Mythili Rao, Producer, The Takeaway
Mythili Rao is a producer at WNYC.
Some stories strike such a chord with our listeners that we’re flooded with far more responses than we can play on-air. This was certainly the case with the story of Mitt Romney’s comments about the "47 percent" of Americans who are "dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them."
Together, the voicemails, emails, and text messages from our listeners — some outraged, some dismayed, some completely unsurprised and some in strong agreement — present a vivid picture of how Romney’s comments are being received among Americans of all income levels and backgrounds.
Listener Pat from New York City was sympathetic to Romney:
"There's no surprise here. He's just calling an honest evaluation of the mess we're in. We're not trying to hamper anybody that's a senior citizen, or [in the] army, or any kind of military. It's the people who are enabled by these social programs to not do anything but enjoy them."
A caller named Rich shared his views:
"I don't think this is a big revelation, this tape that they found on Romney. I think it's a very honest political assessment of what he faces. It's very honest. And I don't think anybody should take umbrage with it. I don't think he denigrates anybody. I think it's a very fair and honest assessment."
Similarly, Jerry from Corvallis, Oregon thought that Romney’s error was a political and tactical one — not necessarily an ideological one:
"I think Mitt Romney the businessman spoke — not Mitt Romney the politician. He's speaking like a Bain Capital businessman and all the people around him are giving him bad advice, bad political advice, because he keeps on putting his foot in his mouth politically."
Mohammed from New York City suggested that the public is overreacting to these comments:
"On Romney's comments, I think it's time everybody stop being angered by this. He was pandering to a crowd. Of course he's going to say what he thinks a group of elite donors wants to hear. Why are people shocked by this?”
For Michael from Salem, Oregon, Romney’s comments hit close to home:
"I'm highly offended but not surprised at Mitt Romney's statement. I am on disability; I don't feel a sense of entitlement. I worked my whole life. If I could work I would. I make $718 a month and I get $150 on food stamps and I have to make that work every month. It's very difficult. I experience a lot of prejudice and hatred. There's a lot of blame, 'poor people caused all the problems in this country.' It's not true. We have no lobby, we have no money. And that's why people like Mitt Romney scare the hell out of me."
Listener Janet from New York City also called us to say she is one of the '47 percent':
"I just want to say that my over the last couple years my workload has slowed down tremendously. And although I have an income that's over 6 figures, because of my expenses, I haven't paid income taxes. But just so everyone feels better, being self-employed I pay double what everyone else pays for social security. This whole thing is a farce."
Laura from Portland also finds herself in the '47 percent':
"I'm a recent college graduate who entered into a stale and extremely competitive job market in education. My partner and child's father has had a low-paying full-time job and also coaches youth soccer part-time. We have a two-year-old. Right now I am only working two days a week and I bring in about $150 every two weeks. Up until a month ago all that money went towards buying food for the house. Frustrated at constantly being behind in bills, I finally broke down and applied for food stamps. We receive $275 a month, and this has allowed me to put the money I receive from my job into our household to relieve my partner of some of the financial duties. I'm offended with Romney's comments, because how is our having the ability to have to stay current with our bills or having the ability to fix our ailing car a bad thing for the economy? My partner pays taxes, I pay taxes. Romney is so out of touch with the true and current American experience that he has no business running anything in this government."
Yet another listener shared a similarly compelling personal story about overcoming poverty:
"I'm calling as an Obama voter, I'm an African-American who grew up really, really poor and I now live in a million dollar neighborhood. The difference between being poor and being affluent, it's a matter of work. And not everybody who uses those programs, doesn't want to pay taxes. It's not that they want not to work. Sometimes we need help. It shouldn't be a '47 percent' wipeout."
A few listeners saw Romney’s comments as an indictment of Republican values, like Charlotte from New Bedford, Massachusetts:
"Mr. Romney was completely honest in that he has absolutely no regard for people in this country who are struggling to make ends meet and are paying taxes and still receiving assistance — through no fault of their own, whether it's illness or disability — and to completely disregard us is just indicative of what the Republican party feels about people who don't agree with them."
Steve from Palm Beach, Florida echoed that sentiment in sharper tones:
"Mitt Romney. Nitwit Romney. The audacity of writing off 47 percent of Americans based on what they may or may not pay in taxes when nitwit himself doesn't even pay the amount of taxes that I do. And believe me I don't earn as much as he does but at least I work for a living. I just hope this stuff keeps coming out before the election because it's infuriating. What a pompous hypocritical party."
Finally, listener Bob from New York City had a question:
I'm an Obama supporter I get absolutely no government benefits of any kind. I'm in a 10 percent tax bracket and I pay federal tax. A lot of federal tax! Why doesn't Romney release his tax returns?