Romney’s private rant about those who don’t pay any income tax raises some interesting questions about the exactly what the current Republican philosophy is.
The concern is fairly easy to determine based on how Romney positions his claim against Obama. Romney feels that any government support of individuals robs those individuals of the opportunity to be successful and responsible. He also feels that this sort of government support encourages a dependency which endangers democracy. The logic is that if the number of “takers” grows large enough, they can vote themselves benefits that will be difficult for the “makers” who do the work and pay the taxes to supply.
There are several problems with this position.
The first is that the data doesn’t support that we are anywhere near a tipping point with regard to the number of people receiving support. While a high percentage of households DO receive some level of government support, the nature of the recipients and the type of support tend to undermine the concern that there is some growing army of “takers” waiting in the wings. Once you eliminate the elderly and disabled from the ranks of those receiving government supports, you’re left with approximately 9% of the households in this country receiving support.
When you also parse the number of people receiving government support, you find that a majority of them currently vote Republican (elderly and the white working poor). So the concern that their votes have been secured by the funding that they are receiving doesn’t add up.
The next problem is that the bulk of these supports reflect INCENTIVES that previous Republican administrations put in place to encourage the poor to choose work over welfare. By all accounts, these programs have been a success with welfare numbers dropping by 2/3 over the last two decades.
Now it appears that this thought of providing government incentives to encourage poor people to choose work over welfare has morphed into a concern that any government support of any kind produces dependency.
“Since when has it been the job of Republicans and conservatives to make sure everyone has IRS obligations?” wrote Jim Antle at the Daily Caller. He accused Romney of “[i]gnoring the rising payroll tax burden of the last few decades while dismissing many of those who have borne it as deadbeats.”
“Conservatives have even less reason for worrying about people who don’t pay federal income taxes,” wrote Ramesh Ponnuru in Bloomberg View. “A major reason that the number of those people has grown is that a Republican-controlled Congress created, and the Bush administration expanded, a tax credit for parents.”
“One thing that frustrates me,” wrote Reiham Salam in the National Review, “is that many Republicans who’ve embraced the ‘takers’ interpretation of the fact that 46% of tax units didn’t pay federal income taxes forget why Republican policymakers of the past created policies like the EITC and the child tax credit in the first place…. We need conservative politicians who are willing to explain why low-income and middle-income parents should be removed from the tax rolls during the years they are making the biggest investments in their children, and who are willing to make the case for the EITC program as an alternative to worklessness and lifelong dependency.”
For Matt Welch of the libertarian magazine Reason, the problem is that Romney’s message contradicts the pitch Republicans made to voters at the GOP convention.
“This is economic determinism at its worst, going against the very message the Republican Party was trying to sell to the world during its quadrennial national convention last month,” he wrote. “Over and over again, we heard speakers there talk about how their immigrant grandparents came to this country, worked hard, built ‘that,’ never asked for a handout, and as a result their descendants have enjoyed the American Dream of ever-upward mobility. What the 53/47 dividing line says, to the direct contrary, is that income status is a permanent political condition, defrocking all Americans of agency and independent thought…. There are to my mind many more important things to consider in this presidential race than Mitt Romney’s reductive parroting of plausible-but-wrong GOP tropes. But the reason this controversy will have legs is ultimately because many Republicans think Romney’s comments were just fine. They are about to learn what the rest of the country thinks about that.”
Latest polls show a consistent turn to Obama across the country and in particular in battleground states like Wisconsin, Virginia, Colorado, Ohio, and North Carolina. This swing is attributed to independent voters reacting to the 47% video.