Presidential campaigns wallow so tediously in pseudo-events and manufactured outrage that our senses can be numbed to the appearance of something genuinely momentous. Mitt Romney’s secretly recorded commentsat a fundraiser are such an event – they reveal something vital about Romney, and they disqualify his claim to the presidency.
To think of Romney’s leaked discourse as a “gaffe” grossly misdescribes its importance. Indeed the comments’ direct impact on the outcome of the election will probably be small. Romney repeated the wildly misleading but increasingly popular conservative talking point that 47% of Americans pay no income taxes. The federal income tax is, by design, one of the most progressive elements of the American tax system, but well over 80% of non-retired adults pay federal taxes. But most people hear “income taxes” and think “taxes,” which is why the trick of using one phrase to make audiences think of the other is a standard GOP trick when discussing taxes. For that very reason, it won’t strike many voters as an insult: Most people who don’t pay income taxes do pay other taxes, and fail to distinguish between them, and thus don’t consider themselves among the 47% scorned by Romney.
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