Depending on the media outlet you followed or saw more this past week, you either heard that presidential candidate Mitt Romney was revealed to hold extreme views of American citizens by class, or spoke the truth about taxpayer realities. He either blundered in an unsalvageable gaffe, or hit the chord that resonated finally with voters both partisan and until now, undecided.

What he said was this, caught on video at a private fundraiser earlier this year.

“There are 47% of the people who will vote for the president, no matter what,” Mr. Romney said in the video. “All right, there are 47% 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.…These are people who pay no income tax.”

Mr. Romney also said in the video that his “job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

The GOP nominee, in a hastily scheduled news conference in Costa Mesa Monday night, didn’t back away from his remarks.

“It’s not elegantly stated, let me put it that way,” Mr. Romney said. “I’m speaking off the cuff in response to a question.”

Mr. Romney in the video was drawing on the fact that many American households pay no federal income tax—a group that includes about 46% of American households in 2011, according to the Tax Policy Center, a joint venture of the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute.

It got relentless play in all the news cycles. This, during the Middle East conflagration.

Since media played the 47 percent remarks ad nauseam, let’s get some perspective. If you’re wonkish (I mean, really wonkish), this WSJ piece breaks it down. It’s so dense, I’m not even going to wade into it, in all fairness to the facts.

But months ago, the Heritage Foundation published this government index.

This year’s Index of Dependence on Government presented startling findings about the sharp increase of Americans who rely on the federal government for housing, food, income, student aid or other assistance…

Another eye-popping number was the percentage of Americans who don’t pay income taxes, which now accounts for nearly half of the U.S. population. Meanwhile, most of that population receives generous federal benefits.

“One of the most worrying trends in the Index is the coinciding growth in the non-taxpaying public,” wrote Heritage authors Bill Beach and Patrick Tyrrell. “The percentage of people who do not pay federal income taxes, and who are not claimed as dependents by someone who does pay them, jumped from 14.8 percent in 1984 to 49.5 percent in 2009.”…

“This trend should concern everyone who supports America’s republican form of government,” Beach and Tyrrell wrote. “If the citizens’ representatives are elected by an increasing percentage of voters who pay no income tax, how long will it be before these representatives respond more to demands for yet more entitlements and subsidies from non-payers than to the pleas of taxpayers to exercise greater spending prudence?”

So the narrative went, all week, from whether Romney should back off this kind of talk to whether he should “double down” on it, which became a very unoriginal media mantra (sorry for the redundant statement).

He did not back off.

For which he took heat from sympathizers.

But the president had a bad week as well, and leaving aside the Middle East for the moment, Obama expressed frustration for not being able to change Washington from the inside.

He also said there was “the thinking that the president is somebody who is all-powerful and can get everything done.”

Thinking to which he contributed in no small part in his 2008 campaign and acceptance speech.

Obama also said he was disappointed he hasn’t been able to change the tone in Washington from the inside, and he said that American voters have to mobilize and put pressure on Congress for real change.

“The most important lesson I’ve learned is that you can’t change Washington from the inside, you can only change it from the outside,” he said. “That’s how I got elected, and that’s how the big accomplishments like Health Care got done because we were able to mobilize the American people to speak out.”

To which Mitt Romney quickly responded.

Romney, campaigning in Sarasota, said that his rival “threw in the white flag of surrender again. He said he can’t change Washington from inside, he can only change it from outside.”

“Well, we are going to give him that chance in November — he is going outside,” Romney said. “I can change Washington; I will change Washington. We will get the job done from the inside. Republicans and Democrats will come together. He can’t do it. His slogan was ‘Yes we can.’ His slogan now is ‘No, I can’t.’”

To be continued…

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....