Posted by Ezra Kline
There will be plenty said about the politics of Romney’s remarks. But I want to take a moment and talk about the larger argument behind them, because this vision of a society divided between “makers” and “takers” is core to the Republican nominee’s policy agenda.
In his comments, Romney says that “these are people who pay no income tax,” but they are people “who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the 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.”
In other words, Romney is arguing that about 47 percent of the country is a “taker class” that pays little or nothing into the federal government but wants to tax the productive classes for free health care, food, housing, etc.
Romney is not alone in this concern. “We’re dismayed at the injustice that nearly half of all Americans don’t even pay any income tax,” Texas Gov. Rick Perry said when he began his presidential campaign. “We’re coming close to a tipping point in America where we might have a net majority of takers versus makers in society,” Rep. Paul Ryan said at the Heritage Foundation. “People who pay nothing can easily forget the idea that there is no such thing as a free lunch,” warned Rep. Michelle Bachmann.
For what it’s worth, this division of “makers” and “takers” isn’t true. … Read More
By The Post’s Editorial Board
REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL candidate Mitt Romney’s comment demeaning the 47 percent of the country “who believe that they are victims” has received a lot of attention, and deservedly so. But in the same videotape of Mr. Romney speaking to donors, another remark also caught our ear.
“You see, you and I, we spend our day with Republicans,”the former Massachusetts governor said. “We spend our days with people who agree with us.” This observation rings true, and it goes a long way toward explaining how Mr. Romney could be so wrong in his understanding of his country.
There is a wisp of a serious argument in Mr. Romney’s comments bemoaning the half of the country that pays no income tax. Conservatives have worried for years that Americans who don’t pay taxes have no incentive to restrain spending. Government payments to individuals have risen dramatically, and beneficiaries become an interest group that makes reform of health and pension programs difficult.
But here’s why it’s only a wisp. Of the 47 percent of Americans who pay no federal income tax, two-thirds pay federal payroll tax. Most of them aren’t making a lot of money; a couple with two children has to earn less than $26,400 to pay no income tax. Altogether, only a tenth of Americans pay no federal tax, and most who pay neither income nor payroll tax are retirees.
Mr. Romney’s vision of the country, in other words, is a fantasy. … Read More