Some may argue that politics is nothing more than a game of numbers. Be it through exit polls, surveys or political speeches, candidates are always making use of some statistical data to get their point across. The act of using numbers as a form of political fodder has become so routine in political life, that elections can be won or lost just based on who ever wields the more impressive use of numbers, even if the numbers being used are incorrect or taken out of context. I personally cannot recall the last time I did not hear a candidates freely throw out a number. Throughout this year’s presidential race, the American public is contently being reminded in mathematical terms of the unemployment numbers, the size of the U.S. debt and promises of how jobs could be created or how the debt could be lowered.
Given that the U.S. on the heels of the one year anniversary of the occupy movement, a movement that ingrained the terms of the 99% and 1% into the American lexicon forever, its only fitting to have another percentage added. Earlier this week, a video was released by Mother Jones, featuring Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaking during a $50,000 plate dinner, held in the home of private equity mogul Mark Leder. In the video, Romney is recorded stating that 47% of Americans who will vote for President Obama “pay no income tax,” that those Americans like to portray themselves as “victims” and are “dependent upon government.” Romney went on to state, “my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” Within that instant, Mitt Romney had written off almost half of the American public as freeloaders.
As this new percentage began making its rounds, it got me to thinking. So who exactly falls into the 47%? NPR’s Plant Money recently published a article explaining who exactly falls into this percentage and by last account, the percentage is actually 46%.
Source: Tax Policy Center
Credit: Lam Thuy Vo / NPR
The chart is compiled by data from the Tax Policy Center. The section labeled low income refers to the 2011 poverty guideline from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which is $26,400 for a family of four. The benefits for the elderly refers to some social security payments that are not taxed as income and the elderly also get other tax breaks that lower their taxes. The benefits for the working poor and children refers to earned income tax credits and tax credits that parents receive for their children. Jacob Goldstein of NPR’s Planet Money explains, “because of these special benefits, a family of four (two parents, two children) earning up to $45,775 last year would not have had to pay income taxes, primarily because of special credits for children.” The section under other benefits refers to itemized deductions, tax credits for education and income tax exemptions.
As the Planet Money article explains, many Americans who were hastily thrown under the bus as freeloaders are in fact merely trying to keep their heads above water. As the political backlash over Romney’s comments went viral over the web, the candidate has chosen to double down on his comments. A view that further cements attacks against him from the Democratic Party, that Romney only truly cares for the wealthy. The comments also have many members of his own political party backing away from him, Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin said that Republicans need to show that “they are concerned about every American,” according to the New York Times. It is going to be a long two months for Mitt.