If you ever wondered what the 1% really thinks of the 99%, now Mitt Romney has provided an answer—at least of what many of well-healed 1% think about about a good half of the country. Joe Klein compares Romney’s candid camera moment with the much repeated Obama gaffe about crackers clinging to their guns and religion:
In context, Obama was talking about small-town America, a place where the jobs“have been gone for 25 years now” and “nothing has replaced them.” Both Republican and Democratic administrations have failed to address this central economic problem, he said, and so the residents grow “bitter” and start to cling to their guns and Bibles. But Obama, the Whole Foods arugula shopper, ignored the fact that a great many gun owners are not bitter but joyful in the hunt — indeed, that they derive as much pleasure from their sport as Obama does from basketball or golf. Nor did he understand that in many small towns religion is a source of service and good deeds and community, of drug treatment and food banks, as well as the pure peace of prayerful meditation. But Obama was right about the larger picture: there was a fear and bitterness in white small-town America that had its roots in the changing economy and expressed itself in anger that some people — immigrants, welfare recipients (and especially, now, those on Social Security Disability) and those lazy folks at the Department of Motor Vehicles — were getting over. Those sentiments, obviously, gave rise to the Tea Party. They are undiminished today. And clearly, Obama was saying something he really believed, although — to borrow a Romney locution — inelegantly.
I’m not so sure about Romney. I’m pretty sure he’s smart enough to know that the 47% he summoned was in the category of “damned lie” statistics. I’m pretty sure he knows that the vast majority of those people work their butts off, pay federal payroll taxes (and a raft of state and local levies) or are senior citizens receiving Social Security and Medicare. I’m not sure that he has put two and two together: that a great many of the 47% — the white working-class voters and senior citizens — are Romney voters. Or that they don’t pay income taxes because of Republican tax cuts and Republican child and earned-income tax credits. But I am absolutely convinced that Mitt Romney has been inured to Republican fat-cat audiences complaining about how much they have to pay to keep the American enterprise afloat, and that he was well aware of the Fox-Rush echo-chamber formulations about food-stamp growth and dependency and people not paying federal taxes, and he was playing to those prejudices. The exigencies of fundraising have forced him to spend more time with plutocrats than average citizens this year. It’s not surprising that he’s lost track of the world as most people see it. Hell, he’s spending today — the day after this momentous gaffe — fundraising rather than trying to change the topic.