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Forty Seven Puzzling Things About the 47 Percent

Mitt Romney's claim that 47 percent of all Americans are dependent on government and will never "take personal responsibility" for their lives has left this editor very confused.

(Emily Henry is the editor of Concord Patch.)

First, a disclaimer: I don't know if I could actually come up with 47 separate questions about Mitt Romney's "47 percent" speech — but it wouldn't be far off.

In the interest of brevity, I'll whittle it down to just 13. Here's what he said, and why I'm confused.

"There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what."

Question 1: Are almost half of American voters apathetic to the political, economical and social changes affecting their own lives? Do they head to the polls just to tick the same box every four years out of habit? Does their chosen political party really have complete and unquestioned authority, no matter what?

Question 2: What if the president divorced Michelle and made Snooki the First Lady?

"There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent on government, who believe that, that they are victims, who believe that government has the responsibility to care for them. Who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it."

Question 3: If half of all Americans are victims, what does that make the other half? Culprits?

Question 4: Is the government not supposed to care about its citizens? Is that considered a conflict of interest?

Question 5: Doesn't the "health care" that the government provides to most of these "dependent" people start in the emergency room and end in a big, bankrupting check? Is that the "health care" we're talking about? Or is it programs like Medi-Cal, which provide limited access, subpar services and don't include dental care?

Question 6: Are the American people not entitled to food? 

Question 7: Or does Romney mean they're not entitled to the $4 a day they get from food stamps?

Question 8: There 3.5 million Americans experiencing homelessness here in a given year. How is that possible if housing is so readily available from the government? Isn't there a chronic shortage of beds at homeless shelters? Isn't the average wait list for section 8 housing between five and eight years?

"My job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."

Question 9: If you only worry about half of all Americans, wouldn't that make you only half a president?

Question 10: How do you explain "personal responsibility" to the millions of Americans working multiple jobs, longer hours, and earning lower wages than they did in their teens?

Question 11: How do you explain it to their kids, who have to raise themselves because their parents are never home? What about the teenagers who are forced to drop out of school so that they can get a job and contribute to the household income? What about the college graduates who are racking up tens of thousands of dollars in interest on their student loans because they can only afford to pay back the minimum amount, and so end up burdened by debt well into middle age?

Question 12: If half of Americans didn't care for their lives — wouldn't they be dead? 

Question 13: Would that make things easier?

Do you have answers to these queries? Or questions of your own? Maybe you can bring the total to 47. Comment below. 

Dalamar September 23, 2012 at 10:18 PM
Opinions mixed with news. I do recall reports that FoxNews does it quite frequently throughout their daily programming. Once again, we can find common ground.
Emily Henry (Editor) September 23, 2012 at 11:08 PM
RN, I've listened to the entire speech. And if my article is "uninformed," that's because I am asking for information, hence the 13 questions. Not statements — questions. I ask because I am interesting in hearing the debate from both sides. Of course, I have my own stance. I believe, for example, that people (and governments are composed of people) have a responsibility to care about one another and not just leave everyone to take care of their own "d**n selves, as David says. But I also believe in open mindedness. That 47% of Americans do not pay federal income tax is not the question, which is why it is not included in my list. My queries regard Romney's judgement of these people as lacking drive, integrity and intelligence.
Emily Henry (Editor) September 23, 2012 at 11:24 PM
David, for a family of 5, that amounts to just over $5 a day per person. How far $5 a day can stretch in a family completely depends on a variety of factors, such as a) the age of the children (teenagers, for example, need a lot more food than babies) and b) the type of food you are eating (fresh food is more expensive than processed, hence the prevalence of obesity, diabetes and other health issues in the poor.)
Leah Hall September 24, 2012 at 12:40 AM
Note about Rasmussen and Bias "...(Nate) Silver analyzed 105 polls released by Rasmussen Reports and its subsidiary, Pulse Opinion Research, for Senate and gubernatorial races in numerous states across the country. The bottom line is that on average, Rasmussen's polls were off by 5.8% with a bias of 3.9% in favor of the Republican candidates." http://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2012/Info/rasmussen.html
Donna Soares September 24, 2012 at 04:04 AM
Sorry Emily, but I raised a husband and 4 children on "processed" foods, and if you think that translates into obesity you are dead wrong. The reason the poor are fat and diabetic is simple; they are lazy. They sit around all day and don't work. Now, they have women like you trying to rationalize their being fat and lazy as attributing it to "processed" foods. Perhaps if they got their butts off the couch and their government paid LCD widescreens they would be such big fat pigs.
Donna Soares September 24, 2012 at 04:06 AM
And if you can't feed your family on $800 a month you're buying too much expensive food. Go to Pak N Save at the first of the month and see these big fat pigs buying steaks and lobsters with their welfare checks, manicured nails and stuffing their bloated butts into a Cadillac.
Fred Eiger September 24, 2012 at 07:55 AM
Most people who support Barack Hussein Obama lack drive, integrity and intelligence. He's for the Welfare Crowd and those who have an entitlement mentality. Hence Emily your belief that "I believe, for example, that people (and governments are composed of people) have a responsibility to care about one another and not just leave everyone to take care of their own "d**n selves, as David says" It sounds like Romney described you to a tee.
Fred Eiger September 24, 2012 at 07:56 AM
And your typie Richard wants to steal the chair that the guy is sitting on.
Fred Eiger September 24, 2012 at 07:58 AM
So Kyle, what is the "wrong" in the wings that is so favorable to what Romney has to offer, you make it sound as though Romney is worse than Obama. Elaborate.
Fred Eiger September 24, 2012 at 08:02 AM
Perhaps Emily would like to take the other Brit, Richard Mellor and together they can cook "fresh" food for the all the Food Stamp users out there. This would greatly lower the health problems among the poor. In fact Emily and Richard can buy the food, take it to the Food Stamp recipient's house, cook it, set the table, set the plates and clean up.
David September 24, 2012 at 12:52 PM
Emily, I keep exact track of how much I spend on groceries, and have since I moved out of the house. I can supply you with the spreadsheets. I have a family of 5. I spend between $700 and $800 per month on groceries. According to the USDA, that puts me on the "thrifty" side of things. http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/Publications/FoodPlans/2012/CostofFoodJul2012.pdf And fresh food is no more expensive than processed food. In fact, fresh food is cheaper, IF you take your time to *cook* things (i.e. buy a raw, whole chicken; bake it with potatoes, onions, carrots. serve with other veggies that are in season, total cost for family of 5 for dinner: $10, max). I've done all the grocery shopping for my family for 15 years. I've got it down. There are multiple reasons why poor people in the USA tend to have higher rates of obesity, cost of food is not one of them.
David September 24, 2012 at 12:58 PM
Rasmussen had the Republicans winning 62 seats in the House in 2010. They won 63. Rasmussen Reports wasn't around in its current form in 2000. but nice try. And hey, ignore Gallup too, while you're at it.
David September 24, 2012 at 12:59 PM
Yes, we can all admit Fox does it. Now you can admit that EVERY OTHER "news" network does so, and all of the ones you listed except Fox does it for Obama..
David September 24, 2012 at 01:01 PM
Hey, thanks Emily. I'll be around to help myself to your wallet. I'm a little short of cash this month, thanks to some idiot thief who smashed my car window to get a cheap, barely functioning radio. Oh, you're not going to give me a couple hundred? Why not? I *need* it, and since you have a responsibility to take care of me, I'll be around later today?
David September 24, 2012 at 01:26 PM
Emily, First, Romney made no statements as to their intelligence. Second, he stated that they "believe they are victims" and feel "entitled" to these benefits etc etc. Well, yes. if they didn't, they would be working to remove themselves from the dole. How many poor people on welfare have you actually dealt with in your life? Not temporarily poor, as in between jobs, grad students, college kids, young adults in that first job, I mean real, live poor people who are on the dole? I've dealt with plenty. And all but one have been poor because of choices they've made. Dropped out of school, got pregnant at 15, gone to jail; I didn't force them to do that, they did. And now they expect to get paid for it. And I'm the one doing the paying. The only one who "lived by the rules" and still ended up poor is due to *real* health issues (a degenerative, disabling lung disease not even related to smoking. just bad luck as it were.). And again, I'll be around to collect your money to pay for my car window, mmmkay?
Rob Rich September 24, 2012 at 02:07 PM
Most of the poor I've met "made the bad decision" of being born to poor parents. Which led to other "bad decisions," like attending poor schools & living in poor neighborhoods. And many of the affluent people I've met have "done some crazy things" like dropping out of school, getting pregnant, and getting arrested. Fortunately for them, privilege has a way of insulating a person against the most devastating effects of such "hijinx," at least the first few times. Neither the rich nor the poor have a monopoly on bad decisions, though the consequences can be vastly different.
David September 24, 2012 at 03:20 PM
The fact is that if you do the following things: 1) Graduate from high school 2) Don't have kids before 21 3) Have kids when you're married 4) Don't go to jail You have a 8% chance of being poor. Actually, #4 doesn't even matter, it's just the first 3. If you don't follow the first 3 rules, you have a 79% chance of being poor. This is from Census data. The vast majority of "poor" people are poor because they made an *obviously* poor decision in their lives.
Dalamar September 24, 2012 at 04:05 PM
@David- Your misfortune with your window is just that. Misfortune. Comparing your situation to the struggles of day to day living trivializes those who have to have worry about . I'm quite certain not one person here will not deny that there are minority of people who "work the system". The key word is MINORITY. But you and a few others here are willing to label anyone with the word of the day from the corporate media. Let's use your logic and apply it to those on Wall Street who created the economic crash. Since there are a few bad apples on Wall Street then we can say the same for an entire industry as being selfish, greedy and irresponsible.
Dalamar September 24, 2012 at 04:11 PM
Rob Rich is absolutely correct. Due to uncontrollable circumstances, children are placed in environments which are conducive to certain outcomes. The information is out there. Let me know if anyone needs help finding it. David is correct but his list is for those who are not already in the certain environments of Rob Rich's response. That information is also available.
Dalamar September 24, 2012 at 04:49 PM
@David- Once a person is poor it is very difficult to emerge out of it. I can find articles but for starters here are two articles which show why it is difficult. In the interest of objectivity, I encourage anyone to read these. The High Cost of Poverty: Why the Poor Pay Morewww.washingtonpost.com › Arts & Living Does It Cost More To Be Poor? : NPRwww.npr.org › News › Business › Economy Also try to focus on the children of these families. What environment they are in and the pressures of these families "to make ends meet" Children have to work to help once they are of age. In some cases, its "either/or" when it comes to education or surviving.
David September 24, 2012 at 05:25 PM
Dal, I'm fine with letting all banks fail. As I've consistently stated, I'm all for flat taxes on corporations and individuals. As for trivializing poverty, the point is the mentality where people think they're entitled to my money. Why am I not entitled to take some of yours? I actually am short on cash this month. How about some cash? I'll be over, just tell me where. Work for it? Are you kidding me?
David September 24, 2012 at 05:48 PM
Dal, re: the WaPo article Poor people don't have cars? Really? 75% of "poor people" own a car, 31% have more than one car. Poor people waste their time at laundromats? Really? 83% of poor people have a clothes washer, 79% have a clothes dryer. They're cut off from society? 99% have television (78% more than one TV), 79% have a DVD player, 79% have cable, 60% have internet service, 68% have a computer, 76% have cell phones. Costs a lot to go to a check cashing joint? Well, yes. Thanks to the massive hike in banks' costs, any checking account with less than $713 in it is a losing account for the bank (before Obama and Dodd Frank regulations, it was $200). However, you can go to your local credit union like 1st United and have a checking account for $5/month, less than all the garbage fees they're paying at the pawn shops. The guy in the article is complaining about buying pre-made chicken wings for $9?! I buy an entire chicken at Safeway and everything else for dinner for 5 for that. Give me a break. If they want to waste what little money they have, what are you going to do about it?
David September 24, 2012 at 05:58 PM
Your examples of being poor from mainstream "journalism" underlie another point--being "poor" now seems to be defined as lacking discretionary income, not as actually *lacking* in the necessities of life. Spending time in a laundromat? Give me a break--the person has clean clothes to wear, no? Complaining about not affording pre-made wings? Buy your own *d___* chicken/ wings--they're available uncooked for $0.99/lb. I do, and stick them in the oven with some BBQ sauce (also $0.99 on sale, up to $1.49). I can't remember the last time I bought one of those "oven-roasted" chickens or whatever at Safeway. But the man still has food to eat. By the new definition, I'm poor: I spend all my money on housing, gas, food, clothes, utilities and taxes. Since I'm short this month, again, how about you pay for my car window?
David September 24, 2012 at 06:03 PM
The article does make one good point, but hides it of course. That is, the marginal cost to moving up from "poor" to "working class" is huge, and a real disincentive to finding higher-paying work (the example being that one woman doesn't "qualify" for lower-cost child care because her income is too high). Just think if you're getting $200/month in food stamps, your rent is subsidized to the tune of $800/month, your utilities are subsidized by, say, $50/month, you're getting over $1000/month. If you lose $1000 in cash payments by working a bit more, you need to make over $1200 in wages to get that after taxes. For someone making, say, $25k/year, that's more than a 50% raise to make getting off of welfare economically sensible. A far more graduated scale of benefits would make much more sense.
David September 24, 2012 at 08:04 PM
Politico has Romney at 55% to 41% for Obama in middle class voters. but hey, obama will win in a landslide, right...
Dalamar September 25, 2012 at 06:58 AM
David- In reference to your post at 10:48 on the 24th, in the interest of objectivity, where are you getting these numbers? This is a sincere question, not an attack.
David September 25, 2012 at 02:13 PM
Dal, the source is here http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2011/07/what-is-poverty the references are all government sources like the Census, Dept. of Energy, etc. The idea that "poverty" in America is a grinding cycle of hunger, deprivation, homelessness, etc is just bull. Sure, there are hungry people. Sure there are homeless people, but is it 15% of the population? absolutely not. It's on the order of 1-5% of the population, and for the most part those people are suffering because they do not avail themselves of aid (due to drug abuse, mental illness, don't want it, etc). Again, just look at your WaPo article. What are these "poor" people complaining about? Waiting for a laundromat? They're in the minority of poor people who don't have a washer/dryer, and heck, they still can get their clothes (which they actually possess) clean. Waiting for a bus? Again, in the minority of poor people who don't have a car. Paying $9 for a bucket of chicken wings? For Pete's sake. That's not poverty, that's inconvenience.
Dalamar September 25, 2012 at 03:21 PM
@David- I thank you for the link. I will check it out.
Cynthia September 27, 2012 at 06:33 PM
Thank you - well said.
Thomas Clarke September 28, 2012 at 12:48 AM
If you are happy with the last 3.5 years then vote Obama. If you yearn for the security of Bush then vote Seagull and cast your lot with Romney. If you cannot stomach the same d**n message delivered by different talking heads then vote Libertarian, Gary Johnson for President. When possible vote Libertarian in every choice. Opt out to increase government. Never vote for an incumbent, you only to look and smell the moment downwind and you know it is bad. Vote No on all Taxes. Follow the money, chances are that the source is common to both parties. The difference between megacorporations and international unions is the spelling. Their messages are the same. Insist that your representatives create improvement or quit. It is time to tell these folks to s##t or get off the pot so the other guy can have a s##t sandwich like the rest of the 47 per cent.

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