Mitt Romney's 47% Write-off

Mitt Romney's 47% Write-offMitt Romney may have declared his largest write-off yet, a full 47% of Americans that he says don’t count because of their station in life. He argues he doesn’t need them to win, and the country doesn’t need them in order to succeed. Putting all campaign politics aside, is this really the kind of America we want? According to a video released by Mother Jones, Romney, at a May 17, 2012 fundraising event in Boca Raton, FL, made the following comments, among others:

There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax.

Then Romney went on: "[M]y job is is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives." Exactly what does this mean? That Romney believes these fellow Americans will never be productive – indeed, that they lack the very innate or learned ability to be so? Is it that their concerns are not his concerns? For that matter, is it that a wall can somehow be built around this 47% so that the other 53% do not need to see and hear them? Then, we can each go our own way.

In my new book, The Work of Hope, Americans make clear a different vision of America from the one Romney spoke about on the video. For instance, people in this study told us that:

  • No one can go it alone in America any longer – and nor should they.
  • We must see and hear all people.
  • Compassion, openness and humility, and concern for the common good must guide our actions in our personal and public lives.
  • We must get things done, together.

A “write-off” suggests that something no longer holds any value. That it can be lopped off and left behind. That it is time to turn to more productive investments. But when we give up on 47% of the country, we give up on the country itself. It means that we no longer believe in efforts to make the American Dream real for all people. And that we cannot create a more perfect union.

As I have watched this campaign unfold, I recognize that there is a debate about the role of government. But as I have listened closely, I have come to believe that the underlying debate – the thing that matters most – is about the meaning of community. Just how do we come to believe in ourselves and in one anther that we can get things done together and make hope real for everyone.

We can’t afford a 47% write-off. We must not give up on people, or one another.