Editorial: We live in an America for all income levels

Editorial Board

Politics this week has been abuzz in the wake of choice comments by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney that were released Monday from a secretly recorded fundraiser in May in Boca Raton, Fla.

Romney said: “There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. … 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.”

Romney seems to suggest that none of those 47 percent is a Republican or conservative, who is opposed to Obama’s policies and principles. That is unlikely. Although according to the Tax Policy Center and CBS, more than half of that group earns less than $16,812 per year, 29.2 percent earn from $16,812 to $33,542; and 12.8 percent earn from $33,542 to $59,486. A few even earn more than $2.2 million per year.

We assure you, we personally know Republicans in those income brackets.

Romney (whose net worth is estimated at $200 million) has now denied the possibility that Americans could be smarter than to vote for someone whose pandering will make them richer not in patriotism or civic life but in mere money.

Throughout our history, America has been as much an idea as it has been a land of endless riches ripe for the taking. Englishmen settled Jamestown in search of glory as much as gold; Puritans settled Plymouth in search of religious freedom; and further colonies were settled on similar bases as the coequal partners of the search for money.

And when the American colonies sought their independence, they framed their declaration of it in terms not of class conflict but of political conflict. Unable to control their political destinies within the British imperial system, they sought to protect “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” outside it.

Concerns about populist democracy in our constitutional republic aside, the fact that millions of people — including in the United States — are poor means that poverty will always bear upon politics. The Bible that Republicans love to quote these days says: “The poor will never cease from the land.”

We can contrast what Romney said in May with what Obama said in 2004: “There’s not a liberal America and a conservative America; there’s the United States of America. There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America.”

Nor should there be a poor America and a rich America.