Groups that Mitt Romney doesn’t have much affection for, per the infamous video of the Republican nominee speaking at a closed-door fundraiser: a) people who support President Obama; b) people who don’t pay federal income taxes; c) people who rely on government programs.
But a look at the numbers suggests that Romney had better get used to all three categories of those folks: They’ll be his new neighbors should he win the White House and relocate to the nation’s capital.
In fact, forget 47 percent, the segment of the electorate Romney dismissed in the video as free-loading Obama supporters. In the 2008 election, Washington, D.C., gave Obama 92.9 percent of its vote.
As for those missing from the federal income-tax rolls, about 27 percent of Washington residents did not pay federal income tax in 2010, according to latest data available from the Internal Revenue Service and provided to the National Journal by the nonpartisan Tax Foundation.
That actually means the capital has one of the highest percentages of federal income taxpayers. Other states, many of them firmly in the GOP column, as The Atlantic pointed out, have much higher proportions of non-payers, such as Mississippi (45 percent) or even Romney’s native Michigan (35 percent).
Although no tax organization has done a thorough state-by-state analysis, evidence suggests that D.C. residents who are not paying federal income tax fall in line with the national profile of non-payers: senior citizens and low-income families who claim deductions designed to ease their burden, the unemployed, and others who have too little income to tax.
In 2010, records show, 21,420 (6.7 percent) out of the approximately 323,000 D.C. residents who filed tax returns collected unemployment benefits; 54,088 (16.7 percent) claimed the earned-income tax credit, and 29,000 (9 percent) deducted the child tax credit. All of those are pinpointed as policies that get people to zero when they calculate their income taxes.
Despite the relatively cushy quality of life Washington’s professional class enjoys, the unemployment rate stands at a stubborn 9 percent, nearly a quarter of D.C. households make less than $20,000 a year, and the poverty rate is the third-highest in the country at 19.9 percent, according to the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute, a nonprofit group which does research on tax and budget issues facing low-income families.
And those pesky government benefits that, in Romney’s view, keep people in a state of dependency and victimhood? According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 23 percent of D.C. residents received Medicaid benefits in 2009-2010 and 10 percent received Medicare benefits.
Some of Romney’s new neighbors have a dim view of him as a result of his not-so-flattering comments. Take Tarik Mickels, 34-year-old father of three who lives in southeast D.C.
Mickels was in construction until work started drying up. He sought the help of a public-private social-services agency to brush up on his job-hunting skills when he became unemployed earlier this year.
Mickels didn’t pay income taxes last year on the approximately $26,000 he took in, but he said that shouldn’t discount him as a productive citizen.
“I always want to work. I’m a man, and my mother raised me like that. I don’t feel right as a man sitting by and waiting for someone to give me something,” he said. “It’s not about choice; it’s more about circumstance.”
Now he holds two jobs, one at the electric utility Pepco and one at a car dealership. Mickels says of Romney: “Maybe he’s never been through that.”