WASHINGTON — The overwhelming majority of voters who back President Barack Obama do so because they are “dependent on government” and “believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing,” Mitt Romney told a closed-door gathering of about 30 major donors earlier this year, according to video of the event that has surfaced on the Internet.
The person who uploaded a series of potentially inflammatory videos from the fundraiser has claimed authorship of them in an email exchange with The Huffington Post. The source said he or she wishes to remain anonymous for professional reasons and to avoid a lawsuit. The videos, which have created a buzz on the Internet, were blurred and at times blacked out to obscure the location of the filming, the source said.
“I have obviously degraded the quality to attempt to camo the location,” said the clandestine filmmaker. The original, which has not been posted in full, is very high quality, the source said.
The source has given the full video to Mother Jones’ David Corn, the source said.
The videos capture Romney speaking loosely about Obama supporters, immigrants, privilege and a host of other controversial issues. The candidate seems unguarded and displays the sense of humor that is often mentioned by those close to him, but is so rarely on public display.
It’s Romney’s remark about the president’s backers that might have the most potential to undermine his candidacy, however, as Romney seeks to persuade people who voted for Obama in 2008 to switch this time.
“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what,” Romney says in one clip. “All right — 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.”
Romney’s comments on the video go a step beyond his August claim, made in public, that the Obama administration’s state-by-state welfare waivers were an effort to “shore up his base.” In the behind-closed-doors speech to donors, Romney seems to be suggesting that nearly half of Americans expect to have all their needs supplied by the government.
“[M]y job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives,” Romney also said in the video, according to Mother Jones.
As for the other 53 percent? Romney may have been referencing a meme started by conservative blogger Erick Erickson, who has noted that only 53 percent of Americans pay federal income taxes. Erickson argued that the rest of the country, and in particular the Occupy Wall Street movement, should “suck it up you whiners.”
The notion that Democrats hope to ride dependency to political power is one that has no shortage of adherents among conservatives. “We are reaching the tipping point where the majority of Americans are recipients of government programs,” columnist George Will said recently on Laura Ingraham’s radio show. “Heavens, one in seven of Americans is on food stamps today. The gamble — it’s really not a gamble, the tactic — of the Democratic Party is to run up the dependency ratio in this country until you get 50-60 percent of Americans dependent on the government in at least one or often in multiple ways, at which point they figure the party of government will always win.”
But there are a few problems with the idea of the overburdened “53 percent.” Many Americans don’t pay federal income taxes, in part, because of deductions like the child tax credit that have been championed by conservatives and progressives alike. Almost all of the “47 percent” do pay other federal taxes in the form of Social Security and Medicare payroll deductions and gas levies, as well as a variety of state and local sales and property taxes that aren’t dependent on income.
“Mitt Romney wants to help all Americans struggling in the Obama economy. As the governor has made clear all year, he is concerned about the growing number of people who are dependent on the federal government, including the record number of people who are on food stamps, nearly one in six Americans in poverty, and the 23 million Americans who are struggling to find work,” Romney spokeswoman Gail Gitcho said in a statement responding to the video’s release. “Mitt Romney’s plan creates 12 million new jobs in four years, grows the economy and moves Americans off of government dependency and into jobs.”
A separate video clip that featured Romney addressing deplorable conditions at a Chinese factory began making the rounds on the Internet last month. In that video, he contrasted the conditions he witnessed on a business trip to China with conditions in the United States, where he said, “Ninety-five percent of life is set up for you if you were born in this country.”
Commentators have seized on the assertion that people are mostly set if they’re born in the U.S. In fact, tens of millions of Americans are jobless or living in poverty. The notion also cuts against one of Romney’s campaign themes, which is that those who are successful have gotten to where they are on their own.
In addition, the video is notable for Romney’s recounting of conditions he saw at the factory. By his own telling, he seemed satisfied when the factory owner told him the barbed wire was to keep job-seekers out, not to keep workers in. Romney may have been referring to conditions at Global Tech Appliances Inc., a Chinese manufacturer, in which Bain Capital invested, that was fined $2.65 million for ripping off a deep-fat fryer design, according to Boston Globe reporter Matt Viser.
There are at least 10 of these videos, each allegedly clipped from the same fundraiser. A YouTube link to the Chinese factory clip, it turns out, was initially posted in May in the comments section of The Huffington Post under the handle romneyexposed.
The commenter posted a link to a YouTube account by the same name, which includes a version of the factory video and three others. Six more videos exist under another account.
In one of the other videos, Romney lamented, in a joking way, that he would have a better chance of being elected if his father had been ethnically Mexican, rather than born to white parents living in Mexico.
“My dad, as you probably, know was the governor of Michigan and was the head of a car company. But he was born in Mexico … and, uh, had he been born of, uh, Mexican parents, I’d have a better shot at winning this,” Romney said. “But he was unfortunately born to Americans living in Mexico. … I mean I say that jokingly, but it would be helpful to be Latino.”
In a separate video, Romney talks about his success. “Both my dad and [wife] Ann’s dad did quite well in their lives. But when they came to the end of their lives and passed along the inheritance to Ann and me, we both decided to give it all away. So I have inherited nothing. Everything that Ann and I have, we earned the old-fashioned way.”
Romney’s parents did pay for his boarding school, his college, his graduate school and his first home.
He got closer to the truth in another clip. “There’s a perception that all of you were born with a silver spoon. You know, you never had to earn anything and so forth,” Romney said to the donors. “Frankly, I was born with a silver spoon, which is the greatest gift you can have — which is to get born in America.”
Brad Shannon contributed reporting