Mitt Romney is backpedaling furiously from his remarks at a fundraiser characterizing 47% of the population as “victims” who do not “take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” While his initial comment on the controversy was that he did not state it “elegantly,” this week he said it was “completely wrong.” Joe Biden was obviously not as willing to let Romney off the hook as his boss had been in the previous week’s debate, raising it without any prompting from moderator Martha Raddatz. Romney’s running mate Paul Ryan defended by saying that “sometimes the words don’t come out of your mouth the right way.” This is, of course, an interesting way to phrase it. It wasn’t the concept that was wrong, but rather the way it was stated – “inelegantly,” if you will. Ryan, as a devotee of Ayn Rand and architect of the House of Representatives budget that slashes domestic programs severely undoubtedly agrees with the concept.
But this is not the first time Romney has encountered the notion of “takers” and “makers.” During his first year as Massachusetts Governor, his budget chief, Eric Kriss, said the following to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, according to a Boston Globe article from October 22, 2003:
But we all know that some – most in this room probably – are net contributors, while others are net beneficiaries. The ratio between givers and takers turns out to be a critical variable of government.
Kriss was a partner with Romney at Bain Capital and is in the iconic photograph of the men of Bain with dollar bills sticking out of multiple orifices. As the state’s budget chief, Kriss was the second most powerful figure in the Executive Branch. Following the predictable outcry over the remarks, Romney quickly distanced himself from them. It’s interesting that he was able to do this a mere day later, while it took several weeks for him to disavow his comments this time. But as Joe Biden said during the debate, “[if] you think he just made a mistake, then … I got a bridge to sell you.”