Ironic, isn’t it?
Ironic that the very people most outspoken about gun rights are the ones who keep shooting themselves in the foot.
But I digress.
Know how to spot a jackass?
Know how to spot a racist? A bigot? A sexist? A hater?
Sure you do.
Sometimes they make it easy.
They glory in their hate.
They wear it proudly like a lovingly polished pair of jackboots pressing down on your throat.
They put on a white hood and burn crosses in other people’s front yards. They tattoo swastikas on their faces and shave their heads and march down the middle of the street shouting slogans with their fists raised high. They wrap themselves in their religion and their flags and stand on the corners waving their guns and holy books, screaming hatred and intolerance. They’re easy to spot because they’re too stupid and ignorant and filled with seething hatred not to be.
And sometimes they’re not quite so obvious.
But, they don’t try to hide their bigotry and they don’t understand why they should have to. They know what they are, but they think that they’re righteous in their bias, justified by history and some ancient wrong, by religion, by class and wealth, by rank and position, by birthright.
Often they seem like decent people – they think they are decent people – but the quiet little hate is still plain to see without much effort.
There’s an old saying: a sure test of a man’s character is how he treats the waiter. Over the years I’ve found that to be an excellent measure. Back when I was in the Navy I used to see it in the wardroom and the passageways of Officer Country. It was easy to tell which officer thought their position a privilege and a sacred trust, and which thought they were born to a commission by right, wealth, education or inheritance. All you had to do was watch how they treated their juniors and the enlisted men who cooked their meals and washed their clothes and cleaned their toilet and shower. A surer test of character there never was, nor a more certain predictor of their actions in the crucible of battle, crisis, and among the endless stressors of daily life inside a warship. If you want to know what kind of officer you’re dealing with, watch how he or she talks to the Filipino mess cooks.
And sometimes, they try to hide it.
They work to conceal the hate, the bigotry, and the contempt, but it’s still there, right below the surface, hidden behind a firm genial handshake and a warm white friendly smile.
A person can change, they can grow, they can learn not to hate, they can learn to think and see and feel instead of paraphrasing somebody else’s twisted worldview, they can learn empathy and they can learn respect. They can learn not to be selfish, they can learn not to lie to themselves. They can become the actual person their religion, their country, their education, or their conscience tells them to be.
They can do that, change, anybody can.
For many of us, that’s part of the process of growing up.
People can change.
But too many don’t. They won’t.
And they won’t because, down deep where it really matters, they don’t think their little hates are wrong.
They keep that little hate alive. And they hide it because they don’t want you to see it and they’re just too cowardly to admit – especially to themselves – that they need the people they despise.
So they hide who they really are.
But you can still tell.
It’s not how they act in public – and that’s exactly what it is, an act.
It’s not even how they treat the waiter – because they know you’re watching and they’re on their best behavior.
It’s who they are among like-minded friends. That’s the real indicator.
The true test of character is how a person acts when they think nobody is watching.
These are the people who want you to believe that they’re not racists because they don’t actually call a black man racial slurs to his face. They want you to believe they’re not racists because they talk to an Asian woman waiting on their table in a civil manner. They want you believe that they are not racists because they listen to Feliz Navidad on the radio at Christmas time. But they get racist jokes via email, and they never protest or set the sender straight because, well, you know, the sender isn’t a racist he’s just being funny. Besides, who does it hurt? Nobody here but us white folks. Then they send it on, it’s not racism, it’s just funny. These are the folks who practice a kind of Leave It To Beaver racism, happy smiling 1950’s racism where everybody knows their place and people of color are the help, not the President.
These are the people who want you to believe that they’re not sexists because they don’t actually beat their wives. They want you to believe they are not sexists because they didn’t sell their daughters into slavery or into arranged marriages like they do over there in that heathen country, you know the one. But then they consistently proclaim the inferiority of women and attempt to marginalize them at every turn, from healthcare to pay to law to religion to politics to rape – to the jokes they share with their friends in the locker room where their wives and girlfriends can’t hear.
These are the people who want you to believe that they’re not homophobic because they don’t actually demand that gay people be stoned to death in the public square – well, not out loud anyway. These are the folks who think they’re being tolerant because they suffer a gay man to live, but not to marry. These are the folks who say they believe in Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness – just not for everybody. Every Sunday they sit smug in their pews and they listen to their holy man tell them how God hates homosexuals and they do not protest.
These are the people who want you to believe that they’re not anti-Semites because they want America to kill a million Muslims in support of Israel – meanwhile on the internet they anonymously decry the nefarious Jew who doesn’t love Jesus and secretly schemes to take over America, indeed, the world.
These are the people who come at you with a hand extended and a smile on their faces, who kiss your baby and tell you that they understand. But underneath?
Underneath they regard you with scorn and contempt.
When they’re among their friends and cronies and when they think they’re alone with people just like themselves, when they think nobody can hear, well then you find out exactly what they’re made of, don’t you?
"…There are forty-seven percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are forty-seven percent who are with him, who are dependent upon 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. [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."
The true test of character is how a person acts when they think nobody is watching.
And here, ultimately, is what Mitt Romney thinks of nearly half of his fellow Americans.
It’s been 24 hours since Mother Jones broke the news and published Mitt Romney’s comments before his rich white friends when he thought nobody was looking.
Every pundit and politician and news outlet in the country has torn this statement apart today. I have a few observations to add.
Romney was speaking at a fund raising party in the Boca Raton home of private equity fund manager, Marc Leder. Despite the claims of conspiracy nuts, there is no disputing that it was Romney. There’s no disputing exactly what he said, or exactly how he meant it when he thought it was “just us rich white folk.” Mitt himself admits as much and says that he stands by his comments – even if he could have said it better.
He stands by his words. Well, good for him. To bad he didn’t show that kind of character before he opened his mouth in Boca Raton.
Welcome to the age of the personal webcam, Mitt.
Welcome to the internet.
It’s not like the old days when you could just deny, and keep denying, you ever said something. You get caught spouting off bigotry to your cronies nowadays and there’s a damned good chance you just exposed yourself to the entire world.
The future King of England will likely survive having his wife’s tits splashed across the internet, but it remains to be seen if GOP presidential aspirations will survive a similar exposure of their boobs.
As I’ve said previously, Mitt Romney acts like the rich jackass upper classman from every single 1980’s John Cusack movie.
But that’s not really what is so galling about Romney’s statement.
And it’s not that it’s accurate, because it’s not - not even close.
It’s that his unguarded words show you just how much contempt these people have for the rest of us. And when I say “the rest of us” I’m not just talking about liberals. I’m not just talking about the forty seven percent that Romney assumes (inaccurately as it turns out) support his opponent.
When Mitt Romney looks down his nose, he’s looking at all of us who don’t happen to live in the big house, Left and Right.
And that means you conservatives too.
Let’s review, shall we?
Romney’s assertion relies on stereotypes and assumptions about one demographic: the forty-seven percent of Americans who supposedly don’t pay income taxes. That number is accurate as far as it goes.
According to the non-partisan Tax Policy Center, during tax year 2011 46.4% of taxpayers did not, in fact, pay federal income tax. (I note that Romney, a guy supposedly good with money, rounded up when the rules of basic math indicate he should have rounded down. But I guess 47 percent sounds more impressive than 46. It does make you wonder about those budget numbers he keeps throwing around though, doesn’t it? But, again, here I am digressing).
That’s where Romney should have stopped. Right there.
Or rather, if he was going to use that number, he should have explained how it was derived – after all he’s talking to investment brokers and fund managers, they should have had no trouble understanding the math (er, well, OK, point taken). But, really, neither Romney nor his rich friends are interested in that, they want to hear how half of America is made up of socialist parasites. It feeds right into their self-image, their idea that they are exceptional and special and better than the riff-raff.
Politicians complain when some damned dumb inflammatory statement they said is taken out of context. No problem, let’s look at Romney’s assertion in the context of his statement.
About forty-seven percent of Americans don’t pay Federal Income Taxes.
The population of the United States is around three hundred million.
Therefore basic math indicates roughly one hundred and forty million people, a little less than half of the American population, do not pay income taxes.
And that’s correct, more or less, but taken as a number without further qualification, as Mitt Romney specifically did, it is grossly misleading.
Taken in context, Romney’s statement directly says one and forty million Americans are automatic Obama voters who are a) dependent on the government, b) think they are entitled to government support without earning it, and c) whiners.
Folks, if Obama could depend on one hundred and forty million votes, we wouldn’t be having this conversation, would we?
So, what about those one hundred and forty million Americans?
Why don’t they have to pay Federal Income Taxes?
Well, for starters, because a lot of them are kids. Uh huh, kids. Technically, I guess Mitt is right, they are parasites, and who would know that better than a Mormon, right? Big families, lots of kids. Kids feel like they’re entitled to stuff. Yep, I concede the point. We were all in this category once upon a time, kids I mean, not necessarily Mormons. I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t expected to kick in as a four year old.
Speaking of kids, some of that one hundred and forty million are teenagers, they work minimum wage jobs and they just don’t make enough to pay federal income tax. I was one of these people too once, longer ago than I care to remember.
A significant number don’t pay taxes because they are homeless, or poor, or handicapped in one fashion or the other. Some are bankrupt, some by their own hand, some by the bad business decisions of others, some by circumstances beyond their control. And some, well, some were left ruined by Mitt Romney and the very people he was talking to. Some of us have also been in this category at one time or another, including me.
Some of them don’t pay taxes because they are wearing a uniform of the United States, and they’re in the warzone right now. I’ve been in this category as well. Several times. You send us to war, you get to pay not only for the war itself and pay us for serving there, you also lose the income we would have paid into federal and state coffers. Didn’t think about that, did you? Generally military people serving in warzones are exempt from Federal Income Tax. For the last ten years, for every Soldier and Sailor and Marine and Airman and Guardsman you sent into the warzone, you removed a taxpayer from the rolls. And when we come home, well some of us are too broken to return to being productive taxpaying citizens, and you get to pay for that too. War costs. A lot. In many more ways than one. We bought this war on credit and now the bill is due, with interest. Still want to invade Iran?
Some of them – a very small amount - don’t pay taxes because they are rich and they are taking advantage of legal loopholes in the tax code available only to the wealthy. I’ve never been in this category, but to be honest, I suspect that it is very likely that I would take advantage of the loopholes too, given the opportunity.
And many of them are old. A good many. Hopefully all of us will be in this category ourselves one day. As they say, it sure beats the alternative.
In point of fact, there are a number of very good reasons why about half of Americans don’t pay federal income tax.
Sure, there is a germ of truth in Mitt Romney’s assertion, but only a germ.
It’s only a smaller percentage of folks, really, who are parasites on the system.
And there’s a big difference between the total number of Americans and the total number of Americans who are required to file federal income taxes. Mitt Romney’s statement implies the former, but really means the later.
Note that those reasons do not mean that the folks who currently don’t pay federal income taxes have never paid federal income taxes, or that they never will pay federal income taxes.
Most of those kids will grow up to pay taxes which in turn will support their kids when the time comes. Most of those old people paid taxes at one time or the other, most paid taxes their whole lives. So did most of those military folks. And all of those people pay other taxes, payroll taxes, gas tax and sales tax and state taxes and city taxes. People who don’t have to pay federal income tax often have to pay Social Security and Medicare withholdings – and that was Mitt’s beef, they get entitlements without paying federal income tax. But in reality for most of that one hundred and forty million, the entitlements they’re getting they did indeed pay for – or their parents did.
Deliberately implying that one hundred and forty million Americans are freeloading parasites who will automatically vote Democrat because they like handouts is misleading at best and an out and out bald faced pandering lie at worst. I’ll leave it to you to decide which Mitt is engaged in. Personally, despite Rick Santorum’s remark about conservatives being stupid, I think Mitt Romney is plenty smart enough to know exactly what he’s saying. Maybe Mitt ought to have a chat with his righteously moral God about that.
Romney dismissed the conservative bluehairs who make up the knobby spine of the Tea Party and conservative laborers and members of the military serving in the warzone right along with the tofu-eating Prius-driving sissy-liberals and the welfare queens.
But that’s just how Mitt Romney and his rich friends see us. All of us. Left and Right.
Don’t believe me?
That’s certainly your right, but what makes you think that a man who would strap a member of his family to the roof of a car is likely to treat you any better?
Perhaps in the final measure, the truest test of character is how a man treats his dog.
Especially when nobody is watching.