Looking at 47 percent victims
“There are 47 percent…who are dependent on government…who believe they are entitled…to you name it.” Mitt Romney in a May 2012 fundraiser speech.
Mr. Romney, and many of his Republican supporters, believe that America is becoming a dependency nation and, as Tea Party folks argue, socialist because of it. The words above are a part of a Republican dialogue that is common within the party, but usually avoided in public settings.
But they are wrong and are using social stereotyping to define almost half of America as takers, moochers, deadbeats, and hopeless clients of the federal government, clinging to their laziness and self-indulgence.
These are the people who endlessly repeat that our deficits are “a spending problem, not a revenue problem” in spite of increasing numbers of Baby Boomer retirements into Social Security and higher numbers on those without health insurance in America seeking care.
So who are the 47 percent?
Based on the Romney criteria of not paying federal taxes 60 percent of them are the working poor, not required by tax law to pay federal taxes based upon their low incomes.
Some are over 65 and entitled to tax exemptions on all or part of their Social Security income.
Some do not earn enough income to pay taxes, for example a family of four earning less than $26,000.
Some are students getting college loans and subsidies.
And 4,000 of them are families earning over $1 million dollars who pay no taxes due to tax code provisions.
They are not all Obama supporters; in fact nine of the top ten states in poverty rates are in the South, all states that may vote for Romney in November.
And they are people who often spend more of their total income in taxes than Mr. Romney, even though not paying federal income taxes. According to Citizens for Tax Justice, considering all federal, state and local taxes, Americans earning under $40,000 annually pay between 18.7 percent and 27 percent in taxes. Americans earning up to $66,000 pay 30 percent in taxes. Mr. Romney pays about 13 percent in federal tax plus his state and local tax burden.
Are they really lazy dependents on the government?
Well, most of them work, and American workers are hardly lazy.
In fact American workers have the highest productivity of any workers on the planet, work more hours weekly than their European counterparts, have zero days off provided for by federal law unlike their counterparts, and actually receive fewer paid vacation days (13) than most: France, 37; Germany, 35; United Kingdom, 28; Japan, 25.
Do they expect too much help from government?
Yes, according to Romney and Republican attacks on U.S. “socialism.”
But consider unemployment compensation, recently reduced in many states, can be as low as 27 percent of previous earnings for hard-working Americans out of work.
Norwegians laid off who have worked 52 weeks over the previous three years receive 90 percent of their previous earnings for up to four years.
Finnish unemployment pays 85 percent of earnings for one year.
Germany pays up to 90 percent of earnings for one year.
Or, consider the very existence of the Social Safety net, a concept not all Republicans embrace. Rome provided for citizens who could not afford to buy food.
The Song Dynasty (1000AD) established retirement homes and public health clinics.
In Germany today 27.6 percent of GDP is dedicated to funding the social safety net, compared to 16.2 percent in America.
And who really receives the most welfare in America?
According to the conservative Cato Institute corporations received $92 billion in corporate welfare in 2006 while Thinknumber.org compares that to $59 billion in social services for the same year.
Mr. Romney and Republicans who rail against American socialism are wrong.
We need an American society of citizens where government neither ignores needs nor encourages complacency…where the circumstances of birth do not limit the opportunity for excelling, and where honest work is not dishonored by those who have never known labor in their acquisition of wealth.
Jim Crawford is a retired educator and political enthusiast living here in the Tri-State.