A Romney campaign video taken at a private fundraising event has been leaked, uncut, by newsmagazine Mother Jones. And in the video, Romney basically endorsed Obama as a candidate for the 47 percent of Americans who pay no federal income tax, taking it as a given that they would vote for him "no matter what" because they "believe they are victims" and "believe they are entitled to food, to health care, to housing, you name it."
The problem with Mitt Romney's statement? Going by the 13.9 percent figure he gave in 2010, many of those Americans pay more in federal taxes than he does.
How much Romney pays
Romney's campaign confirmed, earlier this year, that in the last 10 years Romney "never paid less" than the 13.9 percent income tax rate he reported. Forbes Magazine's Charles Kadlec explains that it's more complicated than that, partly because of corporate taxes and partly because Romney's donations reduce his tax bill. But a separate Forbes article by Edwin Durgy confirms that most of Romney's "charitable donations" are paid in tithing to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which requires a 10 percent tithe from its members if they want to attend their children's temple weddings (and which recently built an enormous shopping mall in downtown Salt Lake City).
The payroll tax drop in the bucket
The often-quoted "47 percent" figure is used to refer to Americans who don't pay federal income tax. But payroll taxes, which pay for Social Security, cost 15 percent of your income up to a cap of a little over $100,000. Because Romney makes millions of dollars a year, the payroll tax takes up a tiny fraction of his income. But for a janitor supporting a family, and making less than the minimum amount to pay federal income tax (given Earned Income Credit and deductions for his child and spouse), the payroll tax alone puts him over Romney's reported 13.9 percent tax burden.
Not all are in the workforce
The 47 percent also includes many Americans who do not participate in the workforce, such as young students and retired senior citizens. Mitt Romney's statement that all of these are guaranteed Obama voters was factually inaccurate, unless he believed that they were all going to register in the Democratic party between now and the election.
The widow's mite
Another way in which these voters pay more, proportionally, in taxes is because they spend more of their incomes on essentials like food and housing ... especially since the benefits Romney says they feel they deserve, like EBT food subsidies and Section 8 housing vouchers, are either being slashed by recent budgets or were woefully inadequate to begin with, leaving millions hungry or homeless.
The campaigners' responses
Romney said that his words were "not elegantly stated" but that he stood by them. The White House's Press Secretary, Jay Carney, didn't say whether President Obama had watched the videos, but that "the president certainly doesn't think that [students or] men and women on Social Security are irresponsible or victims."