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Quiet Room

During the Republican primaries, Mitt Romney said he believed income inequality was a topic best discussed in "quiet rooms."Now we know how he likes to discuss class politics when he's in a quiet room with a few like-minded donors. Referring to the 47 percent of Americans who pay no federal income tax, Romney told a small group of supporters, "My job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives." Good to get that straight.

Romney got himself in trouble a few months ago by saying he was "not concerned about the very poor" because they had a safety net. But that was in an interview being broadcast by CNN. When Romney doesn't think the poor might overhear him, he makes it clear the real reasons he's not concerned about them are that (1) they're unlikely to respond favorably to his promise of lower taxes since they don't pay taxes to begin with and (2) they, along with much of the lower middle class, are incorrigible freeloaders who believe themselves "entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it."

In a hastily arranged press conference, Romney conceded late this evening that his quiet-room remarks were "not elegantly stated." That is not incorrect and not remotely reassuring. Romney has revealed that he despises half the country, and there is no elegant way to make that fact palatable to most Americans in the other half.

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Re: When Romney doesnt think the poor might overhear him, he makes it clear hes not concerned about them Matthew Boudway: Your post is total b.s. and you know it. Romney was talking about campaign strategy about whose votes he has a reasonable chance to get not about caring for the less fortunate. Romney has been an extremely charitable person and his economic policies will be far better for the nation including the poor and unemployed than Obamas inane policies have been or will be.

Cold charity indeed, the trickle down of noblesse oblige. His shaky late-night press conference was even more damning, he actually fled the scene!The word to his intimates reminded me of murmurs from a Nixonian bunker (though that may be unfair to Nixon).

Kelly: "Matthew Boudway: Your post is total b.s. and you know it. Romney was talking about campaign strategy about whose votes he has a reasonable chance to get not about caring for the less fortunate."Romney: My job is not to worry about those people. Ill never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.

unagidon:Below is the transcript of Romneys statement recorded on the video. The seven sentences before the sentence you quoted and the sentence afterward make it clear Romney was talking about getting votes, not about not caring for people. There are 47% of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47% 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 thats an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what.And I mean the President starts off with 49, 49he starts off with a huge number. These are people who pay no income tax. 47% of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesnt connect.So hell be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich. I mean, thats what they sell every 4 years. And so my job is not to worry about those people. Ill never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.What I have to do is convince the 5% to 10% that are independents, that are thoughtful, that look at voting one way or another depending upon in some cases emotion, whether they like the guy or not.

Most of the 47 percent live in red states. Romney is revealing how he thinks the country is organized. And sorry, he thinks that: My job is not to worry about those people. Ill never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.

Just for the record, the vast majority of the 47% of Americans who pay no income tax are:1 - the elderly, living on Social Security (which is not taxable income);2 - the physically and mentally disabled, unable to work;3 - working parents who earn less than $20,000 annually.That's who Romney is referring to when he talks about Americans "...who believe that they are victims...and they will vote for this president no matter what".We know that's not true because Mitt Romney consistently polls well with voters over the age of 65. Clearly, there are plenty of people in the "47%" who will vote for Romney.(Another point: as E.J. Dionne pointed out on MSNBC last night, if Romney truly believes that 47% makes up Pres. Obama's unshakable based, then Romney is faced with the daunting task of having to win 94.5% of the remaining 53% of the electorate if he's to win the election.)

Mr. Kelly, we know that Romney was sharing two thoughts, namely, obtaining support from folks who might be persuaded to vote for him AND criticizing nearly 50% of the electorate who won't "take personal responsibility and care for their lives."Both of Romney's ideas are right there in black and white.What don't you get?????

My job is not to worry about those people. Ill never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.I think Michael Kelly may be right about the first half of this comment -- Romney was probably saying he doesn't have to "worry about" these people in the sense of trying to get their vote, not in the sense of not caring whether they live or die. But I can't see how you can spin the second half of the comment as saying anything other than that they're lazy moochers, leeches on society. Now, maybe he isn't actually like that, and was just saying what he thought his millionaire supporters wanted to hear, but it's not pretty in any case. He's always going on about how the president is trying to "divide the country" -- will he be able to say that without blushing from here on out?

In view of the fact that Mr. Romney has been accused of flip-flopping on issues, I think it's great that he isn't backing off the statement, which, though indeed he might have rendered less bluntly, concisely captures his views about the role of government and the working class. This makes my vote for the president so much easier.

Brooks is on fire about "Thurston Howell Romney":http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/18/opinion/brooks-thurston-howell-romney....

Michael J. Kelly: Romney has been an extremely charitable person?Since he won't release his tax returns, we have only his word for that. We do know he tithes to the LDS Church, but that isn't charity--that's membership dues. The Mormons extend aid to their own members and to non-Mormons whom they hope to convert, but most of the church's income appears to go toward buying up real estate.

" Romney has been an extremely charitable person... ." and his economic policies will be far better for the nation including the poor and unemployed than Obamas inane policies have been or will be."How do we know that? After all, we don't have his tax returns that would list his charitable contributions. "...and his economic policies will be far better for the nation including the poor and unemployed than Obamas inane policies have been or will be."I am not an expert in economics but common sense tells me that your statement needs to be proved.

"Matthew Boudway: Your post is total b.s. and you know it."Mr. Kelly, I know no such thing. Not even you can explain away the offending sentence. Let's assume that some of the money Romney gives his church reaches the poor. That proves nothing, and disproves nothing. One can think the poor are spongers of deficient character and also think one ought to take care of them since they won't take care of themselves and one doesn't want to see them languishing on the street. I wrote that Romney despises the poor, not that he refuses to help them.In truth, the category of people he seems to despise includes not only the destitute, but also the working poor, the elderly, the disabledanyone, besides children perhaps, who depends on others for material support, or receives more from the government than he or she gives it. I say "seems": even I don't quite believe that Romney would make no distinctions within that group; I doubt he actually considers the disabled despicable. That his words imply that he does is a problem he might have addressed directly last night instead of feebly conceding that they were not elegant. I do, however, think that Romney believes most people who will vote for Obama are "takers" rather than "makers," and that most, if not all, of the takers lack the virtue to fend for themselves. I see no other way to read the words that everyone here but you finds so appalling.

Actually, the most revealing comment in this event may have been when Romney said, "I have inherited nothing." He's 100% self-made, and owes nothing to the well-to-do circumstances of his childhood, his prestigious (and debt-free) education, and all the rest. (I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt here and buying his claim that his CEO/Governor father didn't leave him any money). If only my father had been Mexican, he said, then "I'd have a better shot of winning this...."

I believe very strongly that in forums like this, A should never say to B the equivalent of "what you are saying is false, and you know it" unless A is able to produce solid evidence (for example, quotes from B's previous messages) that B in fact does know what he is saying is false. Otherwise A is just calling B a liar.

The Mexican comment could well hurt Romney as much as anything. The claim that he inherited nothing is, well, let's just wait for Jon Stewart to weigh in. That's what he's paid for...

Surely it is not only the 47% who are hooked on entitlements. What about bankers? or hedge fund managers? or Big Ag? or Big Pharma?

...or the Military-Industrial Complex???

By now we all should know how Romney really thinks. I'm still trying to get the answer to why some of the 47% will vote for the 'empty suit'. I guess it's one of those Catholic mysteries that can't really be explained.

I love Romney's complaint, in the follow-up presser, that the video excerpt doesn't include the question he was answering. Rather than dwell on the spectacle of Mitt Romney - ! - complaining about something he said being taken out of context, I think we should all try to come up with hypothetical questions that would mitigate the awfulness of the answer he is seen giving at such length in that clip.

Just for the record, some of the 1% are included in the 47%. So are many elderly, veterans, children, war-deployed troops, and working poor. To say nothing about big corporations: Exxon for example. And, within the 53% are many who make every effort, and bend every rule to minimize their taxes, Mr. Romney for example. Mr. Romney displays a breathtakingly callous view of his fellow Americans, whom he wishes to represent as the President of all the people.

Oh, Mittens! You should know by now: There are rules that what is said at the country club stays at the country club. Didn't anyone warned you: You shouldn't have taken that dancing horse, Rafalca, to the London Olympics. You're not suppose to let the economic serfs know that class warfare is all us 1%ers are all about!Now you've done it, Mittens. The 99%ers are starting to break into song: "Happy Days Are Here Again! Let sing a song of cheer again! Happy Are Here Again! ... "

P.S. It's been stated that the majority of the 47% are in red states. Based on the widely circulated chart republished in The Atlantic, that's not accurate. The red states, and especially the deep south, have as greater percentage of their population non-Federal Income Tax payers. That does not necessarily translate to a numeric majority nation-wide. That data I have not seen.

Especially given his history of supporting social safety nets (like Romneycare), LGBT issues, and a pro-choice public policy, many have argued that Romney's turn to the right is mere political opportunism. Many of the people pointing this out have been his critics on the left, attempting to drive home the narrative that he is a false and dishonest candidate. But now, all of a sudden, Romney is revealing what he actually thinks? Why should this be the case? (Other than liberals now sensing blood in the water and a chance to basically end the election this week.) Why isn't this just another example of his opportunism in the form of telling big donors what they want to hear? An example of his being willing to say whatever it takes to get himself elected President? Presumably his putting together Romneycare is inconsistent with his claims made to these donors about the 47%. Why should we accept this the person talking to people he hopes will give him money is the "real" Romney and the one who pushed for Romneycare the "fake" one?I'm also interested to know how Obama's denigration 10s of millions of religious hunters at a fundraiser in San Francisco last before the last Presidential election should compare with what Romney said. Why should we think of these two episodes differently? Because Obama's denigration is on target and Romney's is not? Because Romney really believes what he said and Obama was just engaging in understandable political showmanship? Something else?

@Charles: One difference is that Obama's statement was litigated in the election four years ago and Romney's statement was last May.

The Median Household Income in the US, 2012, is $50,667. Once you take out social security, medicare and state income tax and sales tax, there is, let's say, $42,000 left. How much do you think that family SHOULD be paying in Federal Income Tax?

The irony seems to have escaped Mitt completely: while 47% of his fellow Americans pay no taxes because they're too poor, too disabled, too young or too old, he himself is not paying taxes on the millions he has stashed in Switzerland and the Cayman Islands.I am inclined toward the theory that the reason he won't release his tax returns is that he underpaid his taxes and took advantage of the 2009 tax amnesty to wipe his slate clean.

SNL had a great skit this weekend on why vote for Obama. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G1mTMLqRg_0

Obama's comments were patronizing and obnoxious, but they were different in this way: he was telling an elite crowd that they should not blame people who disagree with them, but should try to see things through their eyes. He was urging empathy toward those he (and the crowd) disagreed with. It's hard to put a similar construction on Romney's remarks.To refresh our memories, this is from the Washington Post:+++Obama's comments came at the end of a lengthy answer in which he rejected the notion that voters were passing him over simply for racial reasons, saying instead that his campaign of hope and change was having difficulty in "places where people feel most cynical about government.""Everybody just ascribes it to 'white working-class . . . don't want to vote for the black guy,' " Obama said at the fundraiser."Here's how it is: In a lot of these communities in big industrial states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, people have been beaten down so long. They feel so betrayed by government that when they hear a pitch that is premised on not being cynical about government, then a part of them just doesn't buy it. And when it's delivered by -- it's true that when it's delivered by a 46-year-old black man named Barack Obama, then that adds another layer of skepticism."Obama then voiced the lines that his opponents have seized upon. +++

But now, all of a sudden, Romney is revealing what he actually thinks?Charles,Well, I am not sure that if he was just telling a roomful of rich donors what they wanted to hear it doesn't mean he won't follow through in the same vein. After all, these are the people he will be beholden to if elected. What's he going to tell them? I was just kidding.For what it's worth, I heard a couple of commentators remarking that it was rare to hear Romney talking so fluently and with such conviction. Up until quite recently, as I may have said here, I wasn't worried by Romney that much, because I thought he would be a pragmatist rather than an ideologue once elected, but he is beginning to look like a real ideologue to me. Im also interested to know how Obamas denigration 10s of millions of religious hunters at a fundraiser in San Francisco last before the last Presidential election should compare with what Romney said. Why should we think of these two episodes differently?The Obama quote in context:

But the truth is that our challenge is to get people persuaded that we can make progress when theres no evidence of that in their daily lives. You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, Ohiolike a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years, and nothings replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration and the Bush administration. And each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are going to regenerate. And they have not. So its not surprising then that they get bitter, and they cling to guns or religion, or antipathy toward people who arent like them, or anti-immigrant sentiment, or, you know, anti-trade sentiment [as] a way to explain their frustrations.Now, these are in some communities. You know, I think what youll find is that people of every backgroundthere are going to be a mix of people. You can go in the toughest neighborhood, you know, working-class lunch-pail folks, and youll find Obama enthusiasts. And you can go into places where youd think that Id be very strong, and people will just be skeptical. The important thing is that you show up and youre doing what youre doing.

I think if you compare this to the Romney quote, you see Obama is saying there will be people who may be unreceptive, but he's going to try to reach them anyway. Whereas Romney is writing 47% of the population off as unreformable. How will he treat them when he is president?

Im also interested to know how Obamas denigration 10s of millions of religious hunters at a fundraiser in San Francisco last before the last Presidential election should compare with what Romney said. Why should we think of these two episodes differently? Charles, Isn't this known as "tu quoque"? Aren't you basically implying that Romney shouldn't be criticized because Obama did something you consider in the same category? Aren't basically implying, "Sure, maybe my guy is a jerk, but your guy is a jerk, too?"

Charles,One more point. What Obama said was impolitic, and you may or may not have agreed with him. But what Romney said is just factually wrong, as a number of conservative commentators have pointed out. There are many, many Republican voters among the 47% of those who do not pay income taxes. And there are many people who don't pay income taxes because of tax cuts by Reagan and Bush. Even for those who are not offended by the sentiment, what Romney said does not reflect either reality or Republican tax policy.

10s of millions of religious hunters Are there really that many?

Charlie,The difference between what Obama said in 2008 and what Romney said last night is, roughly, the difference between condescension and contempt. The worst thing Obama could be accused of is failing to understand white working-class voters the way they understand themselves. He has not given up on them, or decided that their interests are incompatible with his own. Romney has made it clear that he considers most of those who won't vote for him to be hopeless parasites.Wasn't he just telling his audience that night what they wanted to hear? Isn't that what he always does? Why are we so sure this is what he really believes? Those are fair questions. But as Jonathan Chait and others have pointed out, this isn't actually what most rich donors want to hear. What they want to hear is that policies that help the rich also happen to be better for the poor. The trickle-theory flatters their moral vanity, which is why it has become such an important component of conservative rhetoric. Romney went out of his way to say something very differentthat poor people are behaving rationally, albeit dishonorably, when they vote for a politician who will protect the welfare programs on which they depend.Even as strategy, Romney's remarks were clueless. What donor wants to hear that almost half of the electorate is sure to vote against the candidate who is asking for his support, and that the only way to victory is to persuade more than 90 percent of those whose votes are actually up for grabs. Who would want to waste a lot of money on such a long shot?

"Im also interested to know how Obamas denigration 10s of millions of religious hunters at a fundraiser in San Francisco last before the last Presidential election should compare with what Romney said."Well, Charlie, in the interest of accuracy, I think you'd want to say, "Tens of millions of religious gun owners who have serious questions about immigration reform and labor policy."

David N,For starters, Romney is *anything* but "my guy." In addition to being a terrible candidate, he (and Obama) hold views which promote such horrific levels of injustice toward vulnerable populations that neither deserve our support.I just wanted to use Obama's denigration of 10s of millions of religious gun owners (probably better than "hunters"...thanks, Irene) as a way of thinking of about Romney's denigration of the 10s of millions in that 47%. We need to be consistent in how we evaluate them. Both have said awful things about a huge number of Americans to donors. Either they will say what it takes that will get money from donors (I think the most likely scenario) or they actually hold a view about 10s of millions of people that is unbelievably condescending.Also, I still haven't heard explanations for how we square Romney's statements to these donors with his support of Romneycare. Can David or others provide an explanation? Has he had a dramatic shift where he suddenly realized that he shouldn't have been supporting dependency-creating government handouts for people? Or maybe he was telling donors what they want to hear...like all politicians do.

Matthew, I don't personally know much about what rich donors want to hear...but (though I could change my mind on this) I think Romney (who had raised a ton of money from them) probably knows what works.Grant, good qualification...thanks.

Paul Ryan is, according to him and his acquaintances, is a serious hunter using not a gun but a bow and arrow, which we all know requires much more skill, patience, and cunning. (Being religious, I don't know why he doesn't use a slingshot like David)I, for one, could never vote for a man who would kill Bambis mother.

Charlie,Not that you've closed the circle, there's no way to answer your argument. Why doubt that Romney meant what he said? Because he was speaking to donors and only telling them what they want to hear. How do we know he was only telling them what they want to hear? Well, because he wouldn't tell them something unless he thought they wanted to hear it, and who would know better than he what they want to hear? In any case, this line of defense is self-defeating. No one really wants a president who is willing to say anything for a campaign donation.

Romney writes off the young, elderly, so what do you think about him writing off the clergy too?Priests get free housing, groceries, pensions, car @25K walking around money? What are the income taxes on that.? Religious clergy most likely don't even file a 1040.Poor GE is in that disgraceful 47% too. In san Francisco that has a huge share of multi-million $ homes still gives Dem. Nancy Pelosi & Senator Feinstein [those commie socialist multimillionaires] about 80% of the Vote. Romney has locked up the Koch brothers and that billionaire LV casino guy though, for all the good it will do in Nov.

Giving Gov. Romney every benefit of the doubt on all of his recent gaffs/misstatements/deliberate misrepresentations, it is still hard to not conclude that the man, who is running based on his management acumen, is incompetent. He has mishandled his staff, wasted money within his campaign and can't communicate effectively. John Huntsman, would have been a far better choice.

Matthew, to be clear, it isn't a "line of defense." I have no interest in Romney being defended. I'm just trying to get to be more clear about the complexity of what may or may not be going on when a candidate is speaking to donors. Hopefully that, and not some predisposition to attack or defend Romney, is driving our conversation here.And assuming we don't actually believe Obama thinks that 10s of millions of people who disagree with him about immigration and social welfare "cling to their guns or religion" in response to liberal policies on these issues, then we have another candidate who will simply say what it takes to get a campaign donation as well.A pox on both their houses.

Charlie,As far as I know, no one has claimed that Obama said what he said in San Fransisco just because his listeners that day wanted to hear it. He made an observation he might have formulated differently for a different audience. There was some truth to the observationfor whatever reason, many white working-class voters do vote against their economic self-interest (pace Romney). No doubt Obama later wished he had made this observation it in a way less susceptible to misunderstanding and misrepresentation. There is, in contrast, no way to read Romney's words so that they don't convey deep contempt for anyone who doesn't pay federal income taxes. No post-facto qualification or context will make his words less offensive. If he did not mean them, he needs to say so. If he did mean them, it is urgently important that the "47 percent"as well as anyone in the remaining 53 percent who doesn't share Romney's contemptdo whatever they can to keep him from getting elected."A pox on both their house" is a cop-out. For all his many shortcomings, Obama is, on this score at least, nothing like as bad as Romney.

And assuming we dont actually believe Obama thinks that 10s of millions of people who disagree with him about immigration and social welfare cling to their guns or religion in response to liberal policies on these issues, then we have another candidate who will simply say what it takes to get a campaign donation as well.Charles,I think Obama's statement is perfectly defensible. To repeat the quote, he says, "So its not surprising then that they get bitter, and they cling to guns or religion, or antipathy toward people who arent like them, or anti-immigrant sentiment, or, you know, anti-trade sentiment [as] a way to explain their frustrations." He then says, "Now, these are in some communities." The emphasis on some is Obama's. And then he basically says you never know when you go to a place what you will find, so you just go everywhere. Now, I don't know exactly how right he is. I do know people who are very hostile to immigrants, and I can't explain it. The same for many of the other things Obama mentions. Perhaps he was somewhat condescending. But in any case, he was expressing sympathy for the people as having been passed over by his predecessor and by events, and he was making a commitment to try to win them over. I see that as much more benign than what Romney said. Maybe if I was very conservative and lived in a small town, I would resent what he said. But as a liberal's stab at small-town conservatism (of a certain type), it may have been impolitic, but it wasn't meant to be mean. And of course he has already paid the price for it (by losing Pennsylvania to Hillary Clinton by 10 points). I have seen real anti-immigrant hostility from people who have absolutely nothing to lose (and cheap labor to gain) from illegal immigrants. I certainly can't explain it. But it seems to me better to chalk it up with stagnation and disappointment than to plain old bigotry.

Charlie,Here's Jonathan Chait on the point you raise:

Was Romney just trying to suck up to his donors? That would be plausible if they were itching to see him slap around the poor and sick. But the question to which he responded, per the full video released today, was actually quite different: "For the past three years, all that everybody has been told is 'dont worry, well take care of you.' How we gonna to do it, in two months before the elections, to convince everybody youve got to take care of yourself?"The donor wasnt asking Romney to dismiss the looters and moochers. He was asking Romney how he could sell them on self-reliance. And Romneys answer, incredibly, was this: I cant! Its hopeless!Romney had a full range of possible replies available here. He could have talked up his plan to repeal Obamacare, deficits, job creators, Reagan, opportunity, people let down by the Obama economy, what have you. Ive heard Republicans address this point any number of times, and they always say something about how their message of freedom will resonate everywhere. Instead, what he offered up was a bracing confession that the thing the donor wants him to do is impossible, an anti-pander.

Matt, I think Chait is just wrong about this. In addition to Romney's wildly successful history of getting rich donors to give him money counting as a strong counter-example, take a look at how the (non-moderate) right has responded to his words. Drudge's giddy headline was "Romney Gets Real." Newsmax has a story with the headline "Romney Said Nothing Wrong." Take a look at all the defenders Romney has on the right: http://www.redstate.com/2012/09/18/conservatives-agree-romneys-right/ Even the subtext of the questioner that Chait cites is that it likely can't be done. Drudge also gleefully points out that this hasn't appeared to hurt Romney's Gallup numbers...and that perhaps he has even closed the gap a bit. If he was performing for these kinds of donors, the same way he has been performing for them since he started running for President, then it isn't at all surprising he would say these kinds of things that apparently please them.Let me ask this question again and see if anyone can offer an answer, "How do we square Romneys statements to these donors with his support of Romneycare? Has he had a dramatic shift where he suddenly realized that he shouldnt have been supporting dependency-creating government handouts for people?" How do we respond to the argument that the "real" Romney is the one who was governor of Massachusetts, someone who was pro-choice, pro-LGBT, and pro-government-supported health care....and his Presidential run required that he make a pragmatic, false, hard move to the right?

Charlie,It's a bad sign for a Republican presidential nominee when both David Brooks and Bill Kristol, for heaven's sake, agree that you've disgraced yourself and the party by badmouthing those who depend on the government. The people you cite as counterexamples are dead-enders with far less influence over the GOP's big donors. We already knew there are people who will defend Romney no matter what he says; that doesn't prove they wanted him to say it. Drudge is essentially Republican PR, and he is just doing his job, which is damage control.Do you really believe that, if elected, Romney would get away with governing as "someone who was pro-choice, pro-LGBT, and pro-government-supported health care"? I think there are really only two possibilities. The first is that Romney believes what he has been saying throughout his presidential campaign, on the stump or at fundraisers. The second is that Romney believes in nothing but his own ambition to be president. Either way, he is unfit for office.

We agree about at least one thing in this exchange, Matt, and it is that it would be a bad thing if Romney manages to win this thing. (Of course, I also think that it would be bad if Obama wins...and the respective reasons for thinking this about each of them seem incommensurable.)

Maybe the Mitt has confused utterances in a quiet room for his desire to ascend to the Upper Room.

Point of explication:1 the elderly, living on Social Security (which is not taxable income);But it can be in part or, in very rare cases, in whole - depending on one's other income.

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