Romney Was Clumsy, but He Had a Point

“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what,” Mitt Romney told donors in a $50,000-a-plate Florida fundraiser that was secretly recorded in May and released by Mother Jones this week. In an unfortunate choice of words, Romney described those 47 percent as people who “are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that 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.”

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<p>Factually, <strong class='StrictlyAutoTagBold'>Romney</strong> was in the right neighborhood. The Tax Foundation’s William McBride has found that estimates of the number of Americans who do not pay any federal <strong class='StrictlyAutoTagBold'>income tax</strong> range from 41 to 51 percent. </p>
<p>Rhetorically, <strong class='StrictlyAutoTagBold'>Romney</strong> was in the wrong part of town. His poor choice of words gratuitously insulted folks such as seniors who spent a lifetime paying into the system. </p>
<p><strong class='StrictlyAutoTagBold'>Romney</strong> also hit on a truth: The percentage of filers who pay payroll taxes on Social Security but not federal income taxes has grown a lot — from 27 percent in 2001 to 42 percent in 2009. </p>
<p>There are solid reasons behind Washington’s decision to increase tax credits for parents and the working poor over the years, but the result is an America in which close to half of voters can support any scheme designed to expand the <strong class='StrictlyAutoTagBold'>scope</strong> of federal government, secure in the knowledge that they likely will not have to pay for it. </p>
<p>Though pundits have hit <strong class='StrictlyAutoTagBold'>Romney</strong> for his truly awful choice of words, the fact that almost half of Americans pay no federal income taxes does not paint a pretty picture. </p>
<p>Then there’s the other side of the coin. While close to half of filers pay no income tax, McBride found that the top fifth of taxpayers pay 94 percent of federal income taxes, and the top 2 percent of earners pay more than half of the country’s federal <strong class='StrictlyAutoTagBold'>income tax</strong> revenue. President Barack Obama wants to increase the top 2 percent’s federal <strong class='StrictlyAutoTagBold'>income tax</strong> rate, from 35 percent to 39.6 percent — in the name of “fairness.” </p>
<p>The mystery is why. Supporters have argued that Obama’s tax increase on the top 2 percent would help pay off the $16 trillion national debt. They should know better. The Obama tax increase would fund the federal <strong class='StrictlyAutoTagBold'>government</strong> for about a week — at the risk of giving big businesses another reason to sit on their capital instead of hiring new workers. </p>
<p>If it were to depress employment, the Obama plan would stand to cost federal coffers more money than it would generate. </p>
<p><strong class='StrictlyAutoTagBold'>Romney</strong> went on Fox News Channel on Tuesday to explain his recorded remarks. “I think people would like to be paying taxes,” <strong class='StrictlyAutoTagBold'>Romney</strong> told Neil Cavuto. “The good <strong class='StrictlyAutoTagBold'>news</strong> is, if you’re doing well enough financially, that you can pay a tax. And the problem (is) right now, as you see in this country, so many people have fallen into poverty that they’re not paying taxes.” </p>
<p>That sounds much better.</p>
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