Gee, I’m not sure where Donna and I fall on Romney’s moocher scale. After all, 47 percent of Americans is a lot of people, and income-wise we’re closer to them than we are to the other end of the scale. Let’s see:
- Things we never took: food stamps, welfare
- Things we took: two federally-guaranteed student loans (paid back a few years later), a government paycheck, a small portion of my GI Bill benefits for an FAA commercial pilot certification, three months of unemployment in the early 1970s, two Pell grants, two VA home loans
- Things we take now: a government pension, Social Security, Medicare
Who am I kidding? Mitt and his fangirl Michelle would absolutely consider us takers. Donna’s unemployment and my student loans would do it right there. GI Bill benefits and VA home loans might be gray areas … no, on second thought, they’re handouts as well: I took a suck at the government teat to get technical education that was above my station; we probably should have rented since home ownership too was beyond our means. The only John Galt-style investment income we have to live off of is a small 401K … our only other investments are those the managers of the Social Security trust fund made on our behalf. And never even mind flying for the USAF versus taking Wall Street by storm as a hedge fund manager!
Just guessing, but I suspect most Americans are also takers: we get through college on student loans, make ends meet with unemployment when we’re out of work, improve our lives and future prospects through taxpayer-funded programs administered by agencies like the Veterans Administration or the Department of Education. And virtually all of us count on Social Security and Medicare to get us through our senior years.
Most American takers are also makers. We work and pay taxes: payroll taxes, Medicare taxes, state taxes, and … yes … federal income taxes. By our lights, we make what we take, and we only take when we have to. Workers who get pensions, whether through the government or private industry, pay for those too. And we all pay into Social Security and Medicare.
Romney came down pretty hard on those who don’t pay federal income taxes, the 47 percent he referenced over and over (his words: “47 percent of Americans pay no income tax”). At least two thirds of that 47 percent do in fact work and pay taxes: payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare, state taxes, sales taxes. They just can’t find work that pays much more than minimum wage, and because of that they don’t make enough to put them into the federal income taxpaying category. In most cases, federal income taxes are withheld from their paychecks anyway; they get the money back (without interest) at tax refund time. You ask them if they pay federal income tax, they’ll say “hell yes we do”; they see the deductions subtracted from every paycheck they get.
But that’s not all Romney did there. He lumped the working poor in with welfare recipients and blah people, the riff-raff his kind can “never convince” to take “personal responsibility and care for their lives.” He characterized the 47 percent of Americans who don’t earn enough to pay federal income taxes as “dependent upon government,” describing them as believing “that they are victims,” that “the government has a responsibility to care for them,” and that “they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it.”
Can it truly not have occurred to you, Mitt, that a majority of the 47 percent you just took a patrician shit upon vote Republican and call themselves conservative? This map shows that the ten states with the highest percentages of federal income tax non-payers are red states: solidly Republican. Good move, Thurston Howell! Of course they’ll probably vote for you anyway, because Obama, so fuck ‘em, amirite?
Now Donna and I have always made enough to have to pay federal income tax, so we’re not in your 47 percent. But we have taken what you and your fellow Galtians would contemptuously describe as government handouts. Do we feel like moochers? No, we don’t. When you say “entitlement” you’re trying to lump Social Security and Medicare in with welfare and getting something for nothing. When we use the word we mean taking advantage of benefits we paid for and are entitled to receive.
You didn’t just write off the very small portion of the population that depends on the government for handouts; you wrote off almost half the workers who fund the government in the first place. This, coming from a wealthy plutocrat who conspicuously avoids paying taxes by putting his money in off-shore shelters and who refuses to release his own tax returns, is particularly galling.
We may not exactly fit within your 47 percent category, Mitt, but we are 100 percent not voting for you.
© 2012, Paul Woodford. All rights reserved.