If you take an analytical drill and you start drilling into this Republican campaign and you drill down through this [47%] quote and you drill down through voter ID, where you hit bedrock is, I think, an age-old conservative skepticism of democracy. 

Chris Hayes

Welcome, new Sifters

With more than 96,000 views so far, The Distress of the Privileged has brought a lot of new people to this blog. I hope some of you bookmarked it and have come back to see what a typical week is like.

Here are some of the posts from recent weeks that you might find interesting: My Paul Ryan triology (1, 2, 3), Five Pretty Lies and the Ugly Truths They Hide, How Lies Work, and The Economics of Leviticus.

Now on with the usual Sift.

This week everybody was talking about Romney’s 47%

I’m sure you already heard about it. A video-tape surfaced from a $50K-a-ticket fund-raiser in May, in which Romney rambled through an unscripted answer about “the 47%” who he identified at various times as (i) the die-hard Obama supporters, (ii) those who pay no federal income tax, and (iii) people “dependent upon government” who won’t “take personal responsibility and care for their lives”. He then commented: “And so my job is not to worry about those people.”

To which SNL’s Seth Meyers replied: “I wouldn’t worry, buddy, it’s looking less and less like it will be your job.”

If you want to interpret Romney as generously as possible, you take (i) as the definition of the 47%, and expand “my job” to “my job as a candidate” rather than “my job as president”. Then he’s just saying, more or less, “My campaign isn’t going to waste its effort trying to convince people who are never going to vote for us anyway.”

I’ll bet he wishes he’d really said that and then stopped.

What’s disturbing in the quote, though, is that (i), (ii), and (iii) can swap in and out interchangeably in one paragraph. This is the Makers vs. Takers line that Paul Ryan has pushed in the past: The country is more-or-less evenly divided between the productive (who work hard and vote Republican) and the lazy (who expect the government to take care of them and vote Democrat).

You will run into this view often if you cruise through conservative blogs like RedState or read the comments on Washington Times or Fox News articles. Romney’s mistake was that he got caught on tape repeating common conservative locker-room talk.

Lots of people have already pointed out how divorced from reality Makers vs. Takers is. I’ll let conservative columnist Michael Gerson carry the ball:

A Republican ideology pitting the “makers” against the “takers” offers nothing. No sympathy for our fellow citizens. No insight into our social challenge. No hope of change. … Politics is reduced to class warfare on behalf of the upper class.

And then lateral to Agramante on Daily Kos:

Paul Ryan has it perfectly backwards when he talks about makers and takers. This nation’s makers are the workers.  The makers are the people who work for a living, with their hands, in the field, teaching, building, repairing, healing, growing (to name a few) and, yes, drilling and mining, even typing and filing.  … The takers are the financiers, who no longer serve primarily to help develop industries and communities here in this country. The takers are the bankers like Mitt Romney who shuffle investments, frequently in fraudulent fashion, around the world and build only their own fortunes while otherwise playing at best a zero-sum game of job-shifting from one country to another.

… and his taxes

Just as it seemed like the 47% din might die down, the trustee of Mitt’s blind trust released his 2011 tax return. (No wonder former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan called the Romney campaign a “rolling calamity“.)

The highlight is that Romney paid 14.1% of his income in taxes, but only because his accountants engineered his return to uphold his statement that he never paid less than 13%.

They didn’t claim all of the charitable-giving deduction he was entitled to. But if he decides to file an amended return after the election (who’ll know?) he can get his rate down to 12.2%.

Is even 14.1% a lower rate than most Americans pay? Depends on how you figure. If you just count income tax, no. But if you also count payroll taxes — which Romney doesn’t pay because he doesn’t earn wages — then reports that the median 20% of  taxpayers pay a 15.5% tax rate.

Romney’s accountants claim he has paid at least 13% in each of the last 20 years. But since the pre-2010 returns are still secret, they can claim anything they want.

The end result satisfies no one. He’s claiming that 14.1% isn’t shameful, but acting as if 12.2% would be. It’s hard to find a coherent position in that.

… and nobody was talking about Obama (except me)

For the most part, President Obama has been happy to leave Romney twisting in the spotlight.

But I’ve been predicting for a while that Obama will end his campaign by making a positive case for his own re-election, while Romney will stay negative to the end. Here’s my version of Obama’s Positive Case.

I also wrote about education reform

The Chicago teacher’s strike gave me an excuse to watch Waiting for Superman and read Steven Brill’s pro-reform book Class Warfare. I wanted to be convinced, but I wasn’t.

Education Reform: I’m Still Not Convinced

… and you also might find this interesting

Maybe sending Paul Ryan to talk to the AARP wasn’t such a great idea.

On 60 Minutes last night, Mitt Romney repeated one of the Five Pretty Lies I identified a few weeks ago: The uninsured can get the health care they need in the emergency room.

An excellent question.

A phrase that needs to catch on: Plutocratic Insurgency.

You know who hates the new way scientist picture dinosaurs? Creationists.

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