The mainstream media, which act more and more as active agents for Obama, declare that Romney has committed a gaffe in his recent speech to Republican donors, because the has declared the existence of the “taker class”, those who pay no income tax.
He tells the wealthy donors that it is all about those critical 10% in the middle, that “because they voted for him, they don’t want to be told that they were wrong, that he’s a bad guy, that he did bad things, that he’s corrupt”.
But it is his scornful take on Obama voters that has really grabbed the headlines.[note what constitutes scorn, in the BBC's opinion]
He says the majority of them can’t be peeled off because they pay no income tax. He says these voters are those “who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them”.
What is particularly interesting is the figure he puts on this – 47%. It struck me on first reading as remarkably high.
Are nearly half of voters in a country known for its relative lack of welfare provisions really welfare dependents?
This article, by the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein, does show that 46% of US households don’t pay income tax. Meanwhile, 61% of those who pay no federal income tax do pay payroll tax at 15.3%.
Romney is declaring the existence of the “taker class”, even if he did not use this word, and that it has grown to 47% of the population. I cite Ezra Klein’s article below.
“My job is not to worry about those people,” Mitt Romney said of the 47 percent of Americans who are likely to vote for Barack Obama. “I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
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.
Klein blames the Republican tax cuts for having taken so many people out of the income-tax paying class. There is some truth in this. But the basic fact of the US fiscal situation is that taxation of income is falling on a smaller and smaller portion of the population.
I wish there was a politician in the United States that would say: we can set the amount of GDP taken up by the federal government at 20 or 25%. That might be the difference between a liberal and a conservative. But what we cannot do is set taxation at 15% of GDP, federal spending at 25%, and borrow the difference from China. This is what we have been doing, and it cannot continue.
Every time someone comes close to dealing with fiscal reality in the United States, he is hammered by a vast whoop of “how dare you?!”
Once I was in a British Columbia government liquor outlet, and at the counter the employees were bemoaning the incoming provincial conservative government. I said to them, “Guys, there is the tax-payer party and the tax-receiver party, and once in a while the tax-payer party gets to power. Get over it”.
I think the US has been badly misgoverned by Republicans and Democrats for the last many years. The only President who balanced budgets in recent decades was Clinton. Debate has been drowned out by mantras of “less government, lower taxes” , and by the abandonment of the American working class and its manufacturing industries. I know I will jumped upon by saying this, but a great deal of my frustration with the United States at this point has been the failure to govern from the moderate centre, and the relentless push to transfer income up the food chain to the already rich.
The Republicans are reaping the political results of what their fiscal policies have sown. Taxation and spending have to be held in a close relationship.