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 taxpayers 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 (although many pay a wide range of other 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 made clear to the attendees at a $50,000 a plate fundraiser, “My job is not to care about those people.”

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 entitled and will stand to suffer in a Romney administration.

Who are these deadbeats? The first-in-his family college student receiving subsidized loans, Pell Grants and work study falls into that half. A veteran receiving health care through the VA does as well. Low-income seniors in nursing homes would be there, too.

The other half of the population that Romney says he is worried about can look forward to seeing federal tax rates go down, at the expense of the programs that benefit others.

This may be a compelling message to big Republican donors, but the fast negative reaction to Romney’s 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, people who lost their homes in foreclosures and are still struggling, while the stock portfolios of the people at the fundraisers continue to rebound.

Romney did not accidentally tell the truth. He intentionally revealed how little he knows about the problems this country is facing.