“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what,” Mitt Romney told a group of wealthy donors at a May fundraiser in Boca Raton, Fla. A just-released video shows the Republican presidential candidate stating, “There are 47 percent who are with him [Obama], who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.”
Romney, who apparently didn’t know anyone was recording him, said with consummate condescension that his role “is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
Romney’s words reflect, of course, how the super-rich really view the majority of us who are struggling to get by. But bourgeois politicians, especially presidential candidates, are not supposed to go around saying this kind of stuff in public. In fact, doing so undermines an essential function of capitalist democracy—deception.
Most politicians know the rules of the game. The rulers worry that open and flagrant contempt for the people will lead to rebellion. Anger is supposed to be channeled into the voting booth rather than the streets. The problem of potential rebellion is real and big enough to be worried about.
According to the Census Bureau report of 2011, poverty in the United States has skyrocketed to a 19-year high since 2007, when Wall Street bankers brought down the economy and millions of workers lost their jobs. Forty-six million were in complete poverty by 2011, according to the Census. Another 10 million will be plunged into poverty by 2014, according to a 2011 study conducted by the Brookings Institute.
Squeezed by rising living costs, a record number of Americans—nearly 1 in 2—have fallen into poverty or are scraping by on earnings that classify them as low income.
The latest census data depict a middle class that’s shrinking as unemployment stays high and the government’s safety net frays. The new numbers follow years of stagnating wages for the middle class that have hurt millions of workers and families. (Associated Press, December 13, 2011).
The reality of skyrocketing poverty has not led to a revolution in the streets yet—but the ruling class knows that it might.
Romney has broken a fundamental rule of a game in which the Republicans as well as Democrats feign heartfelt concern for “all the people,” as highlighted by their speeches at the recent conventions.
Nothing of real substance needs to be offered, and neither Romney nor Obama did. But the candidates are at least supposed to pretend to care—not label half the population hopelessly lazy, good-for-nothings.
Romney’s open disgust for the 47 percent who believe that they are “entitled to …food” comes just seven months after his comment that he “doesn’t care about the very poor” elicited a small media blip.
Again, this just isn’t a smooth or efficient way for the ruling class to handle the ‘problem” that one half of the country is either in poverty or close to it.
The preferred method is to say nothing at all about the shocking reality of massive poverty and economic hardship and keep the campaign rhetoric reduced to feel-good platitudes.
FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting) just issued an illuminating study examining how the issue of poverty has been concealed during the election campaign. The Sept. 22 issue of Extra reported:
Despite its widely experienced impact, FAIR’s study found poverty barely registers as a campaign issue. Just 17 of the 10,489 campaign stories studied (0.2 percent) addressed poverty in a substantive way. Moreover, none of the eight outlets included a substantive discussion of poverty in as much as 1 percent of its campaign stories.
Discussions of poverty in campaign coverage were so rare that PBS NewsHour had the highest percentage of its campaign stories addressing poverty—with a single story, 0.8 percent of its total. ABC World News, NBC Nightly News, NPR’s All Things Considered, and Newsweek ran no campaign stories substantively discussing poverty.
The New York Times included substantive information about poverty in just 0.2 percent of its campaign stories and opinion pieces—placing it third out of the eight outlets, behind PBS and CBS.