Mitt Romney’s “middle class”

Click that graph for a larger, clearer view.

http://www.boston.com/news/politics/2012/president/candidates/romney/2012/09/14/romney-middle-income-and-less/Ubi0sPwZhs5f8UwS7jCDRP/story.html

Tell all your friends. Tell all your enemies. Link to this graph. Every chance you get. Link to the data:

http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/cpstables/032012/hhinc/toc.htm

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128 responses to “Mitt Romney’s “middle class”

  1. I think the quote I read from him was a little weird- wasn’t there an “and less” in there somewhere? So the claim is actually even more non-sensical because he didn’t specify a lower bound coupled with his ridiculous upper bound.

    [Response: He specifically referred to the range $200,000 to $250,000. And he specifically stated that $100,000 is *below* middle class. Then his spinmeisters tried to explain that he was referring to "household" rather than "personal" income. Median household income is $50,000. And the graph shows household income, not personal income.]

  2. Based on the link you provide to boston.com, Romney’s definition of middle class is the same as Obama’s

    [Response: On what planet is "Up to $250,000" the same as "$200,000 to $250,000."]

  3. Why the *bump* in the fraction of households with $200,000+ income? It seems very strange to me that the histogram doesn’t follow a smooth distribution. :\

    [Response: Because for incomes less that $200,000, the brackets are $5,000 wide, but that bracket is 10 times as wide. The *density* would show a smooth distribution.]

  4. “[Response: He specifically referred to the range $200,000 to $250,000. And he specifically stated that $100,000 is *below* middle class...."

    Haven't seen or listened to the segment but I'm not so sure it's fair to interpret what he said about $100,000 as meaning that's below the threshold required to be middle class. Given that one economist has defended his tax plans by claiming that the numbers could be made to add up if increasing taxes on people with income between $100,000 and $200,000 didn't constitute increasing taxes on the middle class, I think interpreting the question to have been asking whether $100,000 is the upper limit of middle class income is reasonable. In which case, Romney is back to admitting, if he conceded that arithmetic works which apparently he doesn't, that his tax plans can't be revenue neutral without raising taxes on the middle class.

    [Response: Quote:

    "Is $100,000 middle income?" Stephanopoulos asked. "No, middle income is $200,000 to $250,000 and less," Romney responded.]

    • I’m not claiming Romney expressed himself clearly but that quote could just as well be taken to mean he thinks that middle class extends from some unspecified lower bound to $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for households as the way you’ve interpreted it.

      [Response: No. It can't. When asked point blank "Is $100,000 middle income?" Romney replied "No." That's what he said. The word "no" cannot be taken to mean, or interpreted as, spun, or apologized to mean "yes" -- doing so is dishonest sophistry, the kind I expect from Romney.]

      Bottom line – it was a stupid thing for Romney to say given the way it adds to and draws additional attention to the contradictions between his various campaign promises but if and when he’s asked point blank whether an individual or household earning $100,000 annually is part of the middle class or not, even Romney is almost certainly sufficiently in touch to realise that telling considerably more than half of Americans who think of themselves as middle class that in his view they aren’t middle class and therefore must be lower class or working class or poor isn’t a good idea.

      [Response: He was already asked -- point blank. If and when he's asked again, I expect him to deny his answer -- because his actual belief is repugnant.]

      • [Response: No. It can't. When asked point blank "Is $100,000 middle income?" Romney replied "No." That's what he said. The word "no" cannot be taken to mean, or interpreted as, spun, or apologized to mean "yes" -- doing so is dishonest sophistry, the kind I expect from Romney.]

        You’re assuming he understood the question literally, not in the context of the controversy described by Zach below over whether the base broadening elimination of tax expenditures he claims will make his plans revenue neutral could affect people with incomes over $100,000 without violating his pledge not to raise taxes on the middle class. In light of that, I think it’s reasonable to suppose he interpreted the question as “Is $100,000 (the upper limit of ) middle income?”. You clearly disagree but I’d invite you to consider whether what you’re doing in any way resembles someting William Connolley wrote recently:

        “This is just oh-so-typical: someone says something, which can be interpreted several ways. One of those ways is clearly false. The denialists leap upon the false way, apparently confident that anyone who disagrees with them is both a liar and a fool; and from then on there is no way of them backing down. Sigh.”

        [Response: What's oh-so-typical is that when Romney says what he really means and it's clearly repugnant, his apologists talk about "context of the controversy" and "can be interpreted several ways."

        "No" means no. If you choose to regard that as "can be interpreted several ways" then you may as well join the ranks of those who don't believe pregnancy results from "legitimate rape."]

      • I was going to agree with you and then I went and read that segment of the transcript and Tamino is correct, he says that 100K is not middle income and that 200K to 250K is, pesumably there is some lower bound above 100K. So I think based on RMoney’s own words we an say this:

        250K >= x > 100K

        Where x is middle income. The whole section on his proposed tax policy is pretty much incomprehensible. The guy is a clown.

      • Jon, your interpretation would mean that Willard (Mitt) considers only 4% of the country to be upper income. Now I ask you…is that reasonable?

        Hel, I don’t know why you would think the man is in touch with the common man. GHW Bush nad never seen a supermarket price scanner. I’m just waiting for Mitt’s “Don’t cry for me, Argentina. Message: I care” moment.

      • Tamino, you’d think your statement would be correct…

        “…even Romney is almost certainly sufficiently in touch to realise that telling considerably more than half of Americans who think of themselves as middle class that in his view they aren’t middle class and therefore must be lower class or working class or poor isn’t a good idea.”

        There are soo MANY instances of Rmoney’s talking out his..nether regions, that this latest statement–and this is astonishing, given my capacity to be surprised at what the rightwing *will* spew–is no surprise to me at all. it is,m however, a very disturbing sign that the GOP has finally, utterly, and likely irretrievably succumbed to the lunacy of the Tea Party.

        No, Mitt is THAT clueless, THAT out of touch with reality. Pass me one of those…um…. er…. chocolate things, would ya?..;)

  5. By way of comparison, Obama defines it as anyone less than $250k/year:

    “In a recent speech, President Barack Obama referred to the “middle class” 14 times, defining it as a family that makes up to $250,000 a year”
    http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Latest-News-Wires/2012/0718/What-does-it-mean-to-be-middle-class

    *sigh* and that is why I’m writing in George Carlin.

    [Response: Including the median income in the middle class is a helluva lot different from excluding it. Obama actually cares about middle-income people. Romney doesn't. Don't waste your vote on a dead global-warming denier.]

    • $250K for a household seems upper-middle class, not wealthy, to me. Two reasonably talented high-tech employees, for instance.

      It’s a reasonable break-point.

      • Yeah, “middle class” includes subdivisions like “upper middle class” and the unspoken “lower middle class” aka “working class”. In rough terms, fudging singles vs families, etc. reasonable definitions could have lower middle from 20k to 45k, truly middle 45-100, upper middle 100-250. Below 20k is poverty or grad student.

      • Rattus Norvegicus

        GFW, median household income in the US in 2011 was ~50.1K (US Census). That’s the middle of the middle by definition. HHS defines poverty for a family of 4 as being ~23K for 2012 (not quite the same, but it gives an idea of the range on the low end, and it ain’t much…).

      • Yes Rattus, I actually know what the median household income is. I was trying to balance a number of factors with my rough boundaries, most particularly American perceptions of what lifestyles == what class, and the range of cost-of-living in various regions. I (clearly) was not attempting to put the same number of people in each of my (lower mid, mid mid, upper mid) groups, nor was I trying to put the same number of people above vs below those groups. At least I got the median household into my mid mid group, which is probably beyond the abilities of most congresspeople.

      • Rattus Norvegicus

        And a certain presidential candidate.

    • “Including the median income in the middle class is a helluva lot different from excluding it”

      It certainly is! I even agree that it’s a better classification. But “better class politics than Mitt Romney” sounds a lot like “thinnest kid at fat camp” to me. lumping the families who struggle to feed their kids into the same category with those who rake in a quarter million a year. It seems to me that doing so pretends to a broad class unity which just doesn’t exist right now in the US, while brushing under the rug very real antagonists between the annual quarter millionaires and the people working two jobs and living in cars.

      “Obama actually cares about middle-income people. Romney doesn’t.”

      I don’t doubt it, on both counts. I also don’t doubt that Obama cares, and deeply, about the hostages in Gitmo. How did that campaign promise pan out, again?

      “Don’t waste your vote”

      I don’t fetishize electoral democracy, and I take a dim view of national elections as a vehicle of social change, so I doubt we have the same definition of a wasted vote. I think votes are least wasted when they maximize individual agency. I don’t see voting for the lesser of two evils, or voting for This Guy in order to vote against That Guy, to be a particularly powerful expression of my agency. Choosing to vote for Mickey Mouse is better, IMHO.

      “on a dead”

      When is the last time a dead person authorized indefinite detention, or blew someone up with a flying death robot?

      “global-warming denier.”

      Taken literally, I don’t agree with Carlin’s comedy routines re: environmentalism. The same goes for his routines re: capital punishment. However, the purpose and power of comedy is not in its literal truth. One doesn’t need to believe in a conspiracy behind the Kennedy assassination in order to grasp Bill Hicks’ smokey room parable. Many of Carlin’s remarks on the subject, I feel, are best interpreted as commentary on human hubris and criticism of the framing of environmentalism as stewardship.

      • I don’t like remote controlled bots. Makes killing too impersonal. Then again, missiles are pretty impersonal, as are bombs dropped from a couple miles up. And with the bots that the military has been using, they have actually been remote controlled, I believe, which makes them less impersonal than some of the other options.

        Setting that aside, if all it came down to was energy policy and everything else were entirely the same between the two candidates, I would have to vote for Obama for the sake of humanity’s future. While paying some lip service to renewables, Romney has aligned himself with the near absolute opposition to renewables and for fossil fuels that in practice has overtaken the Republican Party. Obama takes a more all of the above approach, as evidenced by his support for domestic oil production and “clean coal.” But he also strongly supports renewables, and the extension of tax breaks at a point that is critical for the development of renewable technology,

        Under Romney, the fossil fuel industry will largely dictate the terms of America’s future. Under Obama we can expect the continued, rapid growth of renewable technologies. At this point they are almost competitive with fossil fuel, But under Romney they will suffer serious setbacks, while non-traditional fossil fuels become deeply entrenched for decades to come, and prove a model for how fossil fuel industries can buy their way in other democracies, such as Canada, Australia, South Africa and even Western Europe.

        In my view, to vote for a dead man or Mickey Mouse in some ill-chosen temper tantrum as a means of expressing one’s dissatisfaction for a system that does give one the perfect candidate is normally, at best, ill-advised. Under these circumstances, it rises to the level of a grand obscenity.

    • I am not 100% happy with Obama. I will vote for him, campaign for him and contribute to him for the simple reason that he recognizes physical reality (e.g. climate change and evolution) and for the reason that my enemies fear his re-election above all else. When my enemies are so forthcoming, I am inclined to listen to them.

  6. The man has all the class of a car elevator….

  7. The way I read this quote:

    //”‘No, middle income is $200,000 to $250,000 and less’’//

    Is that anything less than 250k is “middle class.” Despite what he says, that would include 100k, but could also include a homeless person.

    [Response: When asked "Is $100,000 middle income?" Romney replied "No". On what planet does "no" mean "yes"?]

    • I’m still not getting this. Romney said “$200,000 to $250,000 and less“. What does that even mean? How does “and less“make any sense when you’ve already given a range?

      • I take it as simple obfuscation, performed by pure instinct. The way the media works, they’re less likely to criticize someone for making no sense than for making a clearly understood statement. Think of it as “not even wrong” – one cannot really engage with the nonsensical. Romney knows that if clearly understood, his policies would be (correctly) seen as detrimental to most. So, each accidental or forced truth must be obfuscated into meaninglessness. The true Zen master of this was Sarah “word salad” Palin, but the degree of intent there was hard to judge.

      • I think this is right on the mark: Romney’s response makes no sense. In the recording, he responded quickly to Stephanopoulos, and Stephanopoulos didn’t stop him to ask for clarification. Listening to the interview, the statement strikes me as — “Say *what*?” The only way to treat this, to me, would be to ask Romney for clarification.

      • Rattus Norvegicus

        Even in the transcript, the whole section on his tax policy makes no sense.

  8. The 100k/250k distinction comes out of recent debates as to whether Romney’s 20% marginal rate cuts can be paid for by base broadening (eliminating tax expenditures) in a way that neither decreases revenue nor changes the distribution of who pays taxes. The Tax Policy Center found that you can eliminate all tax expenditures (other than those Romney has explicitly promised to keep) for households with over $250k in income and would still need an overall tax hike on lower brackets to make up lost revenue. A Romney advisor said that this wouldn’t be needed if you instead lowered the threshold for lost tax breaks to $100k (he screwed up the math and used a lot of dubious assumptions but it’s close enough).

    So, this leads to the conflict that prompted Stephanopoulos’s question. Romney is saying (1) that he won’t raise taxes on middle-income Americans and (2) that his tax cut can be paid for by base broadening. So here he’s being asked whether 100k is his definition of middle-income, which is necessary for promises (1) and (2) to be simultaneously possible*. I read Romney’s comments as defining an upper threshold for middle-income and not a range encompassing all middle-income; he’s saying the threshold is somewhere between 200k and 250k, which should be seen as absurdly out-of-touch but isn’t because people have no idea what the income distribution looks like and the folks who dominate political discourse live in the most expensive neighborhoods in the country.

    * Again, not really because of rosy assumptions and political impossibility of, say, eliminating charitable deductions. I don’t see why the media don’t just start asking Romney why he plans to, every year, give hundreds of billions to the wealthy, take hundreds of billions in health and anti-poverty benefits from the poor and middle class, and raise the deficit by a hundred billion a year or so… stick to what he’s specifically promised and let him give more details if he wants you to say something else.

    • Zach is absolutely correct. They are talking about the threshold between “middle income” and “rich” (I mean “job creators.”) Both he and Obama define “middle class” as ~$250,000 and below.

      The debate is about Romney’s tax plan and if it raises taxes on “the middle class.” If you define “middle class” as $100,000 or below, it is mathematically possible. If you define it as $250,000 or below, it is mathematically impossible, but Romney will not admit this even though that was the finding of a “study” that he is claiming backs him up.

    • “* Again, not really because of rosy assumptions and political impossibility of, say, eliminating charitable deductions. I don’t see why the media don’t just start asking Romney why he plans to, every year, give hundreds of billions to the wealthy, take hundreds of billions in health and anti-poverty benefits from the poor and middle class, and raise the deficit by a hundred billion a year or so… stick to what he’s specifically promised and let him give more details if he wants you to say something else.”

      This is very concise. I’m going to “borrow” it.

  9. Tamino,

    I can never make sense of Romney either. As far as I can tell, he clearly contradicted himself. “200,000 to 250,000 and less” to me means the bracket of $200,000-250,000 and anything less than that (“and less” is an important qualifier here). That would encompass 100,000 too, contradicting his “no” response. It would also encompass zero income, making it an absurd definition.

    Perhaps Romney isn’t aware that 100,000 is less than 200,000-250,000. Perhaps he misspoke. Perhaps he flip-flopped his definition between the word “no” and the rest of the sentence.

    [Response: I can easily make sense of Romney. That's one of the reasons I'm voting for Obama.]

  10. The flip-flop master – reversing direction mid-sentence! Wow.

    The truth, of course, is Romney has absolutely no frame of reference for any of these incomes, and simply can’t comprehend the distinctions involved.

  11. Technically, that would prolly be “Romney’s Mittel Class” (or “Mittle Class”)

  12. According to the full transcript, looks to me that Romney is refusing the 100k threshold and proposing a 200 or 250k threshold for what constitutes “middle-income”:

    http://abcnews.go.com/m/blogEntry?id=17233762&sid=77&cid=77&p=4

    Let’s attack Romney for what he actually proposes (or the impossibility thereof), not for out-of-context sound bites.

    [Response: When asked "Is $100,000 middle income?" Romney replied "No." That's not an "out of context sound bite." It's what he said. He meant it. Let's stop apologizing for him, and start holding him accountable for what he actually said.]

    • And Obama clearly said “If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that.” As we all know, the plain meaning of that quote out of context is precisely contrary to the meaning of the quote in context.

      In this case you are highlighting, the context is Stephanopoulos basically asking Romney: is the middle-class/upper-class divide at $100k, or is Romney’s budget plan completely unworkable? Romney replied no to the 100k.

      I agree we should hold him accountable for what he actually said. That is a far better plan than silly controversies about bad wording.

      Here, Romney said he is well aware that his plan is completely unworkable and that it doesn’t bother him one bit to be peddling nonsense.

  13. Stephen Baines

    If we take his “no” response to Stepanopolus’s question at face value, the “and less” must have just been a redundant way of saying 250k was an upper bound. To paraphrase Tolkein, 200k to 250k and back again.

    That said, I cannot believe that was what he was “supposed” to say. What sane politician would appeal to such a narrow slice of the voting public – especially as that slice was already voting for him?

    But at this point Romney often resemebles a squirrel in the road faced by an oncoming car, dithering about which way to go. His lack of intuition about how his remarks may be received leave him befuddled mess a remarkable amount of the time.

    • It’s simple.

      What he wants to say is ‘I’m going to cut taxes for my rich friends, peers and donors, whilst wrecking any social programs and employment protections, because of an ideology that puts low taxes ahead of sanity, let alone justice’.

      However, he can’t say that, because of the whole irritating ‘democracy’ thing. So he has to say something else, except that people making up lies on the spur of the moment tend not to be coherent.

      It’s the mirror image of 1930s western socialists who could see nothing wrong with Stalin and refused to believe the reports of the Ukranian famine or the Gulags.

    • I think that Stephen Baines and Andrew Dodds are getting to the gist of it. In some sense, I think that people are playing “gottcha” a bit too much with a statement of Romney’s that is probably just a bit incoherent when there are actually much more substantive issues to being attacking Romney on. But, the deeper issue are the problems with his policies on taxes and income. And, indeed, it is the fact that these policies are so at odds with what most people would support that makes him so incoherent as he tries to appeal to people who have to be idiots to support him.

      It sort of reminds me of the whole blowup about his “I like to fire people…” quote. I was disappointed that the narrative on that was to take it out of context and then to have defenders of Romney be able to point out that it was taken out of context. The real narrative should have been how utterly clueless the statement was in context: He was revealing a total ignorance about the sort of health care issues that real people without millions of dollars face. You can’t “fire” your insurance company at the point that you find out that they are giving you poor service because that point occurs when you have very large medical bills and you are no longer a desirable customer since insurance companies only want to insure healthy people! (Besides which, many people get their health insurance through employers and can only switch plans once a year…or don’t even have a choice of different insurance providers within the spectrum of available plans.)

      And then there’s Romney’s recent waffles on repealing Obama’s health care and on keeping the popular parts like bans on excluding pre-existing conditions, where his position ended up so obfuscated that the eventual clarification by the campaign of what he meant amounted to saying he supported something that has actually been the law since 1996!

      The problem is that Romney is giving us so much material that it is hard to know which to use! I suggest that we stick to the most substantive policy ways in which Romney is wrong for America.

      • Joel: “I suggest that we stick to the most substantive policy ways in which Romney is wrong for America.”

        A supporter once called out, “Governor Stevenson, all thinking people are for you!” And Adlai Stevenson answered, “That’s not enough. I need a majority.”

        The point I’m trying to make is that we reach different types of voters in different ways. Pounding on somewhat-out-of-context statements that reinforce a truthful narrative (I like to fire people. Corporations are people. 100k is below middle class. …) is the right way to reach some voters. Fully accurate policy discussions are for Adlai’s minority.

  14. Seems more like a badly-worded answer than anything else. My guess is that he means that he considers middle income as being everything below somewhere between 200k-250k.

    And 100k *isn’t* technically middle income. The median income is substantially lower than that. But in the context of the discussion – “I’m not going to raise taxes on middle-income folks” – Romney was trying to define a range. Looks like he’s just tripping over himself in trying to do so.

    ~w, still planning on voting for Obama though.

  15. Uh, Dudes, no matter how you parse his comment, he is at the very least suggesting that the middle class extends all the way up to $250K!! That excludes about 2% of households from the “poor or middle class ” bracket. That is the most charitable interpretation. Personally, I think we should take him at face value–he really thinks $200-250K is middle class, and anything less (96% of us) is peonage. Wow.

    Have you noticed how much he sounds like George Herbert Walker Bush?

  16. David B. Benson

    That, my friends, is a terrible graph. Following what is called utility theory (nothing to do with electicity or water), one should use a logarithmic scale for the household income, in units of log$.

    The way the graph buckets (bins) are chosen crudely approximates log$ but a properly done graph would be highly revealing.

  17. “The Mittel Riddle”
    – by Horatio Algeranon

    The Mittel class is in the middle
    About as much as First Chair fiddle

    Or maybe Second First at worst,
    Which also includes William Hearst.

    If that confuses just a little
    Therein lies the Mittel Riddle.

  18. My late lamented father-in-law was asked, when he was 70 or so, why he took such offense to being called “old.” If he wasn’t old, what was he?

    “Middle-aged!”

    I’ve read that for Americans in general, the perceived lower boundary of the upper class begins just above their own economic stratum. In other words, just about everybody but the true poor and the mega-rich considers themselves to be ‘middle class.’

    None of which really goes to what the heck Romney may have been thinking, I guess. He’s out of touch, but then he thinks climate change is a joke, so what can you expect?

    The Mittrithmetic that bothers me the most, though, is the equation:

    Tax cuts + Defense increase = Balanced budget.

    Seems like there are a few terms missing…

    • KM: The Mittrithmetic that bothers me the most, though, is the equation:
      Tax cuts + Defense increase = Balanced budget.
      Seems like there are a few terms missing…

      The term missing is “make up the balance by cutting the living @#$% out of Social Security, Medicare, and other social programs.” He can tell people he can do it by cutting “welfare,” since most Americans don’t realize welfare per se (AFDC) is only a small fraction of 1% of the budget.

      • Yes, that was what I was pointing out by indirection. Probably best to have it made explicit, though, so thanks!

      • According to the wikipedia entry on the US budget, total defence expenditure + interest payments in 2011 was $1180 billion.
        Total tax revenue (excluding social security) was $1484 billion.
        So tax cuts + defence increase = balanced budget requires either :
        (1) Cutting social security payments while leaving social security taxes in place or
        (2) Eliminating ALL (!!!!) non-defence spending.

  19. The problem is in the math– the tax breaks Romney proposes for high-income earners can’t be balanced unless taxes are increased and benefits cut for others. If the middle class is defined so narrowly (and at the upper end) then cutting tax breaks (mortgage interest, to choose a big one) for the rest could possibly fill the gap.

    • Yep, Seth Hanlon has additional observations on this:

      Feldstein purports to show how reductions in tax breaks for high-income households could pay for a handful of Romney’s tax policies, including cuts in tax rates for individuals. But Feldstein conveniently ignores Romney’s tax cuts for corporations.

      When you base your promises on mathematically impossible nonsense you either have to admit it or bluff. Guess what Romney is doing.

  20. There is a WTF moment in the interview that has been missed so far, while I agree with other commenters here that Romney is talking about the upper bound of middle class, as the section starts out as a discussion about studies allegedly supporting MR’s economic policies. Let me quote excerpts, highlighting relevant stuff, and please do read the rest at the link above.

    Here is a link to the full “full transcript” (yep, even the ABC-link above cuts out context).
    http://news.yahoo.com/full-transcript-george-stephanopoulos-mitt-romney-105836272–abc-news-politics.html
    The passage is too long to quote in full, it starts at “voters want to see more detail from you, on your policies”.
    The video is here (US audience only, i.e. not me)
    http://abcnews.go.com/watch/good-morning-america/SH5587637/VD55232079/gma-914-mitt-romney-interview-with-george-stephanopoulos

    QUOTE (not sure the blockquote will work)

    GS: … I know you dispute what President Clinton said and what the Democrats that say that you’re going to have a $2,000 tax hike on middleclass families. I know you dispute that. You cite your own studies. But one of the studies you cite by Martin Feldstein at Harvard shows that to make your math work, it could work, if you eliminate the home mortgage, charity, and state and local tax deductions for everyone earning over $100,000. Is that what you propose?

    MR: No, that’s not what I propose. And, of course, part of my plan is to stimulate economic growth. …

    GS: But his study, which you’ve cited, says it can only work if you take away those deductions for everyone earning more than $100,000.

    MR: Well, it doesn’t necessarily show the same growth that we’re anticipating. And I haven’t seen his precise study. But I can tell you that we can lower our rates-

    ……..

    MR: …. Number one, reduce tax burdens on middle-income people. So no one can say my plan is going to raise taxes on middle-income people, because principle number one is keep the burden down on middle-income taxpayers.

    GS: Is $100,000 middle income?

    MR: No, middle income is $200,000 to $250,000 and less. So number one, don’t reduce- or excuse me, don’t raise taxes on middle-income people, lower them. Number two, don’t reduce the share of taxes paid by the wealthiest.

    UNQUOTE

    Given the context that GS is pressing MR to define an upper bound of middle class, it is my conclusion that MR was answering this question, however weird his wording was; verbal communication in a high stress situation has its quirks; you may reveal, what you really think, you may talk utter garbage.

    However, what I do find SHOCKING, is Romney’s admission that he has not even fully read at least one of the five studies he is basing his tax policies on!!! Hello? Romney’s flaunted expertise is supposed to be in economics, Romney gets lambasted for his proposed policies by the Obama campaign and Romney can not even be bothered to fully read the five (count them) studies that he cites to support his proposed policies; actually Romney is surprised when confronted with content of one of the studies (the $100,000 threshold) that he obviously has never before heard of?!?!?!?!?

    And I haven’t seen his precise study“, but I feel fully qualified to cite it in support of my policies. WTF? To add insult to injury, the Feldstein “study” is a 2-page(!) WSJ article (count them, two pages, I kid you not) and PolitFact ruled Romneys claim that 5 studies show that his plan will work as mostly false.

  21. NYMag is having fun with this:

    That means Romney would have to raise taxes on a huge chunk of income below $250,000 a year, just as the TPC study found. Feldstein dealt with this problem by writing his column about his study as if it disproved rather than confirmed the TPC, and other conservatives have gone on pretending the same thing.

    ….

    What Romney’s doing here is retreating into incoherence. TPC examined his promises — cutting rates by 20 percent, not raising taxes on investment income, and not reducing revenue below Bush tax cut levels — and found they could only add up if you raise effective tax rates on income under $250,000 a year. Feldstein found the same thing, despite his partisan attempt to present his finding as a vindication of Romney.

  22. “A gaffe is when a politician tells the truth – some obvious truth he isn’t supposed to say.” Michael Kinsley Obviously Mitt is out of touch with the middle class if he feels that someone at $250K has any of the same problems to deal with.

  23. I see Romney as Patrick Bateman the bored psychopath of the book/movie American Psycho.

    Compared to him, GHW Bush was a model of empathy and understanding.

  24. Apart from Romney being unable to separate the reality of life for him and his friend from the reality for the vast majority, there is another interesting thing. At each major income level (50k, 100k) in the graph, there is a jump rather than a decrease.

    Thus more people earn 100 – 105k than earn 95 – 100k. If it just occurred at one boundary, it might be luck, but its there at 50k, 100k and 150k. So is this an actual feature of US household income, or do people just like to round their income up a bit?

  25. Just to put this into some sort of context, if one assumes that the “middle class” is the two middle earning quartiles of the household population, then households earning $25k or less are “lower class”, and households earning $90k and over are “upper class”.

    If one assumes that the “lower class” is the bottom fifth of the incomed household population and that the “upper class” is the top fifth, then “middle class” starts at around $21k and finishes at around $102k.

    And if one assumes that the “classes” represent equal thirds of the household population, then “middle class starts at around $32.5k and finishes at around $72.5k.

    Romney’s definition of “middle class”, with the addition of the “less than middle class”, would encompass all but about 2.5% of the households in the USA.

    I’m not sure that someone with such a skewed perspective on income should be responsible for handing a nation’s accounts.

  26. Romney’s upper-bound on middle class is the range of $200-250K (apparently he didn’t settle on a specific value for the upper bound). “And less” means that the lower bound is below that given range. You cannot ignore the phrase “and less” when trying to parse his answer. Romney’s definition of middle class is households earning up to $200K or up to $250K, or some number between those two values.
    It was awkward wording but this is not hard and it certainly doesn’t justify a breathless post insisting that Romney only considers the middle class to exist within the $50K span between those two numbers. In fact that’s a completely ludicrous interpretation that two seconds of thought should dispel.

    [Response: In my opinion, you fail to appreciate just how extreme an elitist snob Romney is. His biggest mistakes have been repeatedly saying what he actually thinks, out loud. If this was a "slip" it was of the "Freudian" kind. Don't blame me when it turns around and bites him on the ass.]

    “He said NO!” Yes, he said no, so that he could tell Stephanopoulos what his definition of the middle class is rather than have random figures lobbed at him (they’d probably confuse him if too many came in at once). Or he said it in the thought that $100K was the upper bound being proposed, meaning he will not raise taxes on people making $100-200K or $250K. Either way it’s a speaking flub. And his definition is substantially the same as the Obama administration’s (at least on the high end), and both are unrealistically broad (covering an enormous swath up to the very top 2% of the population).

    Romney is an out-of-touch buffoon stumbling around without any compass on his policies besides “get elected!” and there are plenty of reasons why he should never be president, but this misinterpretation is not one of them.

    • OK, I’m sorry, your opinion might be reasonable had he not clearly said that $100K is NOT middle class. As it is, we must either assume Romney is not a native speaker of English, and so does not understand how negation works in that language, or that he really does think the lower bound for middle class does not include $100K, but does include $250K.

    • I think that part of the context here is the rhetoric used in the larger political debate about taxes.

      Republicans want to argue that $250,000 isn’t really that much income for a family – and that taxing someone making $250,000 is taxing the “middle class.” This is a political rhetoric intended to make it look like Obama wants to “tax the middle class.” There is nothing new about this rhetoric.

      I think that the critics of this post are correct in the sense that parsing his words too closely may not accurately reflect what Mitt believes. Does he really believe that a family with, say, $180,000 in yearly income is not middle-class? I doubt it.

      But on the other hand I think that Tamino is absolutely correct in saying that this kind of self-contradictory rhetoric actually does reveal much about the ill-logic of Romney’s policy proposals, and it reveals much about the exploitative pandering in Republican rhetoric on economics.

      Those are the reasons for the contradictions in Mitt’s syntax: it is politically expedient pandering based on poor logic. Honest and logical rhetoric doesn’t produce those kinds of errors.

  27. Is there a correlation between voting Democrat and believing that AGW is a real and pressing problem, and voting Republican and believing it ain’t? And if so why?

    [Response: Yes.]

    One knows that in the 16C there was a correlation between social class and Protestantism or Catholicism – the trading and manufacturing classes appear to have adopted Protestantism. And one can conjecture why. But why is there, as I think there probably is, this correlation in the 21C?

    • Sure. It appears that the GOP is terrified that AGW might represent a problem to which the private sector has no effective solution. Hence, it can only be a socialist conspiracy. (Unless it’s really about the grant money, of course.)

    • michel: Is there a correlation between voting Democrat and believing that AGW is a real and pressing problem, and voting Republican and believing it ain’t? And if so why?

      BPL: Voting Democratic, if you please. “Democrat” as an adjective is a pejorative used only by Republicans.

      Yes, there is such a correlation. The GOP has become the political arm of big business in the USA. Big Business wants people not to believe that global warming is real. GOP voters pay close attention to the GOP propaganda machine, Fox News and the talk show hosts who work for its CEO, long-time GOP strategist Roger Ailes. The GOP, in fact, has become the anti-science party, since its Christian-right wing hates evolution and its big-business wing hates AGW theory, and any environmental finding that indicates a need to regulate or tax a business. The general anti-science feeling spreads to other fields as well, as witness the Bush staffer who tried to rewrite a NASA report on cosmological findings to say the Big Bang was “only a theory.”

    • michel, for the “why” try Chris Mooney’s book The Republican Brain.

    • Perhaps the problem for a political party that positions itself as the politcal voice of commerce and industry has in dealing with a problem like climate change is that commerce and industry rely on criteria like short and medium term impacts on costs, competitiveness and profitability and these are insufficient to rationally assess and develop solutions to global problems. Long term environmental consequences are too readily seen as a case of what-will-be-will-be but the costs of pre-emptive action are something that that this sector feels more able to influence through it’s established political voices and the public through the use of PR, advertising, tankthink and prodding of economic fears. It sees policies to deal with such matters as something that can be prevented – and it seems they believe should, for the sake of profitability and for their obligations to shareholders.

      It’s a problem of ethics I think; science relies on truth and accuracy as bedrock values that, with intellectual rigour will reveal the true nature of the world we live in. Commerce and industry apply truth and accuracy in a more narrow way and that seems to me to be mostly confined to it’s internal accounting procedures; outside that focus there is no imperative for truth and accuracy and business often finds itself with a strong imperative to promote misinformation and outright lies. Climate being a case of that.

  28. For those people who still think Romney knew what he was trying to say: may I remind you that this man tried to make a $10,000 bet during a televised primary debate?

    Romney is the 0.1%. Or probably less, but I’m not going to look up the exact figure.

  29. [Response: In my opinion, you fail to appreciate just how extreme an elitist snob Romney is. His biggest mistakes have been repeatedly saying what he actually thinks, out loud. If this was a "slip" it was of the "Freudian" kind. Don't blame me when it turns around and bites him on the ass.]
    I fail to appreciate it, or I don’t let my opinion of Romney color every gaff he says into the most extremely ridiculous interpretation imaginable? There’s a difference, and in my opinion you fail to appreciate it.
    I’m going to blame you when you start participating in the hysterical misinformation that surrounds the campaign season, like you’re doing now by perpetuating a bullshit crazy rumor about Romney’s views of the middle class. You know, when you’re telling everybody to tell everybody else that Romney thinks the middle class is that 50K range between $200,000 and $250,000 per year, meaning that you think Romney’s opinion of “lower class” is anybody making less than that tiny sliver and upper class is anybody making more than that sliver. I will absolutely blame you in not reading for context and letting your own low opinion of the man override the actual clauses in his sentences, then turning around and perpetuating it like a crazy chain-letter email about predator drones enforcing the census.
    Tamino, I am disappoint. This is stupid, you made a mistake, it’s time to back off of it instead of insisting that Romney thinks any household making less than $200,000 is lower than middle class. A better and more plausible explanation exists that actually relies on what he said and not your opinion of him. You’re better than this.

    [Response: I'll tell ya what I really think. If pressed for a definition, Romney would hem and haw and try to avoid answering, but he would not -- out loud -- limit the "middle class" to the $200K to $250K range.

    But in his heart of hearts that's the way he really feels and that's the way he'll really act. For practical purposes -- for what really counts -- his specific intention is to protect those making over $200K by screwing the hell out of everybody else. Including the poor schmucks making only $100K, and especially the literally poor schmucks who fight a continuing battle against poverty. $200K is about where he draws the line between those he'll be for and those he will actively be against -- actively! -- which makes the graph in this post an accurate portrayal of how Mitt Romney as president would treat Americans. Paying lip service to a broader definition of "middle class" won't make him treat the real middle class, or the working class, one bit better.

    When it comes to a genuine, precise definition of "middle class," perhaps we both agree that Romney doesn't even have one because he really doesn't have a clue.

    You're entitled to be as disappointed as you want.]

    • Rattus Norvegicus

      Let us look at this in terms of the tax policy which RMoney is proposing.

      Feldstein says (and most seem to agree) if a large growth component is assumed and major deductions — and the standard deduction — are eliminated for taxpayers making 100K or more than the numbers can be made to work. Here RMoney seems to be saying that he won’t raise taxes on the “middle class” where he give a definition of middle class that extends up to 250K. In most of the country that’s really, really good money. I some parts of the country (think NY, SF, decent parts of LA, Seattle, Portland) 250K is two corporate middle managers (or in SF code monkeys for a social networking company). If real tax rates go up for people like this, you will see bad, bad impacts on housing prices in these areas and quite possibly an exodus of companies which are currently doing business there because people will no longer be able to afford housing (all speculation, I’m just trying to show how stupid and ill thought out this plan is).

      So I guess it seems as though he was appealing to Feldstein and at they same time saying Feldstein is wrong because it will work even if 250K is the deduction elimination cutoff. For reference, the TPC sez 75K is where the deduction elimination has to start kicking in. Krugman here has a preemptive strike on this gaffe, but also read the link to Ezra Klein’s piece on the WaPo linked therein for a more detailed analysis.

  30. I’ve completed the latest version of the ms. Email me at levenson1960@gmail.com and I’ll email back copies. This paper has not been accepted or peer-reviewed yet, though tamino was kind enough to review the statistical procedures for me in the first version.

  31. Are the data and graphs shown here trustworthly?

    http://stateofworkingamerica.org/

    For example:

    Wealth rate of change by social class (table)

    Interactive chart showing rate of change of GDP by percentile

    rate of change of wealth by percentile (graph)

    And there are many more shocking graphs. If they are accurate, they show that while the rich get (a lot) richer, everyone else get poorer (or at best, had zero growth). Is this kind of “development” is widespread among the “developed countries” of the “1st world”?

    I ask that because among other things, my country, after centuries of deep poverty, was enjoying since the early 2000s a period of sustained growth. And as a consequence, despite a public amministration inability to perform the basic tasks of the state (security, healthcare, education, etc) poverty is dropping strongly. There is still a lot of it, but fortunately so far inequality is dropping in Peru.

    But if those data are accurate, the economic model will lead us in the future to the same kind of problems you have (with “you” I mean people that, like you, are”1st world” people).

    What do you think?

    • I can’t give you a definitive answer. But based upon what I see at a ‘worm’s-eye view,’ it doesn’t seem unrealistic to me. Certainly, our household income has declined since 2009.

    • I’m not good at economics, but I think there are superior ways to present the data, if you interested in showing the relative changes. As the data is presented, even if the relative distribution was fixed and just the overal income changed you would see the changes of the top 1% much larger than the changes in the low 90% group, just because of the scale and the visual impact. I would prefer graphics in real USD (taking inflation out of the picture) and changes of the different income strata relative to a reference period.

      If you are looking for income inequality the Gini coefficient gives you a coarse overview, which condenses income inequality (and other inequalities) into a single number, with all advantages and disadvantages this entails. As you can see in the graph in the wikipedia article of historic Gini coefficient for selected countries after WWII. The development of the Gini coefficient is very different for different countries, there is no common trend even for first world countries. The US and the UK both had a basically constant Gini coefficient up to about 1980 and after that a linear rise. Germany has remained constant throughout, whereas France has seen a dramatic decline from high levels to more average levels. Please also have a look at the section on Gini index before and after taxes.

      So no, I do not think that you can simply take the development of the USA as a direct consequence of the economic model. BTW, some data for Peru can be found here.

  32. [edit]

    Post a retraction like we demand of journalists when they go off the edge and say something stupidly wrong to try and influence the public. Otherwise you’re just deciding to be part of the problem.

    [Response: If you don't realize that this is a true portrayal of Mitt Romney's America, they you are part of the problem.]

    • You’re obviously going to have to explain to the rest of us what it is here that’s “stupidly wrong”. Maybe you could explain Mitt’s shifting position on Climate Change while you’re at it. Mitt and his running mate’s current position on Climate Change reflect either a profound and willful ignorance, or they’re as dumb as a box of rocks?

      • I’m trying, but my posts don’t seem to be going through. I had another response to Tamino’s last reply, and a response to snarkrates on my other post. They never appeared. None of them used any kind of foul language or anything. I haven’t received any notices about moderation or anything.

        [Response: You disagree with me, that's OK. You (and others) did, and you weren't too polite about it, but those comments appeared. I won't tell you what to do.

        So don't tell me what to do, and don't make demands about what I do on my own blog. Repeatedly demanding a retraction? Screw you.]

      • So should I consider myself banned for doing so? Or just think twice before telling you how to run your blog in the future?

        [Response: Consider yourself banned from this thread. Say whatever you like in future threads, say I'm wrong, call me an idiot. But when you start making demands about what I say or don't say on my own blog you are way the hell out of line. Expect to be treated accordingly.]

  33. You have to be fair to Mitt. He’s already having to appease the tea baggers, and look after his fellow 0.1%ers. With a difficult balancing act like that, its hardly surprising that he sometimes forgets about everyone else.

    His election chances contain the words “snowflake” and “hell”.

    • A lot of money is lining up behind Romney, and Romney’s team doesn’t seem to have any qualms with telling a fib or two. And if you tell a lie often enough and loud enough, a lot of people will begin to believe it.

      From the beginning of an article in the NY Times (September 13, 2012):

      When Barack Obama first ran for president, being green was so popular that oil companies like Chevron were boasting about their commitment to renewable energy, and his Republican opponent, John McCain, supported action on global warming.

      As Mr. Obama seeks re-election, that world is a distant memory. Some of the mightiest players in the oil, gas and coal industries are financing an aggressive effort to defeat him, or at least press him to adopt policies that are friendlier to fossil fuels. And the president’s former allies in promoting wind and solar power and caps on greenhouse gases? They are disenchanted and sitting on their wallets.

      For more please see: Pro-Fossil Fuel Groups Outspend Clean Energy Advocates 4-1 In Television Campaign Ads (Sep 14, 2012 at 12:24 pm)

      Incidentally, in that last article the authors mention Citizen’s United. It was the Supreme Court decision (decided Decided January 21, 2010) that corporations as artificial persons (in contrast to “preferred [flesh and blood] speakers”) are a disadvantaged class whose contributions to the political campaigns of parties and individuals constitutes a form of free speech that ought to be protected – and kept secret if they so choose. Although I cover some other material, towards the end of the comment, I quote from the actual case here in the thread to Tamino’s Hell and High Water, May 7, 2011.

      From what I have seen, money speaks loudly in US elections, and with that decision it can only get worse.

    • John,
      You remind me of the wealthy New York socialite who claimed she didn’t see how Eisenhower could have won when no one she knew voted for him. The polls are very tight. The country is still in a recession, and the Rethuglicans are doing whatever they can to disenfranchise traditional Democratic voters.

      I have to say that I am much more inclined to attend to Karl Rove’s sanguinity than I am to yours.

  34. I appreciate all the fine work done here, and have learned a lot from it, and I’ll be voting for BHO – but I agree with the dissenters that Romney probably mis-spoke slightly and was trying to define middle-class income as upper-bounded somewhere between $200K and $250K. (Remember “Joe the Plumber” and all the Republican noise on the awfulness of raising taxes on small business owners who make $250K a year? I think that is why Romney is locked into the $250K-ish number.) Because: a) it is plausible to me (having mis-spoken myself on occasion); and b) my (aspired) ethical standard is to give people the benefit of the doubt if there is any plausible excuse for annoying behavior.

    My advice would be to sleep on it and see if you feel any more charitable in the morning. Either way, thanks for all the good posts.

    • Mis-spoke? He was given an opportunity DURING THE INTERVIEW to post a more rational figure. (Which is around 20% of 250,000. Less, actually.) He emphatically declined.

      Romney is so insular it’s scary. He’s Marie Antoinette in drag.

      • Oh, come on. Do you think that Obama actually thinks there are 57 states, just because he didn’t renounce his mis-statement later in that speech? Would you say that Obama is anti-business, and thinks that if you have a small business, then “you didn’t build that”?

        Like JimV, I give people the benefit of the doubt. Romney’s said so many other stupid things (and his policies are wack), so picking on statements of questionable interpretation is really kinda pointless.

        When I see myself not giving people the benefit of the doubt, I start to question whether I’m really being objective. And likewise, when I see other people do it. Well, unless you’re that paranoid or anal about statements from both sides, of course.

  35. The thing you can’t get away from is the longer term trend in the US. EU as well, particularly Britain. It has been for prices to rise faster than incomes for a very large segment of the population in the lower two thirds (or more?) of the income distribution, but for the reverse to happen for the upper one third or less. This has led to correponding wealth distribution changes.

    In the US, though not in most of the EU, this seems to have been associated with a health care costs crisis. It also seems to have been sectoral – the finance, media and tech sectors of course have profited largely, as have some public sector staff.

    It seems to have happpened in the US under both Republican and Democrat administrations, and much of the phenomenon seems to be common to the US and Europe, so whatever is going on is not going to solved by electing either of the two present contenders. Its progressed under both Clinton and Obama as much as under the Republicans.

    In the UK it looks like most of the measures they have taken to try to ameliorate the situation have simply taken them closer to a debt crisis, but one sees why. There are now huge levels of social payments of various sorts, housing, making up salaries, payments for children. At some point, as in 19C Britain, you have to ask what exactly has happened to make wages fall in real terms to the point where people can’t house themselves and meet the basic necessities from salaries.

    Its very troubling. It contrasts strongly with the fifties and sixties, which were marked by strong economic growth under left and right administrations, in Europe and the US, and where the benefits were much more evenly distributed. Maybe even with a bias towards the lower distribution of incomes. However, what to do about it that will be effective and just and not counterproductive, that’s something which baffles me. I don’t think reelecting Obama is going to make the slightest difference to it.

    • The problem has been documented repeatedly..

      In the early 1980s, in both the UK and US, there was a concerted effort to break the power of the trades unions, both directly by strike-breaking and anti-union legislation, and by policies designed to create mass unemployment.

      The consequence of this has been that the link between productivity increases and wage increases was broken. For the majority, the near-doubling of worker productivity since 1980 has seen flat wages, in real terms; any increase in household income has been due to extra female participation in the workforce. Mass unemployment, and therefore welfare dependancy, has been normalised.

      As, I believe, Mr Buffett said; This is class warfare, by the rich against the poor. And the rich have won. Hence the rise of an ultra rich class.

      It is, of course, a Pyhrric victory. The flip side of depressed worker income is chronically depressed consumer demand; until recently this was hidden by a vast ramp up in private debt. Depressed consumer demand means poorer returns on capital for the rich… who then lobby for ever more wage cuts, worker protection cuts and taxpayer subsidies to offset declining demand.

      A classic example is the current deficit hysteria, in which the enforced ‘solution’ of hacking away at the public sector in a recession, hence lowering consumer demand and tax revenues even more, thereby leading into a deflationary depression just happens to benefit the already-rich. This is/was the pattern of the 1930s, where dogmatic adherence to the gold standard strangled economies.

      The way out? Large scale debt writedowns, full-employment programs based on infrastructure renewal (and I’d put the construction of a zero-carbon energy infrastructure in there), increased taxes on inheritance and very high income, dismantling the offshore/shadow banking system.. lots of things that have, for some reason, been completely excluded from public debate.

      • KeefeAndAmanda

        To that excellent post by Andrew Dodds I add the following:

        There is ever less of what I call capital democracy or entrepreneurial democracy, democracy in terms of who gets access to money to be a capitalist. As one who believes that maximum prosperity can come only from maximizing both social democracy and capital democracy, I’m concerned that I see relatively little about why we have much less entrepreneurial democracy than we used to have – see my other post documenting only half as many entrepreneurs per-capita than 1977. Although some are saying there’s a problem here – even Trump keeps saying that it’s gotten to the point now that if you’re not already like him – rich and well connected, then you just cannot the way you used to get the money you need in order to put into action ideas no matter how innovative, to start or expand a small or medium sized business.

        Here’s the problem in a nutshell: Let’s say that I run one of these big private banks and you are a not-rich, not-well-connected individual who needs money to start or expand a small or medium sized business, and you ask me to loan you money for that. But since I can almost always make much more money much more quickly much more easily for my shareholders doing other things with that money that prior (but now killed) restrictions used to disallow me from doing, I will almost always say to you, “Sorry, no money for you.”

        These restrictions in question caused the big banks of Wall Street capitalism to make business loans much more often than would otherwise be the case to start or expand small and medium sized business, the heart of Main Street capitalism, the main engine of job growth. These restrictions began to be removed starting with Reagan, but their removal really accelerated and culminated with the 1999 repeal of Glass-Steagall. Only most progressives in Congress stood against these repeals.

        The reason that so many went with these repeals is because those who ran these big private Wall Street banks said something like this – and too many believed it: “If you take off those regulations, then we would have a lot more money to make business loans to start or expand small and medium sized Main Street business.”

        Only most progressives in Congress saw through this con.

        And yes, it’s a con, in large part because the law says that those who run these big private banks have a legal duty to always make as much profit as possible for the shareholders. (And guess who is responsible for those laws.) That is, the degree to which they can make more profit doing with the money something other than making business loans to start or expand small and medium sized businesses is the degree to which they are legally required to do this something else with that money.

        And so the result as been a slow and steady but recently accelerating decline in money available to start or expand small and medium sized business.

        The following should therefore be clear to everyone who has a mind and who is not brainwashed by the con:

        If we do not put the restrictions in question back on these big private banks – or if we do not do as such countries as China with its super-fast-growing economy and Norway with its twice as large per-capita nominal GDP than the US, which is having the government be at least the majority owner of these big banks (with a majority vote on the boards of directors) and then use that ownership power as much as is properly possible to make money available to maximize capital or entrepreneurial democracy, then it’s utterly and permanently over in the US with respect to capital or entrepreneurial democracy and a truly thriving economy.

        Finally, if I may be allowed a partisan pitch: Democrats need to go absolutely all the way with this opportunity to take entrepreneurial capitalism away from the Republicans, since not doing so will be one of the biggest missed opportunities in history.

  36. Beware–the true household income picture is different from that in the Current Population Survey (CPS) shown in the figure.

    The CPS data excludes from their “income” all income from “sale of property”, which exclusion specifically includes investment income like capital gains from all kinds of property sales–from real estate to stocks and bonds. (They do include interest and dividend investment income.) So the high end of income in the CPS is likely severely distorted from reality; $250K+ households can have substantial capital gains, while $50K households not so much.

  37. Horatio Algeranon

    There is the middle (or Mittel) class and then there are the poor (including the homeless), which many people — Republicans and Democrats alike and particularly our leaders — would prefer to simply ignore.

    There are exceptions, of course, like Cornell West and Tavis Smiley, but unfortunately, they are not running.

  38. KeefeAndAmanda

    http://www.democraticunderground.com/1002937515

    “Since 1980, the top 1% has sucked up 80% of all the new wealth created. And, in 2010, the richest one percent of Americans received 93% of all of the new income earned that year. [In 1993-2000 we saw 45% of all new income go to the top 1%, and in 2002-2007 we saw 65% of all new income go to the top 1%. For the top 1% - unlike for the vast majority of the other 99% - this income is all or almost all in the form of wealth, from capital gains. This means that these numbers actually underestimate how high a percentage of newly created wealth goes to the top 1%.]

    …today, the richest 400 Americans – all of whom are billionaires – own more wealth than the bottom 150 million Americans COMBINED. The richest 6 members of the Sam Walton family – heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune and, again, all billionaires – own more wealth than the bottom 30 percent of Americans COMBINED.

    …the number of entrepreneurs per capita in America has dropped by 53% since 1977. And since 1991, the number of Americans who are self-employed has dropped by more than 20%. Americans who use to be able to start their own businesses are increasingly being forced to join the ranks of the working poor – crowded out of the market by the billionaires’ corporate domination.” [And studies show that there is now less upward income mobility in the US than in just about any other developed country - it's now roughly as bad as the UK with its class system. The American Dream via entrepreneurial capitalism has been exported along with our good paying jobs by the billionaires' unregulated, union-killing corporate domination.]

  39. Well, you can always start a small business as a liar for hire–though sometimes you may find work as an accidental humorist instead:

    http://stevengoddard.wordpress.com/2012/08/11/shortest-arctic-melt-season-on-record/#comment-134493

  40. Sorry to go off-topic, but the doors on the other threads are closing quite fast these days!

    I just wanted to note that Arctic temperatures are still reluctant to follow their usual trajectory.

  41. Mother Jones claim to have some footage of Romney that will excite your passions. And here, no need to pick a debatable brief snippet here to paint him as an out-of-touch elitist; he openly disdains 47% of US citizens (including me — I pay no US income tax… Just Canadian taxes.)

    http://m.motherjones.com/politics/2012/09/secret-video-romney-private-fundraiser

  42. This is completely OT, but I thought I’d mention that a comment of mine is currently being censored at a Climate Audit thread about censorship on warmist blogs. The delicious irony of this pleases me greatly.

    Just to keep things on topic, though: Mitt Romney is such a dick.

  43. http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2012/09/17/controversial-private-fund-raiser-video-shows-candid-romney/?hpt=hp_t3

    “‘There are 47 percent who are with him [Obama], 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.’

    Adding to his argument about entitlement, Romney said his ‘job is not to worry about those people.’

    ‘I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives,’ he added.”

    Wow.

    • http://i.imgur.com/r9kAF.jpg

      What % of that 47% are working poor, seniors on Medicare, etc.?

      What % of that 47% vote Republican?

      https://twitter.com/Gus_802/status/247903633218342912/photo/1/large

      According to Romney’s insanely stupid logic, if only 8% of taxpayers voted for Obama, he’d win the election. If @ 50% of taxpayers vote for Obama (which is likely what will happen), then Romney will get 25% of the vote.

      Not sure if he’s more of an elitist or more of an idiot.

    • While the job bit is in the context of “can I get them to elect me”, the description of the 47% is utterly pathetic. Obviously there are NO low income Republicans. On his news conference a reporter is asking him for comment on his characterization that the 47% “saw themselves as victims” and were “not willing to take responsibility for their life or their future” Romney answers, as if he had not made this characterization himself, but as if someone else had. So he is trying to walk away without acknowledging, much less apologizing for this: “It was not elegantly stated.” Yeah.
      http://youtu.be/jsLGb_TZETo?t=3m13s

      Add to this his abysmal response to the 3 a.m. call.

    • Does that 47% dependent on the government include defence contractors?

    • ‘I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives,’ he added.

      He went on to add, “they should’ve had the foresight to be born rich, like I did. I took personal responsibility for my life before I was conceived.”

      OK, I made that up. But that asshole was born and raised rich. Personal responsibility, pffft.

  44. David B. Benson

    Percentage of IRS filers with no liabilty, by state
    http://twitpic.com/avrlm4
    (which has some surprises such as Alaska).

    • Sorry for double-posting that.

    • There ya go again, David, with your reality-based bias. Willard wants to go on believing that anyone who opposes him is a deadbeat and you go rubbing his nose in reality again.

      “Ain’t nothin’ dumber than a poor Republican.”–Tim Dorsey

    • David, the reason that Alaska has such a high percentage of US taxpaying households, is because of a relatively young population (fewer old people on SS), and because the state of Alaska distributes oil royalty money to the citizens that give them taxable income to report.

      This shows that if the state pays everyone some taxable income, then they end up with a lot of taxpayers.

  45. He also said they don’t pay taxes – factually wrong as well as morally repulsive.

  46. The other comment in that video is that he’s not going to release detailed policies because no-one is interested. Which makes analysis of tax broadening and “middle class” taxes kind of tricky…

  47. Also, I wonder if mitt includes in that 47% all those slackers in the military (and military contractors) that are dependent on the government. After all, that’s where about half the federal governments money goes.

  48. KeefeAndAmanda

    I thought that the following would be an appropriate seconding of Nathan’s and Nat J’s well put “Is this guy for real?” and “Wow.”:

    First, Paul Krugman hit the nail on the head in “The Conservative Onion”:

    http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/07/21/the-conservative-onion/

    “But if you push hard on that, it turns out that there’s yet another layer: the claim that things like taxing the rich to help pay for social insurance are immoral, because people have a right to keep the wealth they created – which is why suggesting that no plutocrat is an island is heresy…This onion structure is why you should never believe reasonable-sounding conservatives who say that you’re attacking a straw man, that “nobody believes” that wealth creators owe nothing to society. Oh yes they do – it’s usually hidden inside a couple of more socially acceptable excuses…”

    Second, my amplification and/or expansion:

    Religious economic conservatives like Romney and that Ayn-Rand-worshiping Ryan think that they have the moral high ground over progressives? See these below examples of the economic philosophy of their New Testament, in which we find some of the strongest examples of the ideals of social democracy ever seen in historical documents in either religion or philosophy thereby exposing their economic conservatism as one of the biggest moral frauds in history:

    Quotes from “The Message” translation: (Note: This translation has the most visceral language, best reflecting the earthy language of common Greek and so best communicating the intent.)

    “”Teacher, we know you have integrity, teach the way of God accurately, are indifferent to popular opinion, and don’t pander to your students. So tell us honestly: Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” Jesus knew they were up to no good. He said, “Why are you playing these games with me? Why are you trying to trap me? Do you have a coin? Let me see it.” They handed him a silver piece. “This engraving-who does it look like? And whose name is on it?” They said, “Caesar.” “Then give Caesar what is his, and give God what is his.”” (Matthew 22: 15-22)

    “They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person’s need was met.” (Acts 2: 45)…”They didn’t even claim ownership of their own possessions. No one said, “That’s mine; you can’t have it.” They shared everything.”… And so it turned out that not a person among them was needy…The apostles then distributed it [the money] according to each person’s need.” (Acts 4: 33-35)

    “To you arrogant rich: Take some lessons in lament. You’ll need buckets for the tears when the crash comes upon you. Your money is corrupt and your fine clothes stink. Your greedy luxuries are a cancer in your gut, destroying your life from within. You thought you were piling up wealth. What you’ve piled up is judgment. All the workers you’ve exploited and cheated cry out for judgment. The groans of the workers you used and abused are a roar in the ears of the Master Avenger. You’ve looted the earth and lived it up. But all you’ll have to show for it is a fatter than usual corpse. In fact, what you’ve done is condemn and murder perfectly good persons, who stand there and take it.” (James 5: 1-6)

    Good grief!!

    Jesus teaching like some government-and-tax-loving commie that I don’t entirely own my own money? Taxation (by even a ruthless dictator occupying my country [no representative democracy here!]) is not theft?!

    The earliest Christians acting like a bunch of collectivism-loving commies with all this redistribution crap that they don’t own their own stuff and all this “to each according to one’s need” from a central treasury?! [Side note: That's right - collectivism, not on everything but on at least *the basic necessities of life*, different from pure charity.]

    James exploding in absolutely venomous anger like a crazed class-warfare-loving commie against getting rich at the expense of the common folk and the general welfare?!

    OMG!!

  49. I read that about 25% of those who don’t pay Federal income taxes identify as Republican. For example, many retired people are Republicans but not all of them have big enough retirement accounts to pay income taxes. Romney’s two big acheivements as govenor of MA were universal health care and promotion of clean energy. Who knows what, if anything, he believes in now, but it must be frustrating running against himself.

  50. http://www.lcurve.org/ — rather old info, but think where Romney’s ‘middle class’ would appear on this chart. I wish someone would adopt the L-curve chart and update it; its author has moved on to other interests.

  51. Mitt Romney:

    “I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives”

    He should probably have added “…with the exception of convincing them that they should vote for Mickey Mouse before they vote for me”.

  52. And during that fundraiser, did Romney break a personal record on quickest flip flop?

    “If it looks like I’m going to win, the markets will be happy. If it looks like the president’s going to win, the markets should not be terribly happy. It depends of course which markets you’re talking about, which types of commodities and so forth, but my own view is that if we win on November 6th, there will be a great deal of optimism about the future of this country. We’ll see capital come back and we’ll see—without actually doing anything—we’ll actually get a boost in the economy. If the president gets reelected, I don’t know what will happen. I can—I can never predict what the markets will do.”

  53. “Obama Moochers”
    – by Horatio Algeranon

    Obama moochers
    Potato couchers
    Bank on vouchers
    For their futures

  54. I said (way back on Saturday):

    The problem is that Romney is giving us so much material that it is hard to know which to use!

    Like I said.

    He’s the gift that keeps on giving!

  55. He’s the gift that keeps on giving!

    Only if the Obama campaign is smart enough to stick and twist the shiv.

    I’m not optimistic. We’re already seeing Romney spinning back, playing it to his base (many of whom don’t understand that they’re the “freeloaders” he was referring too …)

  56. Imagine the response if Bill were running … just sayin’. It would be election over, this week …