Worse than Thurston Howell III
This past Monday, a video surfaced of Mitt Romney ripping on almost half the country to a group of wealthy donors.
In that video, Romney described 47 percent of Americans as freeloaders who “are dependent upon government, who believe they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to take care of them, who believe they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.”
Shortly after, conservative columnist David Brooks wrote a critical op-ed in The New York Times, in which the headline referred to Mittens as “Thurston Howell Romney.”
Well, as a longtime fan of the TV show “Gilligan’s Island,” I feel the need to set the record straight.
The character of Thurston Howell III, played by Jim Backus, may have been rich. He may have been clueless. He may have had a hilariously exaggerated sense of entitlement. But never, not even on his worst day as a castaway, was the amiably addled Thurston Howell III as contemptuous or dismissive to any of his fellow island denizens as Mittens was toward that 47 percent of the nation he hopes to lead.
Actually, if his words are to be believed (admittedly a big “if”), he doesn’t hope to lead them. “My job is not to worry about those people,” he said. Mitt Romney proved once again the old maxim that a conservative is someone who professes to love his country while loathing and fearing half the people in it.
I confess, when I saw the first reports of the leaked “secret speech,” I didn’t think it was going to be a big deal. Then I saw the recording of the hastily called press conference at which Mr. Etch A Sketch appeared to try to contain the damage.
“Holy smoke,” I said.
Actually, the second word wasn’t “smoke,” but that’s as close as I can get here. For one thing, Mitt’s hair looked like he’d just crawled out of bed and combed it with a lawn rake. Now, this may seem like a trivial thing, but let me ask you: Have you ever seen Mitt Romney with a single hair out of place?
Then, when he began to speak, he had the blank look and the hesitant demeanor of a guy who’d just woken up in a Vegas hotel room after a nine-day bender, apprehensive of what he may have done or said while he was in blackout.
A guy who comes out to respond to a crisis looking like an outtake from “The Hangover” is not one who inspires confidence.
Romney admitted that his comments to wealthy donors may have been “inelegant.” Well, if your definition of “inelegant” means “not only pandering, but doing it dishonestly,” then I guess so.
Let’s take a look at this 47 percent of people whom Romney would give up on trying to lead because they pay no federal income tax. According to a report by the Tax Foundation, a record 52 million filers — 36 percent of the 143 million who filed a tax return — had no tax liability because their credits and deductions reduced their liability to zero.
Indeed, tax credits such as the child tax credit and earned income tax credit have become so generous that a family of four earning up to about $52,000 can expect to have their income tax liability erased entirely.
The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center notes that two-thirds of people who pay no income tax have jobs, and thus do pay payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare (payroll taxes, by the way, which were cut under President Obama).
Ironically, expanding the earned income tax credit was a Republican idea during the Reagan years. It really shows you how the party’s changed when the tax cuts for working people they once championed are now a source of complaint by the right because it means the working poor aren’t being taxed enough, even as they demand lower taxes on the wealthy.
Others who pay no federal income tax include senior citizens, students and the disabled. And let’s not forget that while they pay no federal income tax, most of these people also pay state and local income, sales and property taxes.
The lower income end of the middle class, the working poor, the elderly, those with disabilities — these are just some of the 47 percent Mitt Romney and the American right characterize as “victims” who are “feeling as if they’re entitled.”
He says “his job is not to worry about them.” Well, if Mitt keeps sticking his Gucci loafer in his mouth the way he’s been doing, pretty soon we won’t have to worry about him either.
Dusty Rhoades lives, writes and practices law in Carthage. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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