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Friday, December 9, 2016

WASHINGTON — The most incisive reaction to Mitt Romney’s disparaging comments about 47 percent of us came from a conservative friend who emailed: “If I were you, I’d wonder why Romney hates America so much.”

A bit strong, perhaps. But the more you think about what Romney said, the more you wonder how he really feels about the country he wants to lead.

What kind of nation are we if nearly half of us are lazy, self-indulgent moochers who will never be persuaded to mend our ways? “I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives,” Romney said, thus writing off a huge share of our citizenry.

From his perch high atop the class structure, Romney offered an analysis of political motivations that even Marxists would regard as excessively materialistic. He speaks as if hardworking parents who seek government help to provide health care for their kids are irresponsible, that students who get government aid to attend community colleges are not trying to “care for their lives.” Has he never spoken with busboys and waitresses, hospital workers and janitors who make too little to pay income taxes but work their hearts out to “take personal responsibility”?

In defending himself on Fox News on Tuesday, Romney only deepened his difficulty. “I think a society based upon a government-centered nation where government plays a larger and larger role, redistributes money, that’s the wrong course for America,” he said.

Put aside that if President Obama wanted a “government-centered nation,” the stock market wouldn’t have doubled, making many in Romney’s Boca Raton audience richer. In his impatience with those he accuses of casting themselves as “victims,” Romney misses the real story of government in the lives of most Americans. So often, we combine our own exertions with a little assistance along the way — the GI Bill, student loans, Social Security survivors’ benefits, public education — to become self-sufficient and independent.

And Romney said not a word about all the redistribution upward in a tax code that favors investment over labor income. That’s why Romney pays federal taxes at a much lower rate than many in middle class — and why, given his stress on the importance of paying income taxes, he might usefully release a few more of his own tax returns.