Trump Nominee Said Romney Was Right About the 47 Percent

During the presidential election, one of the themes that emerged was that Donald Trump was a different kind of Republican. Most of that was based on the idea that he was a “populist” who would fight for working class Americans.

As we’ve watched president-elect Trump announce nominees to work in his administration and the agenda that has emerged from he and Congressional leaders, it has become clear that – while even more extremist – Trump is firmly in the mold of traditional Republicanism.

That was affirmed by a video highlighted by Josh Marshall of Trump’s nominee to be Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross. It is a recording on an interview Ross did back in 2012 with Indian TV station NDTV when the hot topic was Mitt Romney’s remarks about the 47%.

For a refresher course, here’s what Romney said:

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. And I mean, the president starts off with 48, 49, he starts off with a huge number.

These are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect. So he’ll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich. I mean, that’s what they sell every four years. And so my job is not to worry about those people.

I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.

Fact checkers almost immediately went to work to dispute Romney’s claims, proving them to be untrue. But we now have a nominee for Commerce Secretary who went on record to endorse Romney’s statement. He even went a bit farther saying, “I assume you are aware that he [Romney] is correct: about 50% of Americans do not in fact pay any tax…period.” At least Romney referred simply to “income tax.”

Ross went on to characterize the people Romney was talking about as being on food stamps, long-term unemployed and on disability when, in fact, 44% of those with no federal income tax liability are elderly people on Social Security and 39% receive tax credits for having children or being part of the working poor. Finally, Ross repeats a lie Republicans have been fond of promoting about these “entitled” folks scamming the Social Security Disability Program.

This should apparently come as no surprise given that Ross is pretty much in the same business as Romney. They are both what we’ve come to know as “vulture capitalists.” As such, Ross doesn’t have a lot of ground to stand on when it comes to entitled people who run scams.

His businesses have been forced to pay fines to the government several times, including as recently as August of 2016 to the SEC for failing to disclose fees his firm was charging. In 2013, he sat on the board of a company that agreed to pay over $2 billion in a settlement over its handling of subprime loans.

And in 2006, 12 people died in an explosion a West Virginia mine his company purchased.

It’s interesting to note that, in 2012, these remarks were toxic for Romney’s campaign and are often credited as one of the reasons why he lost. But now, the man who were were told is a different kind of Republican is filling his Cabinet with people who see the world just like Romney (I’m sure Ross has a lot of company on this among Trump’s rich white guy nominees). If this was a “change election,” it’s going to be about the kind of change that that gave us the Great Recession in the first place and Romney wanted to reignite.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.