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Mitt Romney video and the 47 percent: Who doesn't pay income taxes?

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(Read caption) Monitor correspondent Liz Marlantes documents recent gaffes by politicians on the campaign trail.
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Which US households don’t pay income tax? That’s become a big issue Tuesday thanks to the leaked video of Mitt Romney dismissing them at a Florida fundraiser.

In the video GOP presidential nominee Mr. Romney talks about the difficulties of winning over people he says are “dependent” on government and see themselves as “victims.”

“Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect,” he said.

Romney’s right about the non-income-taxed slice of Americans. It’s an issue that conservatives as a whole have been talking about for some time. About 46 percent of US households owed no income tax in 2011, according to an estimate from the Urban Institute-Brookings Tax Policy Center. In 2008 and 2009 – the epicenter of the Great Recession – that figure was even higher, at 51 percent.

That last figure hints at one aspect of this number – it’s been boosted quite a bit by recent hard economic times. In 2007, the figure was 40 percent, which is closer to its recent historic level.

Still, 47 percent is a lot of people. Who are they?

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