Class Warfare On Taxes Not Real Smart For Romney

I understand that when Mitt Romney made his now-infamous comments about “the 47%” in Boca Raton months ago, he was not anticipating it all going public and becoming a major campaign issue. But since some (if not all) conservatives, including the Big Blowhard from just up the road in Palm Beach, are encouraging Mitt to “go with it,” it’s worth noting that there’s little or no evidence a class war on tax burdens would go real well for the GOP. Here’s Greg Sargent:

In July, Pew asked Americans what they think about the amount lower income people pay in taxes. Only 20 percent think they pay too little, versus 34 percent who say they pay a fair amount and 37 percent who say they pay too much — a total of 71 percent.

Pew also tells me that only 23 percent of independents, and 18 percent of moderates, say low income people pay too little in taxes, while big majorities of both say they pay a fair amount or too much.

Are these numbers are skewed by the large number of respondents who pay low federal income taxes or none at all? Guess what: Only 22 percent of self-described middle class people think lower income folks pay too little, versus 69 percent who say they pay their fair share or too much.

Meanwhile, the reverse is true about rich people. A majority, 58 percent, say the wealthy pay too little in taxes, while only 26 percent say they pay their fair share. Fifty six percent of independents, and 69 percent of moderates, say the rich pay too little.

Greg goes on to note something we all understood well before this latest incident: Mitt Romney is the one presidential candidate in recent history who needs to stay far, far away from issues about the morality of various folks’ tax burdens:

It’s hard to see how the sight of the extremely wealthy Romney dismissing nearly half of Americans as freeloaders — even as he pays lower tax rates than many middle class Americans while refusing to release his tax returns so we can learn how low those rates actually are — hurts that case. This revives the class warfare debate in the worst possible way for Romney.

I suspect Team Mitt will decide to deny he said what he said or didn’t mean what he said or they’ll just blame the media or change the subject. So it could turn out this will just be a fresh excuse for the Limbaughs of this world to label Mitt as “not a true conservative” and this election–like every election–as not a fair judgment on their ideology.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.