The Associated Press posted a fascinating analysis of who the 47% of us are who A. will vote for President Obama no matter what, B. don’t pay Federal income tax, and C. are dependent on government because they won’t take responsibility for their own lives. Those are the groups that somehow, Mitt Romney lumped into the same 47% during his fundraising dinner in Boca Raton last May. AP Deputy Polling Director Jennifer Agiesta provided a lot of these numbers.
Romney said: “There are 47% of the people who will vote for the president no matter what.”
That’s about right according to the polls over the past six months, I’m one of them. Who are we? Who are the devout Democrats who would vote for Donald Duck if he were running?
— 52% of us have full-time jobs, 10% work part-time, 25% are retired, 5% are “temporarily unemployed.” The other 8% could be welfare recipients, or disabled, or just didn’t feel like answering this question.
— 56% of us have household incomes above the median $50,000, 16% earn less than $30,000, 20% earn over $100,000. Again, there’s that missing 8%.
— 20% of us are senior citizens (what exactly does that mean, anyway?), 12% are under 30 and 60% fall between 30 and 60-something. I’m assuming that 8% didn’t answer this one either.
— 43% have college degrees or higher, 21% have a high school diploma. The remaining 36% may be in school or may be drop-outs. This one wasn’t completely defined.
Now, I’‘m going to assume that the 76% of us earning over the median probably pay Federal income taxes. I’m in that group and we do. There’s also a Catch-22 for part-time workers. Many of them work more than one part-time job, but each employer is taking withholding as though that job were the employee’s only job, so the employees inevitably end up owing more taxes than were withheld. Been there, done that.
Romney said: “47% of Americans pay no income tax.”
Yup, it’s really 46% but what’s one percent between friends? Who doesn’t pay Federal income taxes? Confession time – for 2010, I was one of them. We had bought two wood pellet heating stoves, but the rules for the energy credit said we could only deduct one of them from our joint taxes. Last year, for the first time in 38 years of marriage, we filed separately so my husband could claim one of the stoves and I could claim the other. When one files separately and one spouse itemizes deductions, the other spouse cannot claim the standard deduction. Let’s put it this way – those stoves cost so much that just one of them wiped out my tax liability completely with no other deductions. That was the one and only time in my life I paid no taxes. How do the rest of that 46% get out of owing Federal income taxes?
— Half don’t earn enough to owe taxes. A family of four earning under $25,400 would owe no taxes just using the standard exemptions and deductions. This group can range across a broad spectrum of family sizes and incomes
— 22% are senior citizens who get other tax breaks and credits, including a double exemption for being blind
— 15% cut their taxable incomes with things like the Earned Income Credit and Child Care Credit.
— 3% get tax breaks for college tuition or other education expenses.
And who are we:
— 90% of that 46%, 41.4% of all Americans don’t pay Federal income taxes because they earn less than the median income of $50,000 a year.
— 10% of that 46%, 4.6% of all Americans don’t pay Federal income taxes because they can finagle their incomes so they are “poor” on paper. A business owner can drive a company car, so he doesn’t have to buy a car; he can entertain business associates and have the company all the expenses of the dinner; he can build a house with large parts of it set aside for business (Bill Gates did this one), so the mortgage if there is one is paid by the company. Then, the business owner can “draw” only as much “income” as is necessary to cover those things the laws says you can’t put on the business. H. Ross Perot used this technique in 1991, when he spent a million dollars on his daughter’s wedding, to pay less in Federal income taxes than my family of four with a median income did. It’s a tricky thing to pull off and one needs a really good accountant or tax lawyer to avoid doing a Leona Helmsley and getting hauled off to jail.
Lastly, Romney said, “There are 47%….who are dependent on government….who believe they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it.”
He was a little low on this one. It’s really, according to the Census Bureau, 49% of us who get some kind of Federal benefit. However, only 33% of us get assistance because of financial need, i.e. food stamps, welfare, Section 8 housing, Medicaid.
The largest Federal benefit programs are:
— Medicaid: 26% of us
— Social Security: 16% of us
— Food stamps (SNAP): 16%
— Medicare: 15% of us.
— WIC: 8% of us
You can overlap Social Security and Medicare. In fact, I’m not sure why there is a 1% difference between them because those who are on Social Security Disability are also on Medicare. And WIC recipients are frequently also on SNAP. It is also possible for those receiving Social Security and Medicare to qualify for Medicaid. The downside is one only qualifies if one’s Social Security is really low. The upside is no co-pays on anything. It can be awesome when a senior is having major medical problems.
Obviously we are not all part of the same 47%. The way Romney put his “inelegant” ramble together made it sound like 47% of us pay no income taxes, live off the government and have no motivation to take care of ourselves. The facts show a very different dynamic. Based on what the AP put together, it would be fair to say that if we were really cruel and said that the 5% unemployed don’t really want to work and the 8% unknowns are lazy slobs who don’t want to work, that’s 13% of 47% of us who fit Romney’s catch-all of losers – in short, only 6% of all Americans.
No wonder so many of us are so insulted by Romney’s stupid remarks.