Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick on Sunday accused his predecessor and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney of “turning his back on half the country” after video emerged last week of Romney disparaging people who do not pay federal income taxes as irresponsible.
Patrick took personal offense to the message.
“It’s just shocking to me that a candidate could aspire to be president by turning his back on half the country, and I think that’s what came through,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“I can tell you – as someone who grew up on welfare, who spent some time on food stamps – my mother was just the kind of person … who was aspiring to get to a better place, to get her GED, to get a job, to stand on her own two feet,’’ Patrick continued. “And the notion that she or we or people like us would be belittled while we needed some help to be able to stand on our own two feet is exactly what I think Governor Romney is conveying.”
But Patrick also said he would be open to a law requiring everyone to pay federal income taxes, a proposal advanced by some of the nation’s most ardent conservatives, including Michele Bachmann.
Patrick, a co-chairman of President Obama’s reelection campaign, blasted Romney for his remarks to wealthy donors at a $50,000-per-plate fund-raiser in Boca Raton, Florida in May. The comments were secretly taped and leaked to a left-leaning magazine.
“There are 47 percent who are with [Obama], 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,” Romney said at the fund-raiser.
Romney’s 47-percent figure referred to the approximate share of U.S. households that do not pay federal income taxes.
Romney has since come under withering fire from Democrats and Republicans alike for his comments. The former Massachusetts governor has tried to make the best of the situation by saying his remarks should be viewed broadly as a critique of Obama’s “government-centered society that provides more and more benefits.”
Joining Patrick on “Meet the Press” was Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-New Hampshire), who suggested reactions to Romney’s comments about people who do not pay federal income taxes have been overblown.
“That certainly was a political analysis at a fund-raiser, but it’s not a governing philosophy,” she said Ayotte. “He absolutely has a vision for a hundred percent of America.”
“What I see is what the governor sees,” Ayotte added. “I see 15 million more people on food stamps that don’t want to be there. I see overall 47 million Americans on food stamps that want a good job; they don’t want to be on unemployment.”
But Romney’s statements in what he believed to be a private setting suggested he doubts whether Americans who receive government assistance are, in fact, motivated to improve their situations through hard work.
“I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives,” he told donors.