September 19th, 2012
12:56 PM ET

Romney's remarks huge mistake or plain truth?

David A. Rice feels like Mitt Romney wrote him off.

The 61-year-old has always been a values-based voter, generally votes Republican and could be a key vote in the swing state of Florida. But he's also among the 47% of Americans that Mitt Romney said don't pay income tax and rely on government support.

"There are 47% of the people who will vote for the president no matter what," Romney says in a clip from a secretly filmed private donor meeting in May, which was first posted on Monday afternoon. "There are 47% who are with him, who are dependent on government, who believe that, that they are victims, who believe that government has the responsibility to care for them. Who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing."

Romney's '47%' – Washington's tax-break obsession to blame

Rice says he is working part-time and doesn't pay taxes because he can't find a good job. And the fact that Romney wrote him off in those comments is frustrating.

"I am insulted. I support you and you just wrote me off with the 47% who pay no taxes. In that group are those who cry every time they use food stamps; people who would trade them in a minute for a real job. In that group are Christians who shudder at the thought of voting for abortion and gay rights," he wrote in an iReport. "You have strengths that appeal to the demographic you just wrote off ... use it! In the middle of rich supporters you cannot afford to write off a huge group with a careless word."

The 61-year-old said that he has been forced once or twice to take food stamps - and unlike what Romney contends in his comments - he maintains it was not something he was proud of or hopes to ever have to do again.

"It really hurt me," the iReporter told CNN. "It was not something that I wanted to do, I did it because I didn't have a job."

Rice says he didn't think it was right for Romney to lump every low-income person into the same group.

"Not everyone who takes food stamps is a food stamps junkie," Rice told CNN. "There are people who think the government owes them a living and that the government ought to take care of them and be their momma and daddy all their life. That doesn't apply to everyone."

It all left Rice a bit uneasy.

Which leads to the big questions swirling around the Romney campaign: How much damage will Romney's comments do to his chances for winning the election? Were his comments a big enough gaffe, combined with previous missteps, to really dent his campaign? Were his comments just the brutal truth others don't want to hear? Will it sway the votes of Republicans, independents or the undecided?

Rice says he'll still be voting for Romney because of the candidate's social views. But he knows it may not be the same for others.

"I think it was a mistake on his part because he insulted a lot of people who he needs to vote for him," he said.

CNN asked our readers on Facebook what they thought about the remarks and more than 71% said Romney was wrong and should apologize. Twenty-four percent of readers who answered our unscientific poll said he was right, and it was something someone needed to say. Just about 4.5% felt that Romney was right but shouldn't have phrased the remarks the way he did.

Nevin Sanli, from Los Angeles, California, said he is in the 47% and Romney's recent remarks, as well as other gaffes, have sealed his decision to vote for Obama.

"I never took a penny in help or government assistance money or otherwise. I own two businesses, and all I have been doing, along with my business partners, is creating jobs. I am not a victim," Sanli said in response to the CNN poll on Facebook. "I worked hard and built it all from scratch and I pay a lot of taxes. I am not as rich as Romney, but I sure pay a much bigger percentage of my income in taxes than he does. I find his remarks to be un-American, shocking and insulting."

And definitely unbecoming a president, he added.

"Elitism, silver-spoon arrogance and outright divisive statements, with undertones of racism, cannot be attributes of an American president," Sanli wrote.

For his part, Romney has stood behind the comments from the secretly recorded video. They were an honest reflection of his campaign's message, he said.

"This is a message I'm carrying day in and day out and will carry over the coming months," Romney said on Fox News. "This is a decision about the course of America, where we're going to head. We've seen the president's policies play out over the last four years."

Kristopher Daughtrey agreed with those tough words and took them to show that Romney won't shy away from the truth and will stick to his convictions.

"I applaud Romney for his remarks. He's the only one willing to not sugarcoat it. I'm not a huge supporter of either party, but at least Romney has the guts to speak out frankly about it, instead of Obama, Congress, and other politicians trying to justify their actions constantly or running away with their tail between their legs," Daughtrey said. "If you're going to be president then you need to have the backbone to walk the walk and not just talk about it."

Jason Asselin, an iReporter from Iron Mountain, Michigan, is an independent who says that he generally votes for the best candidate, despite their affiliation, though he likes the ideas and stances of the tea party.

While Asselin is normally a critic of Obama, he said Romney's comments really angered him because he doesn't pay taxes, but it isn't because he doesn't want to.

"I try paying taxes each year and every year they say we don't make enough, it isn't that I don't want to pay my taxes - they won't take them," he says. "Our government put rules and regulations in place for the lower class of people. It isn't our fault for falling under that. I don't like being called the 47%, I'd like to be called American."

Asselin said he is frustrated that Romney makes assumptions about how he will vote. And he is not alone.

Jeff Zicker, 21, might have been a candidate for the 47% category. He's college-aged, but left college because he landed a job performing with a national Broadway tour. He worked two jobs all through college, and these days he pays all his taxes, which puts him in the 53% category.

“For (Romney) to say his plan only appeals to those who don’t victimize themselves just further proves how out of touch he is with the rest of the American public,” he said.

Zicker is a moderate Democrat who will be voting for Obama this fall.

“I honestly believe that somebody that would say that a large of a portion of Americans, that this group victimizes themselves and tries to appeal to voters in that way, I don’t think that shows that they would be fit in any way to be president," he said.

But others say that Romney is merely beginning a dialogue that many Americans refuse to have. Steven Evans said that he thinks the discussion is an important one as the country moves forward.

"It is time to start a national dialogue on whether we are creating a major dependency class," he said on Facebook. "I am glad to see him tell the truth. Let's decide whether we are going the way of Greece or the traditional USA."

But some believe that having that conversation with only half of the country is problematic.

“It’s not in touch with what America’s values are and what we should be in a country," Zicker said of Romney's comments. "At the end of the day, we’re all connected. What I do affects you economically and socially. We shouldn’t see it as an one-for-all system.”

soundoff (4,198 Responses)
  1. slason

    The top 1% pay so much in taxes because their share of the income has more than doubled in the last 30 years. Plus, they own 43% of the wealth. Don't be an apologist for the wealthy. The Republicans ONLY represent tax cuts and deregulation for the wealthy. Which is GREAT considering we have the greatest separation of wealth on the PLANET!lmao

    September 20, 2012 at 1:50 am | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Sirned

    All taxation is redistribution of wealth.... Has been since our Government started collecting taxes.. Geez Republicans are clueless... The difference today is the redistribution is not going to building this country and the much needed programs for the needy but to give tax cuts making multi millionaires billionaires without lifting a finger of more work....And these Republicans believe taking from the middle class and poor to give more to the rich is their righteous mission in life...lol

    September 20, 2012 at 1:51 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Obama Mama

      Yeah what you said.lol Good night.

      September 20, 2012 at 1:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Shamoononon

      WAIT A MINUTE!!! A taxation is not just a redistribution of wealth. GOSH!!! Taxation is to pay for – infrastructure, military support, the president's salary, government, police, the fire department, ect ..... You pay taxes to support the country's infrastructure, you pay taxes (if you call medical and social security a tax) to benefit yourself when you get old. Believe it or not, you pay taxes for a great service – To have a government that protects you. Of course, you also pay taxes to help other Americans who can't afford food/housing/medical care.

      September 20, 2012 at 2:55 am | Report abuse |
    • pray

      Your civics class must have been taught by a moron. Taxation is not redistrubution of wealth unless you believe in the same views of Obama. The problem is simple, the weight on the 53% is too great, the number of people collecting some kind of assistance from the government has grown exponentially under this administration coupled with the increase of the debt by 50% we are drowning. Those of us who pay the taxes (and by the way that is 78% of all taxes paid by the upper 10% of income earners) are tired of footing the bill. And btw, your koolaide infused tirade about giving a tax cut to the rich is stupid, if 78% of the taxes are paid by the top 10% of earners, then any tax break would impact them as well. Simple math, or did your civics teacher double as a math teacher?

      September 20, 2012 at 4:00 am | Report abuse |
    • mary

      Exactly.. The rich are the ones benefiting.. They became rich thanks to the way our system is set up.. but instead of paying it forward, they decided to take the money and run with it.. Keeping contact enough with America to sit at the top like a sponge and absorb all they can off the bottom.
      Once they clean out all our safety nets and programs.. Leaving America empty..
      They will bring back those jobs.. Offering them to Americans for just what they pay in third world countries.. If we need more to survive on we can be resourceful like they are in China or India.. We can send the parents , grandparents and kids to work.. More people working, bigger income.. !
      And of course having one of theirs in office..Like Romeny.. They can also eliminate any rules or regulations that hinders that ..Like wage laws, unions, child labor laws, clean, air water and pollution laws..

      September 20, 2012 at 4:09 am | Report abuse |
  3. Larry G

    CORPORATE WELFARE/TAX BREAKS like OIL COMPANIES have been getting forever while they STICK IT TO US is one thing the Repubs don't ever mention. CORPORATIONS OUTSOURCING for lower wages & using only limited employess to do the work of many here, they have us over-a-barrel & that's the way they want it! MILLION/BILLIONAIRES paying ZERO TAXES! That's what's wrong with this country. Not someone who needs food stamps or doesn't make enough to pay taxes. CNNMoney – Nobody's really talking about this slice of the pie, but Mitt Romney's "47%" who pay no federal income tax include several thousand of the highest-income households in the country. The Tax Policy Center estimates that 4,000 households with incomes over $1 million ended up with zero federal income tax liability in 2011. Another 14,000 made between $500,000 and $1 million. That's 18,000 that made a HALF MIL to SEVERAL MIL & pd ZIP! How dare they even use the words Class Warfare.

    September 20, 2012 at 1:58 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Obama Mama

      Good luck making the republican middle class understand that.

      September 20, 2012 at 2:01 am | Report abuse |
    • pray

      Ok, so you are freaking out about 4,000 millionaires who do not have emplyment income thus no taxes compared to 150,000,000 who collect from the taxes of the rest of us? Really? hmm bet you grasp math well
      !

      September 20, 2012 at 4:03 am | Report abuse |
    • pray

      And by the way, class warfare was introduced by Obama and the PACS this time around, as always

      September 20, 2012 at 4:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Pat

      There's a difference between Federal Income tax and Capital gains tax. I saved my money, invested smart, bought within my means for several years and now the money I worked for, works for me. My capital gains top $70k a year and I don't pay a cent in Federal Income taxes...because I don't have one. I, and many other Americans, worked hard, were smart with our money and can now live the American dream...but it doesn't happen overnight like most of the fiscal lefties (OWS) want.

      September 20, 2012 at 4:38 am | Report abuse |
  4. plenty

    There are lies, damn lies, and then there's Republicans

    September 20, 2012 at 2:18 am | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Elaine

    If you are in a low income bracket, but do not think the government owes you something and are seeking employment....then YOU ARE NOT IN THIS 47% ROMNEY IS TALKING ABOUT...

    September 20, 2012 at 2:36 am | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Luke

    Stop quibbling over semantics. Look at the big picture. The picture is that there are many people who leech off of the taxpayers. Not everyone who does not pay tax falls into that category but many do. Anyone who claims that they were offended by Romney's remarks never planned to vote for him anyway. I find most of you to be disgusting morons who want socialism. Go ahead, knock yourselves out.

    September 20, 2012 at 2:42 am | Report abuse | Reply
  7. really-people?

    I now just realized that Romney paid no income taxes for several years. Mitt has been a candidate for several years now and during that time he has had a relatively low income and had sufficient write offs to lower his income tax to zero. He did pay capitol gains tax buuuuut not income tax for several years. Lets just say maybe Mitt made 350,000.00 in income for speaking engagements and such,and with his staff of accountants he could easily drop his income tax liability to zero. WooooooooooooooooooW that's what Reid is talking about.

    September 20, 2012 at 3:06 am | Report abuse | Reply
  8. matt

    "SMALL GOVT AND FREE MARKETS GOT US INTO THIS MESS"...
    ...uh, no Einstein....America went from a 13 colony misfit mob to a world super power using EXACTLY THAT MODEL. Do you expect anyone to take such a claim seriously?

    We MAKE $2.1T and SPEND $3.8T...a first grader can tell you how stupid that is. The Liberal "vote yourself free stuff" mentality works great right up until REALITY catches up. Just ask Europe how that mentality worked out?

    September 20, 2012 at 3:46 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • iminim

      Overspending the budget is a 2 party issue. Remember the 2 unfunded wars and Medicare part D? Republicans can no longer simply use the fallacy that they are the party of fiscal responsibility as a campaign platform. They have clearly shown us otherwise. Fiscal responsibility means prudent spending coupled with adequate revenue intake to meet the budget needs, including dept payback and interest. Until we get people in Congress who can work across party lines to find bipartisan budget solutions we will continue to see politicians pandering to their bases with tax cuts for big donors, subsidies for rich industries, benefit distribution based on likely political affilliation instead of true need, and bizarre and incorrect statements about fiscal responsibility from those with a proven record of exactly the opposite.

      September 20, 2012 at 5:52 am | Report abuse |
  9. matt

    "DID YOU HEAR, ROMNEY SAID ____ THE OTHER DAY ! " .....I don't care if Romney said the moon was made of cheese...I vote per party platform PRINCIPLES...not some grocery story check out line magazine fodder diatribe. I could fill 4 Bible size volumes of BIDEN gaffs for pete sake. REALITY: we MAKE $2.1T and SPEND $3.8T...now THAT will have consequences with 100% guarantee probability. Sooner or later REALITY catches up...just ask Europe how the "free stuff" mentality turned out?

    September 20, 2012 at 3:51 am | Report abuse | Reply
  10. aksdad

    Romney confused a couple numbers. He's right that 47% of Americans pay no income tax and that Romney's "lower taxes" message doesn't resonate with them. He's wrong that all of that group will vote for Obama. Only most of that group will vote for Obama. He's right that around 47% or so have already made up their minds to vote for Obama and around the same percentage have made up their minds to vote for Romney and that his campaign is trying to reach the less than 10% who are undecided. So where's the problem? The problem is that 47% of Americans don't pay income tax and most of them should be. The rest of us taxpayers are subsidizing them and it's time for it to end. All Americans should be paying income tax except possibly the ones in poverty; REAL poverty, not well-fed, well-housed, smartphone-carrying, big screen-TV-owning poverty, but the ones who really need help, which is far less than the 15% living under the "official" poverty level. Why is Romney's remark a news story but the fact that nearly HALF of Americans don't pay income tax isn't? Oh, wait, the media is trying to re-elect Obama. I get it. Skip the real news and make it up. That's what you get from today's media where surveys show that more than 90% of them vote Democrat, far different than the general American electorate that they pretend to report news for.

    September 20, 2012 at 4:36 am | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Tom

    My wife and I are in the 47% or close to it. We worked for forty years, never collected penny one of unemployment or food stamps or whatever. Romney is flat wrong to say that we or almost everone else in the 47% are lazy, dependent on the Government and on the dole. The video reeks of how he looks at the rest of America and fits in with how he communicates. He cares about himself and the rest of the well off and is a good insight into how he will govern. This together with the tax returns, hiding income overseas where the rest of us pick up his unpaid taxes says it all.

    September 20, 2012 at 4:44 am | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Rocranger1

    It really is amazing to me how narrow minded a vast section of America has become. All that can be heard is the fact that it is unfair that these rich people get to keep more of their money that they have worked for. The government cannot run even the simplest programs without major issues. Look at the problems with the post office. Instead we have the "I feel sorry for me because I was not born rich and I have to work for a living" generation that is being followed by the Pepsi and IM generation that will not have the ability to communicate face to face in the next 10 years. The US is in a major difficult spot right now that is not going to be solved by either party in this case. All "We the People" can do at this point is to elect or reelect whomever you think is the best candidate. As long as "We the People" sit here and argue back and forth we are already defeated. Your Congressmen (women) do not care what the average person wants. As long as they can keep "We the People" battling each other they are given a pass to do whatever they desire.
    It really is time that "We the People" get past the bickering and silly name calling and see what the real issues are. The real power behind the government is the people if the people are willing to wake up and stop having the talking heads tell you what is going on. Take your own time and make up your own mind while you still have at least that freedom because taking that freedom away is being worked on as we speak.

    September 20, 2012 at 4:48 am | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Obama ... Who ?

    Romney was just speaking the truth. The problem was that he didn't mention the unmentionable: race. Americans of European descent – what we used to think of as "Americans" – were 89% of the population before the immigration act of 1964. But they are hurtling towards minority status, and are already a minority of live births. This makes it harder and harder for the Republicans to win, especially when the race lobbies make an explicit pitch to racial self-interest (blacks vote for black interests), whereas the white majority do not vote on the basis of their self-interest. The minority ethnic groups are disproportionately represented among the welfare queens and criminals of the US, and so there is a strong connection with what Romney was saying – he just didn't dare to say that many of the 47% are ethnic minorities who don't share America's historical culture and will never vote for a smaller state when that state privileges them. There are still enough white Americans around – to a much larger extent people who fend for themselves without sponging off the state – and Romney can only win by getting a larger share of the white vote by making an explicit appeal to them. Try ending immigration, closing down the race lobby, preventing lawsuits for "discrimination" on racial grounds, getting rid of affirmative blaction, and you might have a programme that could win support among what is still the key ethnic group in America – the Americans

    September 20, 2012 at 5:07 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • gliese42

      I am an Asian American and I like your comment because you are honest. My worst fear is that someday there will be Sharia law in America.

      September 20, 2012 at 5:34 am | Report abuse |
  14. Wes

    Aa someone with very serious medical conditions that have disabled me I am dependent on SSDI for my existence. I am cognizant to economy of resources and the great expense bearing on the taxpayer by my paralysis condition and a declining health, but I have given all of my adult career in service to our nation and I feel that I have earned some degree of assistance. I appreciate everything I get and attempt to repay the assistance with some margin of effort that I can afford in a minimal ability or marginal advisement. I an not ignorant or negligent to the generosity of Americans that help those of us who are imperiled by declining health issues and live with marginal incomes. American compassion has always been a blessing expressed in our national sense of democracy and community. I hope the expressed hatred will diminish and our compassion will increase for all who are in need. I love my country and would enjoy seeing it express a common love among all who embrace American freedom.

    September 20, 2012 at 5:15 am | Report abuse | Reply
  15. gliese42

    Why are we afraid to face the truth? Obama has failed to revive the economy and instead he created a nation of 43 percent beggars. I lost my comfortable job as a banker and I am now a security guard thanks to the recession. We can't take incentives for ever as that will ruined our country. Obama promised and failed so lets give Romney a try

    September 20, 2012 at 5:30 am | Report abuse | Reply
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