Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Who You Calling a Moocher?

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Who You Calling a Moocher?

Article excerpt

After Mitt Romney's "47 percent" fund-raiser video was leaked on Sept. 17, certain key words and phrases took on a life of their own: "Victims." "I'll never convince them." But a word that has become a key part of the campaign conversation is one Romney didn't use: "moochers."

The increase in "moocher" talk since the video's release has been remarkable. Before that date, the LexisNexis news database had counted 420 media mentions of "moocher" or "moochers" for 2012. In just the final two weeks of September, it appeared a whopping 477 times.

Most of the time, it's been Obama supporters using "moochers" to paint Romney's argument in broad strokes. But even before the video, it had already become a kind of "dog whistle" for conservatives railing against the 47 percent of Americans who don't pay federal income tax (though they may pay other kinds of taxes). In sum, a relatively obscure word with an old-timey feel has been embraced both by those decrying government handouts and those who think such complaints are overblown.

Who got the "moocher" ball rolling? For one, David Corn of Mother Jones used the word in the blog post that introduced the video to the world. Summing up Romney's surreptitiously taped presentation to campaign donors in Boca Raton last May, Corn wrote, "He displayed a high degree of disgust for nearly half of his fellow citizens, lumping all Obama voters into a mass of shiftless moochers who don't contribute much, if anything, to society."

Corn continued to use "moochers" in interviews on MSNBC that evening and NPR the next day. Other commentators followed his lead, with some critics getting creative: Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic offered "moocherpalooza," and Ed Kilgore of Washington Monthly countered with "moochocracy."

But the buzzword wasn't limited to those on the left -- and, indeed, politically that's not where it started. The Washington Times, for instance, defended Romney with an editorial on "Obama's moocher culture," using the term quite sincerely. …

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