Opinion: Romney's '47 Percent' Gives Fading OWS a Birthday Present

Tuesday, September 18, 2012 - 07:52 AM

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Who would have thought that Mitt Romney would give Occupy Wall Street a birthday present? On the day that protesters from the 99 percent took to the streets to mark the anniversary of the encampment at Zuccotti Park, the GOP Presidential hopeful introduced a new number into public circulation: the 47 percent of Americans he claims pay no income taxes, rely on the government and will support President Obama.

Such a comment puts Romney not only in the 1 percent that OWS has been targeting; but in an elite, exclusive top 1 percent of 1 percent of most unfortunate political comments caught on video. Furthermore, it reminds voters just how disdainful of and distant from regular working Americans Governor Romney is. A screenwriter could not have created a candidate that better embodies the 1 percent: The greed, recklessness and obliviousness that has increased wealth disparity and shaken the American economy.

The fact that that theme is part of this election's story owes some debt to the Occupiers who took over a park last year and the tens of thousands of Americans who joined them in solidarity marches, actions and encampments across the country. Our national conversation had been focused on deficits, belt-tightening and austerity - a political landscape that would have been perfect for Romney's partner-in-crime Paul Ryan.

However, our national conversation was ready to change, and Occupy Wall Street sparked what Democratic elected officials, progressive think-tanks and labor unions hadn't been able to: a shift in the dialogue to focus on who was holding our nation's wealth, and why it wasn't being shared more justly with more of our fellow Americans. For every person who spent a night sleeping in a park, hundreds more were voicing their frustration with a corporatocracy that was robbing our country. For every protester who held a sign demanding that the system change, thousands more were asking the same.

A year later, that energy has occupied the themes of this campaign, even while Occupy Wall Street steered clear of elections. There were many of us who wondered about, and hoped for, some sort of "Occupy the Vote" effort to register voters, increase turnout or even field a series of candidates. Such a push never gained traction since there is a strain of thought among some Occupiers that view both parties as equally corrupt and the electoral system as rigged the financial one.

There would have also been room for outside groups to field candidates who ran with OWS messaging -- much as many conservative hopefuls called themselves Tea Party candidates regardless of official affiliation. While progressive candidates have taken on the spirit of the 99 percent, there was certainly no mention, even obliquely, of Occupy at the Democratic Convention…which probably pleased institutional Democrats and hardcore Occupiers equally.

It seems a missed opportunity for OWS to not have been more election-minded in a year when that is occupying all of America's political discussions. If it didn't take the form of endorsing, it could have been about disrupting: challenging candidates who claim to take on Wall Street while taking just as much money from bankers. Or it could have been the truly radical act of bringing an army of new voters to the polls. If you think a few hundred people in a park cause the authorities to panic, imagine what a few million new voters would do.

But Occupy isn't about election cycles. It's about laying out a broader alternative to the way America works, and about building the foundation for a movement that may follow. The anniversary actions yesterday had the mix of creativity and confrontation, excitement and aimlessness, direct democracy and distracting demagoguery, signs, slogans, chants, costumes and compassion that flavored events last fall. The anger at the system is still there, as is the optimistic hope that we can create a different way.

It was fitting that on Sunday night, Occupiers held a Rosh Hashannah service at Zuccotti Park. Like the Kol Nidre service for Yom Kippur last year, this year's Occupy Rosh Hashannah welcomed a large, diverse, crowd. Different ages and religions joined together to create something peaceful, uplifting and shared. They elevated the vision of what could be done in a public space, struck down barriers to entry, and built something safe in the midst of surrounding chaos.

That's the truly radical world we may envision, and not one likely to emerge just through November's election. It's certainly not something Mitt Romney will get behind. After all, from the outset, there are 47 percent of Americans he's definitely not interested in extending any invitation to at all.


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Comments [10]

WrongJusti; Have you considered the possibility that your "welfare" relatives may want to have a better future for their families? They might dream of liberty and pursuing happiness? That is how America was founded and has fallen through an abyss that only shooting for bigger and better things will accomplish (not diaper to death dependency). What if our govt fails? Where will "they" get their essentials then? It COULD happen and sooner rather than later. We are going the wrong direction, less wealth, less jobs, etc, Etc, ETC!

Sep. 18 2012 05:09 PM
Pascale Jean-Louis from Newe York

WNYC is editing Romneys remarks to try to put the best possible light on his statement. However, he does go on to say that those people are "dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them.” “My job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

So my 72 year old above. Romney is calling you a loser- unable to take responsibility for your life and one not to be worried about. How does that fit in our constitution? "we the people....

Sep. 18 2012 11:52 AM

Since when is telling the truth a gaffe?
Have we been lied and patronized to so much by this President and his minions that we are beyond celebrating the lies and are now depending them?

People who have slipped or were pushed into the quagmire of state dependency must justify themselves and that requires a "two minutes of hate" session to anyone who questions it using a calculator, calendar and common sense. That is where the chaos of Occupy comes in.

Just as there are people in autocracies who want to live in a free society there are people in this free society who want to live under the supervision of a benevolent autocrat and his loyalist minions.

Are we not to question 16 trillion in debt, high unemployment, sinking credit ratings, no budget and no plan except encouraging more people to become dependent on entitlements while the US Constitution is disregarded?

All we are hearing from progressives this year are new and exciting ways to trick, seduce and ensnare enough people into voting for President Obama. After that they will spend another six trillion of borrowed and printed money to seduce even more people.

Is this good for the nation? Who cares? It is good for the Democratic Party and that is all that matters.

Progressive commentators have no serious answers to this economic problem expect demagoguing those who attempt to address it and solve it. Don't fall for this deception.

Sep. 18 2012 11:14 AM

Perhaps Romney is referring to the folks that we see in Judge Judy's
I was surprised and disturbed to see how many young women with one or
several children, single and are not working but are living on Government
assistance. All are separated from the fathers, who also are not working
for a variety of reasons. MY QUESTION IS THE SAME AS ROMNEY'S WOULD BE...

Sep. 18 2012 10:08 AM
FloridaRes from FLorida

So there are 47% who don't pay Federal Income Tax. Most of these people have low income and many still work at low paying jobs so they pay SS and Medicare tax. Those who have no jobs are either unemployed and able to work if they could find a job, ill, or SENIORS on SS. In addition all pay sales tax, real estate/school tax (directly or indirectly) and when you deduct all of these categories, you get down to 16% who pay nothing.

Of our Veterans, the unemployment rate is over 9%. See Obviously Romeny thinks that all of the 47% vote in a BLOCK - the current myth of the GOP/TP and that the govt and those of us who have good/great incomes have no responsibility to help others. Do you want to see families living on the streets, children in tattered clothes and no food to eat, no medical help, etc? I was registered GOP until 1991 with shift of GOP away from moderate. I didn't leave the GOP, the GOP left me!

Sep. 18 2012 09:48 AM
Lloyd Reedy from Pinehurst, TX

I'm72, and in the 47% you are speaking about and will vote Republican. I retired USAF 1998, have to pay my own disability which reduces earned income and on SSI. I love the constitution and the only way to keep it intact is vote Republican.Thank you for this great country we live in..

Sep. 18 2012 09:21 AM

People on welfare vote in blocks? Guess they all look alike to you...I have family members on welfare that maddenly vote Repub in every election against their perceived economic well being

Sep. 18 2012 09:00 AM
Roy retired AF from Germany

Just to let you know, all members of the armed forces pay federal income taxes, the only ones that do not are the ones in a authorized combat zone.

Sep. 18 2012 08:59 AM

I don't support either candidate, but what he said was true. That people on welfare will vote democrat regardless of who the candidate is. Its common knowledge. Article states he's distancing himself from working class? The point is about 30% doesn't work.

Sep. 18 2012 08:39 AM
Terry from Minnesota

It would be interesting to see what percent of those serving in our armed forces are from families in that 47 percent that don't pay federal income taxes.

Sep. 18 2012 08:30 AM

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