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Forty Seven Things I Don't Understand About the 47 Percent

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

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. 

Selina Williams September 23, 2012 at 06:36 PM
Actually, on average, gay couples have more disposal income than straight couples due to a number of factors, a) mostly childless, b) higher eduction levels, c) if male, higher pay on average, d) no time off for child bearing (unless female). Oh, and they can share clothes ;>). So they are more capable of paying a mortgage and decorating their houses beautifully. Maybe that's why people are of afraid of giving them full equal rights. Jealous.
Louise B. September 23, 2012 at 06:43 PM
Selina, haven't you heard "there's no such thing as a free lunch"? You state that education should be free as it is in European countries but, if you've paid any attention to what is happening financially in Europe, you know that many of those countries are facing bankruptcy because of "cradle to grave" entitlements. If you want a "free" education, then I assume you want teachers, administrators, janitors, book publishers, etc. to work for free. If not, then you need to rely on the taxpayer. The taxpayers are already supplying "free" education from K-12. The taxpayers is already paying for the running of state colleges and universities. In my experience, when someone gets something for "free," it's not appreciated. Witness the state of our public housing projects and our "free" K-12 education in which only 50% of students in our school district are proficient in English and math. I came from a poor family but never felt entitled to anything. I worked from the time I was 11 years old and put myself through college. I would suggest that our current President -- if he's reelected -- implement policies that grow this economy so that people can work for what they want instead of looking for "free" stuff.
Chris J Kapsalis September 23, 2012 at 06:49 PM
Jumbo Jack. $1. Same amount of calories of healthy food probably $5. Good point Selina.
Chris J Kapsalis September 23, 2012 at 07:03 PM
I rememeber staying in a place with so called free health care, yet 15% sales tax, huge sin taxes and so on. Nothing is free. Yet it makes since to tax some things, especially alcohol, junk food, if the money goes directly to a good cause, liek education or health care. What we need a firm law about where this money goes, taxes, we vote on, approve, and make sure it goes there. Directly. That law would spare us ffrom things like the lottery debockle. With the right balance it could work. I don;t say tax the hell out of people, rich people, and give peopel a free ride. However, nothing will ever be perfect. There will be auses. It is not good to see some abuses and generalize, thorugh out this 47% whatever. Kind of bizarre, but it is human nature to generalisze like this. We all do it. Most Repblicans and dems want the same thing. The most vocal are the extreamists though. And we point them as to why they are wrong, we are right. Fact is you don;t hear about the vast majority of people from either party until the vote, who are logical and tollerate some bs to make a vote one way or the other. I am siding with Obama and being a democrat, even though some things I do not like about dem. But more I do not like about Rep. And visa versa, like some of both.
Louise B. September 23, 2012 at 08:53 PM
You must have missed the Democrat ad about Romney being responsible for the death of a cancer patient.
Sarah Creeley September 23, 2012 at 09:02 PM
I like your post, Selina! One principle I beleive in is equality. Romney doesn't support same sex marriage, along the the Rebublican Party. I was raised to think that any kind of discriimination is wrong.
Louise B. September 23, 2012 at 09:11 PM
President Obama didn't support same sex marriage four years ago but, coincidentally with this upcoming election, he had now "evolved."
Selina Williams September 23, 2012 at 09:20 PM
Norway,Sweden, Finland, Denmark are not bankrupt. Far from it. If kids in this district have poor scores its not because it is free. That's ridiculous.. Saying children packed in overstuffed classrooms without adequate materials are not successful because they are not appreciative and just want free stiff is ridiculous. Private schools don't have to take your dislexic, disabled, children with special needs. Besides! it's not free and it's not wanting something for nothing. Parents pay taxes. It's what your priorities are. Money for war, any for prisons, but cuts everywhere to education. Defund then blame for failure. Yes, American portions are excessive but in our public schools, catsup counts as a vegetable. Some schools have fast food vendors proving lunches. That is not proper nutrition. Who can feed a family on $300/month? That's $10/day or $2 each for a family of 5. A gallon of Milk costs $6 or 7 bucks. Forget the eggs and broccoli. Affluent people are by and large, not obese. I pay taxes to educate American children because I want America to be able to complete in the global economy. It makes this a better place to live. We have fired scientists, teachers, firemen, police officers, these are not folks addicted to "free stuff". These people are not easy to re-employ and folks over 50 are discriminated against in hiring. Nobody wants them and they are too young to retire. I see them working now at Starbucks and TJ's.
Louise B. September 23, 2012 at 10:04 PM
Selina, the total population of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark is 24,470,975. The total U.S. population is 313,847,465. So, you are comparing apples to oranges when you compare the costs of these educational systems. Also, I have relatives who live in both Sweden and Denmark (very socialist countries) and they are very much constrained financially. The U.S. is spending over $10,000 per student per year according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Not a paltry sum. And, yes, our test scores and educated population would be much better off if parents and students didn't take the "free" education for granted. True education starts in the home with a respect for authority and for learning. When kids come to schools with weapons, drugs, cell phones and attitude, the system suffers - no matter how much money you pump into it. If you are really concerned about the lack of money for our educational system, write to Governor Brown. Several months ago he signed legislation which would provide $40 million to children of illegal immigrants for their college education. Tha'ts $40 million less our schools now have to spend. Our representatives are not looking out for our own citizens.
Selina Williams September 23, 2012 at 11:06 PM
From what I understand folks on TANF or whtever it is called are required to work. Pay them a living wage and they will not be on TANF. Stop all discrimination against older employees and minorities and they will not be unemployed or on TANF. Educate all citizens and they will not be on TANF. Teach nutrition in schools and the parents will learn too. Then we can talk. No trap is attractive, it may be all that is keeping their families alive.
Concord Mike September 24, 2012 at 06:08 PM
Louise, you are right about the overall cost of over $10,000 per year per K-12 student in America. The teachers union will argue the point, but when they quote statistics, it is always skewed in their favor. The will conveniently exclude money from federal sources or specially designated funds when they quote an average $ per student figure. Very dishonest. So given that we are spending $10K per student, and given an average class size of 30, that is $300,000 per classroom per year. Given that the average classroom teacher costs their district about $100,000 in wages, benefits, and substitute teacher costs (for all the days they take off during the school year), I have to ask: what happened to the other $200,000 per classroom? This is exactly why us taxpayers are increasingly reluctant to vote for more money for public education. The quailty is mediocre at best and the costs are exorbitant. The schools need to clean up their act and cut all the wasteful administration costs and cut programs that don't deliver bang for the buck.
Judie Palmer September 24, 2012 at 08:09 PM
I have read all your comments and have a question... are any of you CEOs of your own company, or efficiency consultants (that is where you are hired by a company to go in and makes things more efficient by telling the owners who should stay and who should get fired), or been available to help people -- just in general? By your opinions, you qualify for running for POTUS. If you think you can handle the job, and can multi-task every day crises, then you should apply. One more comment, if you do not mind... is there anyone out there that actually cares about people and volunteer to help tutor children, feed nutrition to the Americans or donate their clothing when they don't like them anymore? Please let me know where I can find these people. I would like to get to know them.
Selina Williams September 24, 2012 at 09:21 PM
Judie, great questions! The Bay area abounds in individuals and organizations that are helping and caring in many ways. The best and most rewarding times of my life have been those I have as a volunteer helping disabled and disadvantage youth to experience the natural environment and environmental travel. That's what it is all about, heart, to heart.
Emily Henry (Editor) September 24, 2012 at 09:28 PM
Julie, fortunately, there are plenty of caring people who volunteer their time and resources to those in need and leave a legacy of improving humanity in some way or another. I am very grateful for that, and keep it in mind when I read through some of the comments here.
Judie Palmer September 24, 2012 at 11:25 PM
Selina & Emily. Thank you so much for responding. I was hopeful that there were some of us out there!
Judie Palmer September 24, 2012 at 11:26 PM
And Emily, please keep up the good work!
Publius September 25, 2012 at 02:17 AM
Not true on the payroll tax. The Earned Income Credit (EIC) was conceived to mitigate any payroll taxes assessed on lower income workers.
Patrick J. McNamara September 25, 2012 at 02:26 PM
I always hear comments about corporations not being "people," referring of course to the SCOTUS decision in Citizens United, to the contrary. Remember that in that same decision, unions were also endowed with "personhood" to the same degree as corporations. I then often ask if people would be willing to curtail unions' personhood along with corporations rights to personhood. Then they think, and say "yes, because corporations can outspend unions anyway." Then I ask them is they would hold to that same curtailment principle in the State of California, where Prop 32 seeks to curtail both corporate and union opportunities to buy influence in the state legislature. "No no no," I am told..."that is all a smoke and mirror scheme because corporations don't really collect money involuntarily from their employees to use for political power, so that is really an anti-union measure. Corporations have no real power in California." So the question of "personhood" and the ability to buy lawmakers, to the detriment of the voters, is the consummate exercise in moral relativism. No principles involved. If it gores my people's ox, then it's a bad policy. If it gores YOUR ox, then it is virtuous and good. The sad truth is that if we don't start goring everybody's oxen soon, there will be no oxen left for our children and grandchildren to argue about.
Patrick J. McNamara September 25, 2012 at 02:37 PM
Gee Kathy, do you mean you think someone like Dianne Feinstein can be an effective leader even though she is a multi-miilionaire with money stashed in offshore accounts in the Caymen Islands and Switzerland? If so, I agree with you.
SalthePlumber September 25, 2012 at 07:53 PM
What a fun topic! Too bad it involves a Hollow Man who is running for President. Alas, poor Mittens! He is as smart as a box of Rocks on most things, but he sure does know how to count money! Thats not surprising for this Silver Spooner who 'Just wants to be President'. He should run for President of the Country Club and enjoy a landslide victory...
Don Guerrero September 25, 2012 at 09:43 PM
Funny, for a second there I could have sworn you were referring to the empty suit occupying the White House. After all, hollow man and smart as a box of rocks fit Obummer to a T! BO should run for President of Hollywood, since he'd rather hang with the rich and famous than deal with the terrorist attacks on our Embassies and the rape and murder of our Gov't Officials, or as BO fondly refers to them, "bumps in the road" And I'd GLADLY have someone in the W.H. who's good at counting money, rather than someone who's good at spending it faster than it can be printed!
Louise B. September 25, 2012 at 10:21 PM
Let's count this: - $16 trillion in debt and counting (projected to be over $20 trillion by 2016 if Obama remains in office and gets what he wants in spending) - $5 trillion in debt racked up in less than four years - 26 states saw a rise in unemployment this past month - 46 million are receiving food stamps (a record high) - 9 million on federal disability - 100 million (35%) living in a household receiving some sort of welfare - $23 billion just pumped into the banking system by the Fed (inflation???) - $3.5 billion borrowed every day by the Feds I'd say someone flunked third grade math.
Patrick J. McNamara September 25, 2012 at 11:38 PM
I find it amusing that the big criticism of Romney is that he was born into wealth and is a rich guy with no heart. Yet, if he were a Democrat, he might be looked upon as a chump and a failure by some standards. First, he inherits a large estate and gives every penny of it away to charity. Then he moves away to make it on his own. Then he becomes successful, and when others in his field (private equity) are raking in BILLIONS in the decade 2000-2010, Romney goes on leave to save the Olympics for $1 in pay, then becomes governor of MA for another $1 in pay, and is yet still worth a mere (by private equity standards) measly $250 million. He gave up billions to serve for a buck. A single buck. Compare that to former Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, also of MA. He is worth over $800 million. THREE TIMES AS WEALTHY AS ROMNEY. Moreover, Kerry makes an additional $35-40 million per year in interest and pays NO FEDERAL TAX on it, because the money is in tax free municipal bonds. I now challenge all Romney bashers to prove they are not flaming hypocrites and post here that John Kerry was not worthy of being elected president. Go on. Heave a big sigh of relief that that silver spoon uncaring rich SOB Kerry was beaten by GW Bush. It's easy to be a partisan bigot when you think you are among nodding agreement drones, but Patch is mixed company. Stand and deliver.
Louise B. September 26, 2012 at 02:23 AM
Dena, I don't dispute that the previous administration was not proactive and dropped the ball but it wasn't all Republicans' fault. First of all, the Congress was controlled by Democrats. Secondly, Barney Frank and Chris Dodd, both Democrats and heads of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the Senate Banking Commission, respectively, never once said there was a problem. President Obama was elected President almost four years ago. When will he take the position for which he was elected??? He keeps harping back to the past administration. If he is reelected, the Democrats won't be able to do that much longer. It will definitely be interesting to see who they will blame in 2016.
Sarah Creeley September 26, 2012 at 02:53 AM
"Louise B" I have not always agreed with Feinstein, but when I lived in San Francisco, she was a pretty good mayor! When I saw a child get run over by a bus in Golden Gate Park, many years ago, I asked her in a letter why buses were going in the parts of the park that seemed to be closed off. This tragedy happened in the 80's to a child who appeared to be around 7, in front of the old DeYoung Museum. Ms. Feinstein, to her credit, changed the bus route. Whether you want to admit it or not, she has done some good things. Why don't you take a moment to look in the mirror, whoever YOU are, and come out from your hiding. It's easy to point fingers and say negative things when you are a FAKE, unlike Ms. Feinstein.
morning glory September 26, 2012 at 02:56 AM
Go Romney and Ryan!!!!
Patrick J. McNamara September 26, 2012 at 03:33 AM
Dena, the point I made, which you either fail to grasp or are so obviously trying in vain to distract from is this: Kerry was the Democratic nominee for President of the United States. The de facto leader of the Democratic Party. The standard bearer for all that is represented by the ideals, hopes and dreams of the Democrats. Their man. Nominated by acclamation at the Democratic National convention to be the leader of all Americans. If you were a Democrat in 2004, you probably voted for him...unless you are saying that you voted for Bush or did not vote. That is the 2004 Democratic nominee for President. Get it yet? He is also three times as wealthy as Mitt Romney. Is he three times as evil, heartless and out of touch? He also pays ZERO tax on tens of millions of dollars per year on his tax free mini bond portfolio. That is millions less than Romney paid. Is he commensurately less qualified to be president, even though the Democratic Party put him forth to be leader of the free world? Hmmm? Hmmm? Honestly, I did not think his monumental wealth, now approaching billionaire status, disqualified him, even though his wealth dwarfs that of Mitt Romney. Do you, Dena?
Louise B. September 26, 2012 at 04:08 AM
Sarah, you MUST learn to read. I never said anything negative about Feinstein. I pointed out to Kathy that, if she voted for a wealthy Democrat and vilified a Republican because that person was wealthy, it's hypocritical. I don't dislike Feinstein. In fact, I sat at a table next to her at a dinner years ago. Very nice and charming woman. What makes you think I'm "FAKE"? If I'm not real, then we are in a hell of a mess.
Sarah Creeley September 26, 2012 at 04:42 AM
"Louise B" Yes, we are! Have you been paying attention?
jim k September 27, 2012 at 03:42 AM
This article and following comments about romney are a joke. One guy said he is pro Obama cuz he is for gay marriage. So, everyone will be broke, on food stamps, no military thanks to budget cuts, Muslims killing us, Iran a nuclear state, but that's ok cuz we will have gay marriage!!!! What a joke, I mean seriously. And to the lady who said about the people with food stamps and the escalade and section 8 housing, you are 100% right. Try opening your eyes people, pay attention, not all 47% are like that, but its about 25%, think I'm wrong?? Leave your expensive bay area homes, and go to a welfare office or drive through section 8 neighborhoods, stop believing the lies feed to you by liberal media. Name one policy Obama has that hasn't failed? Don't say Obama care, that's not a policy, its a tax on the other 53%. Oh yeah he got rid of don't ask don't tell, yeah that's gonna feed my family and get me a job. Green energy?? Fail. Jobs, economy, fail and fail. Foriegn policy?? Fail big time. He has done absolutely nothing. How can anyone with a brain and an education vote for him? I mean seriously. Romney may not be perfect, and when it comes to social issues, I don't agree with him, but I need a job, my family needs to eat, I have bills to pay, Obama has failed, own up to it.

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