Romney, who criticizes President Obama for
dividing the nation, divided the nation into two groups: the makers and the
moochers. Forty-seven percent of the country, he said, are people “who are
dependent upon government, who believe they are victims, who believe the
government has a responsibility to take care of them, who believe they are
entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.”
This comment suggests a few things. First, it
suggests that he really doesn’t know much about the country he inhabits. Who
are these freeloaders? Is it the Iraq war veteran who goes to the V.A.? Is it
the student getting a loan to go to college? Is it the retiree on Social
Security or Medicare?
It suggests that Romney doesn’t know much about
the culture of America. Yes, the entitlement state has expanded, but America
remains one of the hardest-working nations on earth. Americans work longer
hours than just about anyone else. Americans believe in work more than almost
any other people. Ninety-two percent say that hard work is the key to success,
according to a 2009 Pew Research Survey.
It says that Romney doesn’t know much about the
political culture. Americans haven’t become childlike worshipers of big
government. On the contrary, trust in government has declined. The number of
people who think government spending promotes social mobility has fallen.
The people who receive the disproportionate share
of government spending are not big-government lovers. They are Republicans.
They are senior citizens. They are white men with high school degrees. As Bill
Galston of the Brookings Institution has noted, the people who have benefited
from the entitlements explosion are middle-class workers, more so than the
Romney’s comments also reveal that he has lost
any sense of the social compact. In 1987, during Ronald Reagan’s second term,
62 percent of Republicans believed that the government has a responsibility to
help those who can’t help themselves. Now, according to the Pew Research
Center, only 40 percent of Republicans believe that.
The Republican Party has shifted from the
Reaganesque language of common citizenship to the libertarian language of
makers and takers. There’s no way the country will trust the Republican Party to
reform the welfare state if that party doesn’t have a basic commitment to
provide a safety net for those who suffer for no fault of their own.
Finally, the comment suggests that Romney knows
nothing about ambition and motivation. People are motivated when they have more
opportunities. Ambition is fired by possibility, not by deprivation, as a tour
through the world’s poorest regions makes clear. Romney’s comment is a country-club fantasy. It’s
what self-satisfied millionaires say to each other. It reinforces every
negative view people have about Romney. He’s running a depressingly inept
Commenting on the video, the Washington Post's Ezra Klein said:
"this division of makers and takers isn’t true. Among the Americans who paid no federal income taxes in 2011, 61 percent paid payroll taxes — which means they have jobs and, when you account for both sides of the payroll tax, they paid 15.3 percent of their income in taxes, which is higher than the 13.9 percent that Romney paid. Another 22 percent were elderly. So 83 percent of those not paying federal income taxes are either working and paying payroll taxes or they’re elderly and Romney is promising to protect their benefits. The remainder, by and large, aren’t paying federal income or payroll taxes because they’re unemployed."
Now slowly but surely, the facts are coming to light:
"The average tax rate faced by the top one percent of taxpayers was above 40% until the mid-1980s; today it is below 25%. --the lowest levels since the end of the second World War. Changes over the past 65 years in the top marginal tax rate and the top capital gains tax rate do not appear correlated with economic growth.The reduction in the top tax rates appears to be uncorrelated with saving, investment, and productivity growth.
However, the top tax rate reductions appear to be associated with the increasing concentration of income at the top of the income distribution. Lower top tax rates may be associated with greater income disparities."
--The Congressional Research Service, September 14, 2012