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Lewyn Addresses America

A little politics, a little urbanism- I also blog 100 percent on urbanism at and

I voted for Romney in the primaries, and have been leaning towards voting for him on and off for most of the past few months (though I have to admit, his conduct over the last week has been less than satisfactory from my perspective).

The latest flap was over Romney’s suggestion that the 47 percent of households that don’t pay federal income taxes will vote for Obama no matter what he does.

I’m not going to join in the media frenzy over the substance of his remarks; there are plenty of people who know more about tax policy than I do.

But I will critique Romney’s remarks wearing my political junkie hat.  In particular, I would like to suggest that a large minority of that 47 percent will vote for him (or at least would have voted for him before his remarks).

The majority of households not paying income tax earned under $17,000; however, there are significant numbers of non-income-taxpayers earning up to $60K or so. (Remember, if these people have jobs they pay plenty of other taxes, including federal payroll taxes, federal excise taxes, and all manner of state and local taxes).   According to 2008 exit polls, 25 percent of people earning under $15,000 voted for McCain, and 37% of those earning $15-30,000, and 43% of those under $30-50,000.

How come?  Even the people earning under $15,000 aren’t necessarily part of a perenially unemployed, welfare-dependent underclass.  They may be seniors (a strong Republican voting bloc) whose earnings come primarily from Social Security, or temporarily unemployed.

The $15-50,000 group is comprised of working- and lower-middle class voters; I suspect that if you screened out blacks and Hispanics, McCain might have gotten half of the white vote in this category.

In other words, it isn’t true that Americans who didn’t pay income taxes this year are lost to the Republican Party; I suspect, based on 2008 data, that about a third of them voted for McCain.  Upon good behavior, Republicans should get as least as many this year.

By the way, if you want to see how someone with better political skills handled the “47 percent” statistic, look at Paul Ryan’s response.  I think if Romney loses and Ryan continues to do this well, Ryan is the front-runner for 2016.


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