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.

Matthew Boudway is senior editor of Commonweal.

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