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Posted by on Sep 17, 2012 in Politics, Science & Technology | 9 comments

Memo to politicians: off-the-record is dead and buried

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is the latest high profile politican to discover that there is no such thing as off-the-record when high quality recording devices fit in a pocket.

Earlier today, Mother Jones reported that Romney has expresed a frank disdain for people who support President Obama’s re-election bid. He did so at a fundraiser, assuming that everyone there was, you know, a supporter.

From the transcript, emphasis added:

There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to 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…These are people who pay no income tax.

Mother Jones is a niche and liberal publication. If this story stayed there, the impact would be marginal.

But the story is moving into the mainstream news cycle. Here’s the BBC, noting that the Romney campaign has responded to the story but did not deny the authenticity of the video.

Romney’s comments are far more controversial — and potentially harmful — than Obama’s foot-in-mouth comments from April 2008, also made at a private fundraiser.

According to the Washington Post, Republicans have been claiming for some time that 47 percent of Americans pay no income tax. It’s a false claim. I’d go so far as to say it’s a pants-on-fire kind of false claim:

Let’s set aside the question of whether this is what Mitt Romney really believes deep down in his heart. Maybe this is what he thinks. Or maybe he just thought it was a good line to buck up jittery donors. What we can say is that the last part is wrong. There is no fair accounting in which 47 percent of Americans take no “personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

[…] That leaves 6.9 percent of households which are non-elderly and have incomes less than $20,000 per year and aren’t paying the payroll tax. These poorer households pay neither income taxes nor payroll taxes. Perhaps Romney thinks that they should all pay more in federal taxes. It’s hard to say. But this is also a much smaller fraction of Americans.

But remember the campaign pledge back in August: “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.”


At some point, this disdain for truth has got to have consequences. But unless there is an overwhelming rejection of this campaign at the polls on November 6, we voters will be doomed to this modern political variant on “choose your own adventure” storybooks which is “made up facts will get you elected.”