About That 47% Figure…
Back in October of 2011, I blogged a bit and Tweeted Chrystia Freeland’s interview with Jeff Immelt. (Thank you again, Felix.) What I didn’t mention, apparently,* is that one of the questions from the floor was a, er, gentleman who declared in No Uncertain Terms precisely what Willard Romney said at that sexcapade on
Lon GislandBoca.** The meme has been going around a long time. (And I’ll wager someone reporting that meeting covered the exchange.) The problem, as Scott Thomasson noted (and got from Don Marron and the Tax Policy Center) is that the large majority of that 47% are from States that vote Republican. Willard just insulted his natural constituency; as Brad DeLong finally notes (burying the lede better than Albert Brooks in Broadcast News):
Romney does not say: “I will never convince them to vote for me”. Romney says: “I will never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives”.
Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, Georgia, Arkansas, South Carolina, Louisiana, and New Mexico: the Republican candidate has issued you a challenge. Will you take personal responsibility and care for your lives, or will you continue voting for the Republican Presidential candidate and his minions?* *New Mexico, I know you guys are trying.
It honestly doesn’t matter that “Willard just insulted his natural constituency”.
They are the people who protested “Keep your government hands off my Medicare!”
They are so stupid, they do not realize Rmoney is gunning for them.
The deserving/undeserving poor meme goes back to the 14th century and vagrancy laws, vagrants presumed to be undeserving. (Why the 14th century? Because the Black Death upset the social order in Europe. Peasants could leave home in search of better working conditions. Manors were often short-handed.) What is interesting is that Romney (among other Republicans) generalizes, so that half the country is seen as undeserving, as irresponsible, lazy bums.
It’s not just Mitty Mitt. He only floated that insult because he believed the listeners shared that meme to the extent it would inspire them to open checkbooks and write multi digit checks.
So Mitt is sponsored by a group of wealthy people who think half of us are parasites. It’s an interesting insight. Why invest in winning over customers if you think half of them are useless chumps? Who would bother with the risk of building an enterprise if they believed half the employees and customers were dead weight?
One of my favorite things about the Romney story is the way it really has to run into one of 2 of the GOPs most treasured and intertwined myths: 1> The wisdom of the free market and 2> success in business = meritocratic qualification for political success
Mitt essentially bought this nomination in one way or another. His high bid topped all others so he naturally ended up in the driver’s seat. The free market wins again! More to the point, if Mitt’s willingness and ability to buy himself this role turn out to be a problem for the GOP how exactly might they address it? It’s the kind of crisis they really aren’t set up to examine in any productive way.
Perhaps more crucially the failure of Mitty Mitt in this campaign may undermine the “Rapacious profit making CEO as genuine political leader hero” myth once and for all. Even the conservative punditocracy has been forced to acknowledge how disastrously bad this campaign has been run since the primaries. By all accounts it’s a fairly typical issue with guys like Mitt: Too much meddling by the principal. See also Trump, Donald – Cain, Herman etc.
all true, but maybe not of much help. probably most americans are perfectly ready to believe that half of americans are welfare bums. and if they get worked up enough about it they will vote for Romney.
meanwhile, what is really wrong with “America” is that the economy no longer provides any meaningful opportunity for people to “take responsibility for themselves.” That is there are bound to be 10 to 50% of the people who can’t find meaningful work.
the answer is NOT to create welfare systems and stop there. the welfare may be needed, but there also needs to be some serious “social engineering” to get those people to make meaningful contributions to “society” and live a life that is meaningful to them.
i am well aware of the disasters that social engineering can lead to. but compared to the disasters of unlimited pfree enterprise, we may have to give it a serious try. that is essentially what FDR did, with mixed but generally positive results.