As yesterday’s Occupy Wall Street chant of “We Are the 99%” fades into the distance, this morning people are wondering: “who are the 47%?”
That is, who exactly are the 47% of Americans that Mitt Romney derisively accused of being “entitled” and “dependents” because they do not pay income taxes?
First, it is worth noting, that the 47% figure cited by Romney is a complete chimera, bordering on an outright lie. The claim that 47% of Americans do not pay income taxes derives from a 2011 study by the Tax Policy Center, an organization that proclaims to be “non-partisan” but in reality tends to be severely conservative. But the very same study also found that most of the people that did not pay federal income taxes still pay payroll taxes that went to fund programs like Medicare and Social Security.
But who are the rest of these “moochers” that Mitt Romney believes have failed to “take responsibility” for their lives?
They are elderly Vietnam veterans that faced down enemy fire and lost limbs while Mitt Romney was spending the war in a French palace.
They are the over 250,000 veterans that enlisted in the army after 9/11 that cannot pay federal income taxes because they do not have a job. This includes people like Bill Shephard, who returned from Iraq and had to sell his Army medal on eBay because nobody would hire him. In honor of their service, Mitt Romney has argued for privatizing the Department of Veterans Affairs, the organization in charge of administering care to our military men and women when they return home. This would give our wounded warriors coupons instead of medical care.
They are middle-class and working-class college students that may not pay income taxes while in school, but will pay plenty after they graduate. While a college education is becoming increasingly necessary to compete in the global economy, Mitt Romney plans to cut federal student aid. He told them instead to “borrow money if you have to from your parents.”
And of course, the 47% includes the working poor, people that simply do not make enough to pay federal income taxes (between $18,700 and $25,000 a year depending on marital status, age, and a variety of other factors). Among the ranks of the working poor is Kathleen Collins, a 34-year-old single-mother of two that is trying to pay rent and feed her two children on $21,000 a year. Mitt Romney wants to tax her.
So who are the 47%? They are the very people that make Mitt Romney’s life of privilege possible. If Mitt Romney was serious about reducing “dependency” in America, he would not have gone after veterans or workers or young people: he would have gone after himself.