Our View: Romney takes it back

Tuesday , March 18, 2014 - 3:32 PM

Editorial Board

He doesn’t admit to making mistakes too often, but Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney finally fessed up and admitted that his statement that 47 percent of Americans don’t pay any taxes to the federal government was wrong.

Romney was caught saying that at a fundraiser earlier this year. In what has become a popular bipartisan game of "gotcha" in today’s high-tech political work, anti-Romney activists secretly taped the remarks and released it to the media. Initially, Romney partially defended the remark, describing the remarks as "inelegant."

However, Romney is right to concede that the statement is "completely wrong." Although a distressing number — nearly 5o percent of Americans — do not earn enough after deductions and exemptions to pay the official federal income tax — nearly all American adults are paying some sort of federal tax.

There are federal taxes that provide Social Security and Medicare, for example. Also, there are more than 16 million seniors who avoid federal taxes due to tax breaks designed solely for senior citizens. Is Romney saying that their tax breaks are illegitimate.

The "47 percent" statement was a gaffe, and Romney is wise to repudiate it. As mentioned, in this high-tech world, it’s wise for political candidates, as well as anyone, to use a lot of caution, as well as common sense, when it comes to candor.

Of course, Romney’s not alone in being the victim of "gotcha" after speaking off the cuff. Then-candidate Barack Obama was criticized in 2008 for condescendingly dismissing many Americans as "clinging" to guns and religion to stave off their disillusionment. Those are words that he later regretted.

With social media and 24-hour news and opinion, the world has become personal, and a much-greater audience than first thought must be anticipated. Romney’s "47 percent" remark was eventually heard by nearly 100 percent.

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