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Romney is partly right about dependence

AT a May fundraiser in Florida, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was asked how he could win in November. In his response, Romney hypothesized about Obama voters.

"There are 47 percent of the people who vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent on government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it," Romney said.

The remarks, recorded surreptitiously on video, were released by the liberal magazine Mother Jones this week.

Monday night, Romney said his comments were "not elegantly stated," but he went on to stress the concept of individual responsibility.

Romney's biggest mistake was the sweeping generalization about the people he believes are going to vote for President Obama. The implication is that there must be something fundamentally wrong with voters who will choose Obama over him.

He doubled down on inelegance by adding that he can't worry about the 47 percent because, "I'll never convince them they should take responsibility and care for their lives."

OK, so maybe Romney was just trying to talk a little election smack to well-heeled supporters. That's the inside stuff that makes donors feel like they're getting their money's worth.

Still, it's never good for anyone running for president of all these United States to write off half the country. Yes, Obama waxed similarly in 2008 with his comment about bitter voters clinging to their guns or religion . . . and he's still paying for it.

Unfortunately, Romney's exaggeration and the emotional debate about it tends to obscure a fundamental truth:

Social spending is rising beyond the country's ability to pay and that is fostering an entitlement mentality.

The Wall Street Journal reports that, according to the Census Bureau, in 2011 half of all Americans lived in a household where at least one member received a government check. That's up from 30 percent in the 1980s.

The Journal also quotes a 2011 study by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. It reported, as Romney said, that half of all Americans pay no federal income tax (though two-thirds of those households still paid withholding taxes).

The country's traditional safety net entitlement programs are being strained to the breaking point. The Social Security and Medicare Boards of Trustees 2012 report concluded the two programs "cannot sustain projected long-run program costs under currently scheduled financing."

Federal government spending as a share of the entire output of the U.S. economy rose to a post-WWII high of 25 percent last year and is now at 24 percent. Recently, the debt passed $16 trillion and is still rising.

The Bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility (the Simpson-Bowles report) concluded that the country's fiscal "problem is real. The solution will be painful. There is no easy way out."

The Obama administration's plan is for more costly government and deficit spending; more government hiring, more student loans, mortgage relief, jobs programs (we now have 47), free health care, green energy subsidies, stimulus spending, on and on.

Rather than denigrating Obama voters, Romney should have just quoted former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher:

"The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money."

Unless we change, unless we curb the entitlement appetite, the country will go broke, and that will impact 100 percent of voters.

Kercheval is host of TalkLine, broadcast by the MetroNews Statewide Radio Network from 10 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday. The show can be heard locally on WCHS 580 AM.


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