Granny Bird Award: Mitt Romney
It's been a while since I've issued a Granny Bird Award, given to those who go out of their way to harm the interests of elders, but Mitt Romney certainly deserves this one for his now infamous characterization of the 47% of those who pay "no taxes" as defective mooches on the other half of the country.
I've seen a lot of great analyses of just how wrong and how nasty this superior being is in his assertion, but one of my favorites came from Michael Hiltzig. His most recent column nails Romney for his blatant abuse of the facts. I especially appreciated what he had to say about the elders place in all of this.
Voters can decide for themselves whether Romney's words, taken at face value, bespeak a hopelessly crabbed approach to government's role in our lives or a principled stand for private enterprise and economic freedom.
But they should be concerned about the fundamental inaccuracy of Romney's claims and the erroneous conclusions he draws from them. For those point to the important questions of how he can make policy in a fact-free context, and how he can even know his own mind if he doesn't know what he's talking about.
So let's examine Romney's numbers and their significance.
The key number he cited is that 47% of Americans "pay no income tax." The statistic is true as far as it goes, but it doesn't come close to reaching the finish line. In fact, its shock value derives from the legerdemain of focusing solely on the federal income tax. This misleads Romney and his audience into thinking that the group in question is mostly people on a lifelong dole.
The truth is that the vast majority are people who are working or who have worked in the past. Their ranks include millions of Americans who are now retired, living on Social Security and Medicare benefits they paid for throughout their working lives.
Those of us who receive Social Security and Medicare are not mooches getting a free hand-out from the federal government. We worked for years and had money deducted from our paychecks to cover these benefits. We paid in advance. We're just getting our money back now.
While the elders may not be paying federal income taxes now, they sure as hell did in the past. Furthermore, they are still paying sales taxes to their state and local government.
Somebody needs to grab Mitt by the shoulders and shake him like an etch-a-sketch. In the mean time, this award will have to suffice.