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Mitt Romney, the 47%, and the GOP's Class War

Mitt Romney's belief that half of us don't care for ourselves is wrong, and overlook who the real "job creators" are.

Mitt Romney’s words, delivered to a select audience at the home of private equity trader Mark Leder, have been widely circulated.  Romney’ contention, that 47% of Americans feel entitled to food, shelter, even health care, provided by the federal
government, is based on fact.  47% of Americans do not pay federal income taxes.  Romney even went so far as two write off those Americans politically,
and contend they cannot care for themselves: “I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”  However, we need to look more closely at Romney’s claim, what he overlooks in making it, the assumptions he makes about almost half of the nation he would lead, and how
his comment is a symptom of the GOP’s continuing class war and evolution into an extremist party.

Romney’s evidence is true: 47% of Americans pay no federal
income tax.  This has been a growing concern on the American right, which fears that half of us aren’t paying our share, and are “taking” from the “productive” citizens who are compelled to “give,” unwillingly, to support an ungrateful dependent class.  However, as Ezra Klein ably argues in his Washington Post blog, Romney and his conservative colleagues overlook other facts.  FICA and Medicare deductions are taken from every paycheck, so the division of “givers” and “takers” is mendacious, and many of the 47% that Romney has written off politically pay a higher percentage of their incomes in federal taxes than Romney himself:  “For what it’s worth, 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.”

Once we take that closer look at federal taxes, the situation is not nearly as alarming as the Republicans would have us believe.  Some 28% of taxpayers are employed, pay FICA and Medicare deductions, but do not earn enough income to pay federal income tax.  Another 10.3% are elderly: are Romney and the GOP in favor of taxing Social Security benefits?  Another 6.9% are not elderly, but have
incomes below $20,000 per year.  Is the GOP serious about reducing federal deficits by finding ways to tax those folks?  Are their plans to reduce federal
expenditures aimed at the working poor or recipients of public assistance?

Klein’s most explosive revelation, however, comes when he looks at when the numbers of citizens who pay no federal income taxes grew most sharply: during the Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush administrations.  GOP tax policy has produced the situation which figures like Romney present as a dire threat to the stability of the nation.  More to the point: has GOP tax policy created a wealthy class of taxpayers who do not shoulder their fair share of the burden, but still expect the public services upon which this society, and their fortunes, depend?

I’ve had many an argument with conservatives who bemoan our “culture of dependency.”  But, as David Brooks argued in his cogent essay about Romney’s statement, many of the Americans who are “dependent” on federal benefits are Caucasians with a high school education, the central element of the GOP’s voting strength.  Indeed, when you look at the map below of those states with the highest numbers of “dependent” people, they are clustered
in the American Southeast, the regional base of the GOP.

The current iteration of the GOP and American conservatism
has short-circuited any serious discussion of American fiscal policy.  Instead of taking a sober look at the growing
numbers of Americans who receive federal benefits, as Brooks wishes they would,
conservatives have chosen to invoke a divisive class war against those
Americans who have been left behind by the serial failures of Reagan, Bush I,
and Bush II economic and fiscal policies.

Indeed, the GOP seems to forget who the real “job creators” are.  While wealthy Americans like Romney and Leder sit on some $2 trillion in capital, Americans like you and me continue to pay, not just federal income taxes, FICA, and Medicare, but our property taxes, state and local income taxes, sales taxes, and various excise taxes, as well as fees to register our vehicles, or to hunt and fish.  We are the real “job creators,” since our tax dollars pay our emergency medical techs, police and fire fighters, social workers, teachers, road crews, and the millions of other salaries which keep our country going by providing public services we all need and benefit from.

Makes me wonder who the REAL parasites are who contribute nothing to this country.

Link to the full video of Romney’s address from Mother
Jones: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/09/watch-full-secret-video-private-romney-fundraiser

Link to Ezra Klein’s blog: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/wp/2012/09/17/romneys-theory-of-the-taker-class-and-why-it-matters/

Link to David Brooks’ essay: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/18/opinion/brooks-thurston-howell-romney.html?_r=2&nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20120918

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Jeff Klinzman September 24, 2012 at 12:03 AM
Bravo, CF! Look at how the "Obama's a secet Muslim" argument plays out: you tacitly endorse prejudice against Muslims if you present the simple fact that Obama's not Muslim. Park 51, Murphreesboro TN, half-a-dozen other places have seen concerted opposition to building mosques, a direct rejection of freedom of religion. Let's see, McCain was born in the Panama Canal zone, but no questions about HIS citizenship; Romney's father was born in Mexico, yet none of the GOP base worries about that. Yet, raise the specter of "alien anchor babies," and you actually GOP members of Congress pushing to abolish birthright citizenship. Never mind that Obama's birth was announced in Hawaiian papers, that he has a valid birth certificate, and that Hawaii has a privacy law which prevents any Tom, Dick, or Harry from asking for someone's birth certificate. If he's black, with the middle name Hussein, and the last name of Obama, he must be a furriner. Again, the low-information voters are the activist and mass voting base of the GOP. That's why such pernicious nonsense has polluted American political discourse.
Troy Murphy September 24, 2012 at 04:05 AM
BTW Jeff, it is spelled foreigner, not furriner, I know how much you like to correct Jack F's spelling and usage and I wouldn't want him seeing this without at least an attempt to educate you on the proper spelling.
Jeremy Cobert September 24, 2012 at 11:33 AM
I think the comment section here was actually more enlightening then the article ! way to go !
Keith Best September 24, 2012 at 12:41 PM
What makes Iowans think that a president who spent most of his FIRST TERM as US Senator, and had NO EXECUTIVE EXPERIENCE, knows what he is doing??? More people are out of work NOW then when Obama took office. It's time for a change.
Jeff Klinzman September 24, 2012 at 01:00 PM
Keith, you're dreaming if you think Romney has anything to offer except a replay of the same trickle-down policies which produced the depression of '08. Neither Romney nor Ryan have offered any specific policy solutions, just bumper-sticker slogans for the GOP base (folks like you) which they have already wrapped up.

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