CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- At a private $50,000-a-person gathering of rich Republicans, when he thought the public couldn't hear, Mitt Romney described almost half of Americans as parasites.
In effect, the GOP presidential nominee scornfully dismissed millions of seniors who are aided by Social Security and Medicare -- and millions of children who get low-cost school lunches -- and millions of laid-off workers drawing unemployment aid -- and millions of low-income families helped by food stamps or Medicaid, etc. Such people were denigrated as "dependent on government."
During a Republican fundraiser at the Boca Raton mansion of a billionaire financier, Romney was asked about his prospects in the Nov. 6 election. He replied:
"There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president, no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent on government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the 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 -- that that's an entitlement, and the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what . . . . These are people who pay no income tax . . . . My job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."
A secret video of the event was leaked to Mother Jones magazine, which made it public. Political backlash erupted swiftly. President Obama's campaign chiefs said Romney privately thinks half of Americans are "parasites" -- a view he could express freely among wealthy Republican backers, but not to Americans in general.
This episode reaffirms that the GOP is allied tightly with America's 1 percent, the billionaire elite at the top. It's reminiscent of the time when former President George W. Bush told a millionaire assembly: "This is an impressive crowd -- the 'haves' and the 'have-mores.' Some people call you the elite; I call you my base."
Frankly, we think it's great that the government provides Social Security and Medicare for seniors, and school lunches for low-income children, and support for the jobless, etc. Aiding people with needs is a hallmark of a humane and compassionate society. Recipients shouldn't be scorned as "dependent on government."
Fallout from Romney's remarks to rich backers is another reminder that politicians should be careful what they say when they think no cameras are rolling. President Obama suffered a similar experience in 2008 when he told a private gathering that less-educated Americans become "bitter" about economic downturns and "cling to guns and religion."
Just seven weeks remain until the election. Who knows how many more campaign upheavals will occur before Nov. 6.