The old joke is that a political gaffe is when a politician accidentally tells the truth.

By that definition, Mitt Romney’s comments about an America divided between tax payers and those who don’t “take personal responsibility … for their lives” failed the gaffe test on two counts: What he said was not an accident. And it was not true.

As Romney made clear in a late evening news conference after the leaked recording surfaced, he meant it when he said the 47 percent of Americans who don’t pay federal income taxes are people who “are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that 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 told the attendees at a $50,000 per plate fundraiser, “My job is not to care about those people,” many of whom, although they do not pay income tax, pay a wide range of other taxes.

Since Romney was at the party asking for money, it’s safe to assume he was telling the people there what he thought they wanted to hear. And that message is that half the country is lazy, greedy and feel entitled to government handouts, and they will stand to suffer in a Romney administration.

Who are these deadbeats? The college student receiving subsidized loans, Pell Grants and work study. Veterans receiving health care through the VA. Low-income seniors in nursing homes.

The other half of the population that Romney says he is worried about can look forward to seeing the federal tax rates go down, at the expense of the programs upon which the “deadbeats” rely.

This may be a compelling message to wealthy Republican donors, but the fast negative reaction to Romney’s leaked comments indicate that his won’t be a message that will win many votes in November.

The fact is that the people who don’t earn enough to pay federal income tax are some of the people who have suffered the most during the worst financial collapse since the Great Depression.

They include people who lost their jobs through layoffs and people who lost their homes in foreclosures. These people still are struggling, while the stock portfolios of the people at the fundraiser continue to rebound.

Romney did not accidentally tell the truth. His message to the wealthy donors, however, revealed how little he knows about the problems this country is facing and how little he cares about nearly half of the American people.