09-19-2012, 10:32 PM
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Conservative Rich Lowry (editor of the National Review) destroys Mittens and all his apologists like patty.
He makes the same arguments that many in this thread, like myself, have against Mittens degrading statement that shit on half the country.
The best defense of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s instantly notorious “47 percent” remarks at a May fundraiser is that he made a bad point badly.
Romney mixed up three separate groups of people: the roughly half the country that will inevitably support President Barack Obama, the half that doesn’t pay federal income taxes and the half that receives government benefits. Then he declared them all a collective lost cause. He will never win them over, or convince them to take responsibility for their lives. Next question.
In reality, these are three distinct groups. Many Obama supporters are rich. Indeed, we can be fairly certain all the attendees at the president’s fundraiser with Beyoncé and Jay-Z in New York City the other day have hefty tax bills. Meanwhile, many of Romney’s supporters — especially the elderly — don’t pay federal income taxes and receive government benefits.
As a political scientist, Romney is an excellent former governor of Massachusetts.
Romney didn’t come up with this construct on his own, however. On taxes, he was repeating a conservative talking point about the perils of 47 percent of the people not paying federal income taxes — though to be precise, 46.4 percent of “tax units” don’t pay income taxes, according to the Tax Policy Center. Romney took this line of argument and blundered his way through it.
George Will says Romney speaks conservatism as a second language. At times, he sounds like the English-speaking German in a World War II movie who’s infiltrated American lines and is asked who won the World Series. Even if he memorized the answer, he sure as hell can’t tell you anything about Stan Musial.
But the point Romney messed up isn’t particularly convincing to begin with — though it has been made by serious conservatives, like Romney’s own running mate Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan . The argument is that if people aren’t paying federal income taxes, they are essentially freeloaders who will vote themselves more government benefits knowing that they don’t have to pay for them.
As my colleague Ramesh Ponnuru has pointed out, there’s no evidence for this dynamic. It is true that the number of people without a federal income tax liability is up — it was just 28 percent in 1950. It is mainly the poor, seniors and lower-income families with children who don’t owe income taxes. The poor lean heavily Democratic, but that’s always been so. Seniors, meanwhile, have been swinging Republican, and there’s no indication that families with children are becoming more liberal.
Many workers who don’t pay federal income tax pay other taxes, including the payroll tax. Just 18 percent of tax filers escape both the income and payroll tax. People who aren’t paying income tax don’t think of themselves as freeloading “takers.” An April Gallup Poll found more discontent with taxes among people making less than $30,000 than any other income group. Fifty percent said they pay too much, though the vast majority has no federal income-tax liability.
The deeper problem with the “47 percent” argument is that it is right-wing Elizabeth Warrenism. It reflects the belief that federal income taxes are an expression of our togetherness. If you aren’t paying them — or aren’t paying enough — you are a subcitizen.
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) says everyone should pay federal taxes, even if it’s “the price of two Happy Meals a year, $10.” Texas Gov. Rick Perry has said it’s an “injustice” that more people don’t pay income taxes. Warren wants to tax rich people as a statement of our patriotic commitment to one another; some conservatives apparently want to tax poor people and seniors for the same reason.
How does this look in the real world? If a couple earning $35,000 with two kids has no income tax liability thanks to various exemptions, deductions and credits (the child tax credit has been especially important in removing families from the rolls), how much should we tax them to get them to shape up and fly right? How much do they have to fork over to the Internal Revenue Service to learn a lesson in basic civics?
This line of argument represents a backdoor return to Country Club Republicanism, with the approval of part of the Republican base. Fear of the creation of a class of “takers” can slide into disdain for people who are too poor — or have too many kids or are too old — to pay their damn taxes. For a whiff of how politically unattractive this point of view can be, just look at the Romney fundraising video.
There is a separate problem of the growth of government, since roughly half of all households now receive benefits. Unreconstructed entitlements risk tanking the economy. Welfare traps people in dependency. Means-tested benefits like food stamps are creeping up the income scale. And the work ethic is eroding — especially among men without college degrees.
An alternative vision, not just a recitation of the president’s economic failures, should be at the center of Romney’s campaign. He needs to make the case for it cogently and consistently, with the fundamental American value of aspiration always in mind.
We’re still waiting.