to closely. Like, he does say that he’s not worried about the very poor, because of the social safety net that we have. So, with that in mind, what are his proposed policies vis a vis said social safety net?
Massive, gouging cuts, that’s what. Romney’s domestic policy calls for slashing away at America’s already weaksauce safety net with enormous cuts to non-defense spending, and he’s specifically voiced support for the Ryan Plan, which calls for increased tax cuts to the super-wealthy, financed in part by replacing Medicare with a voucher system which gives inadequite, and diminishing, coupons for health insurance, and similarly designed to privatize Social Security. So, when Mitt says “I’ll strengthen that safety net”? That would be what those of us with some interest in fidelity to the facts would call an “outright fucking lie“. Indeed, the full context for his remark puts him as saying that he’s not concerned about the very poor, because they have that safety net that he fully entends to slash out from under them, whilst raising their taxes.
But let’s move on, because that’s still not the full story. In the second half of his remark, he helpfully gives us his definition of “the middle class”. Namely, that it consists of 90-95% of Americans. There is literally only one sense in which this is true, and that is that humans, as a species, tend to be incredibly innumerate about this sort of thing, and thus, something like 90-95% of Americans believe that they are members of the middle class. Honestly, anyone who’s heard the rather-quite-rich talk about their income knows how “upper-middle-class” extends into infinity. This a similar effect to that which leads 80% of people to believe that their driving abilities are above-average, and so forth. Naturally, Mitt Romney, and his campaign, must know this full well, and thus this “90% of people are middle class” is itself intended as a cynical pander.
However, let’s go down this rabbit hole anyway. If 90% of people are “middle class”, then it stands to reason that, if we don’t make any judgement about distribution, then the highest the lower bound could be is the cutoff for the 10th percentile of incomes. And the lowest the upper bound could be is the 90th percentile of incomes. So, what do those two numbers look like?
The upper bound of the bottom decile is $10,500 for households. As a point of comparison, the official federal poverty threshold for one person starts $390 higher. Mitt Romney’s avowed definition of “middle class” puts people who are literally in full-blown, federally-defined capital-P Poverty in the “middle class”. Well, it would, if not for the fact, as previously intimated, he’s completely full of shit. But, anybody giving this a serious thought would call those people the “very poor”.
So what about the other end? Let’s assume for a minute that the “90% of people” that Mittens is talking about are just the bottom 90%. What’s the lowest upper bound on his “middle class”, in this case? Well, the lower threshold for being in the top 10% of households is an annual income of $118,200. The best point of comparison I can find for this one is the median income of Loudoun County, Virginia, which is $107,207 as of 2007. That’s right: the average household of the richest county in the United States is also solidly “middle class”. I think we can all agree that the average Loudoun County resident is “really struggling” right now, in Romney’s words.
Of course, even by this pretty absurd standard we’re setting, Mitt Romney still falls pretty far outside the middle class, and even stands out amongst the top 1% of incomes: Romney’s personal income almost certainly puts him amongst the top 0.0025% of earners. Yet, that hardly stops him from lumping himself in with the middle class at campaign stops.
tl;dr, Even in context, Mitt Romney’s lack of concern over the “very poor” proves that he’s either cynical, delusional, or both, and furthermore a profligate liar, no matter what.