ROMNEY: We have to make sure that the promises we make — and Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare — are promises we can keep. And there are various ways of doing that. One is, we could raise taxes on people.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Corporations!
ROMNEY: Corporations are people, my friend. We can raise taxes on —
AUDIENCE MEMBER: No, they’re not!
ROMNEY: Of course they are. Everything corporations earn also goes to people.
ROMNEY: Where do you think it goes?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: It goes into their pockets!
ROMNEY: Whose pockets? Whose pockets? People’s pockets! Human beings, my friend. So number one, you can raise taxes. That’s not the approach that I would take.
Corporations are not people, which is why the audience just laughed at Romney. But they are treated as if they were people in a variety of legal circumstances. It makes sense to allow corporations to enter into contracts and to act as one party in a law suit. Whether it makes sense to treat them as people for the purposes of free speech or campaign contributions is a bit more controversial. But that’s what the Supreme Court says we should do, and so Romney is technically correct in every sense except the most literal.
But if you walk up to a man on the street and tell him that corporations are people, he’ll think you’re a weird asshole. If you’re dressed like Mitt Romney, he might just punch you in the dick. So, yeah, this was a major gaffe that’s going to stick to Romney like glue.
“If corporations are people, why don’t they pay taxes?”
“If corporations are people, maybe that explains why you’re so interested in representing them in Washington.”
And so on.
Kind of like Cheney’s “Reagan proved that deficits don’t matter,” and Kerry’s “I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.”