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September 18. 2012 10:42PM

The 47 percent Romney’s clumsy point

The national media are — surprise! — ripping Mitt Romney for noting that roughly half of the American population pays no federal income taxes, and since those people are not concerned about tax rates, they are less likely to respond to Romney’s proposal to lower taxes. Therefore, he told a group of donors at a private reception in May, he planned to concentrate on middle-class voters who are concerned about taxes.

Naturally, the media portray this as Romney not caring about half the country. Absurd. It was a statement of campaign strategy, not policy, and every single national political reporter knows that.

Romney is right that 47 percent of American households pay no federal income taxes (according to data from the Tax Policy Center). He erred by saying they are people “who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them.” That is a common mistake in Republican circles. Many who pay no income taxes are middle-class or working-class and simply qualify for the child tax credit or the earned income tax credit or both. He was right to note afterward that President Obama’s plan is to increase government dependency, and that is of grave concern.

The Heritage Foundation has put the percentage of Americans who are dependent on government at 21.8 percent in 2012. The New York Times reported this year that federal benefits averaged $6,583 per American in 2009, “a 69 percent increase from 2000 after adjusting for inflation.” Those benefits are going to the middle class increasingly. “The share of benefits flowing to the least affluent households, the bottom fifth, has declined from 54 percent in 1979 to 36 percent in 2007,” The Times reported.

Romney’s error was not his noting that more Americans are becoming dependent on Washington while fewer are paying federal income taxes. That is undeniably true. His error, as usual, was in so clumsily making such a standard conservative point.


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