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How damaging is Romney's 'victims' comment? (+video)

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's staff was sent scrambling when a video surfaced of Romney saying almost half of all Americans, 'believe they are victims.' 

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The remarks came at a closed-door fundraiser that Mother Jones reported occurred after Romney had clinched the GOP nomination. To protect the identity of the person who provided the remarks, Mother Jones blurred out the video and did not provide the date or location of the fundraiser. Romney formally clinched the nomination May 29 and formally accepted it last month at the Republican convention in Tampa.

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Many of the Americans who owe no income tax are reprieved because basic exemptions — such as the "standard deduction" — took their taxable income below the cutoff levels. The other half rely mainly on a variety of tax breaks, such as the credit that helps offset child care costs.

These Americans range from the very poor to solidly middle-class families with jobs, homes, cars and vacations. The Tax Policy Center says "relatively few nontaxable households" have incomes exceeding $100,000; families that make between $50,000 and $100,000 often owe no income tax because of breaks for their kids and for education.

Americans who pay no federal income tax still often pay an array of other taxes. They include payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare, sales taxes, property taxes and state and local taxes.

A handful of extremely wealthy families do not pay federal income taxes. This summer the Internal Revenue Service reported that six of the 400 highest-earning households in America owed no federal income tax in 2009.

Still, many are low-income Americans. According to the August 2010 AP-GfK poll, a majority of Americans who make less than $30,000 a year are Democrats. But 27 percent identify as Republicans, and 15 percent say they're independents. About 57 percent say they will vote for Obama, while 38 percent back Romney. About 43 percent identify themselves as conservatives.

Obama faced a similar moment in the 2008 campaign, when he told donors that many Americans who are angry about their struggles "cling to their guns or religion."

Romney's running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, made reference to that remark Monday at a campaign event in Des Moines, Iowa.

"I remember that one time when he was talking to a bunch of donors in San Francisco and he said people like us, people from the Midwest like to cling to their guns and religion," Ryan said.

Ryan went on: "And I've got to tell you this Catholic deer hunter is guilty as charged and proud to say so. That's just weird. Who says things like that? That's just strange."

Associated Press deputy polling director Jennifer Agiesta in Washington and Associated Press writers Ken Thomas in Los Angeles, David Pitt in Des Moines, Iowa, and Charles Babington, Philip Elliott and Julie Pace in Washington contributed to this report.

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