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September 18, 2012

Romney and the 47% Dependency Group and the Entitlement State

by profbartling1

September 18, 2012

The liberal magazine Mother Jones divulged today that Romney last May in a mischievous secret video divided the electorate into makers and moochers.  Speaking to wealthy donors he characterized 47%  of the electorate as “dependent on government” and  folks who “believe they are victims”. These are those, Romney continued, “who believe that government has the responsibility to care for them.  Who believe they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing”. They represent virtually half the population and pay no federal income tax.  They will vote , he notes, for President Obama.  Just who are the 47% so dependent on government? Many of those lumped into the ” Dependency” group are those who benefit from the “entitlement state”.  They are  middle class more than the dependent poor.  Many, as well,  are Republican elderly who along with many middle class folk  in general have no love for big government.  Although they pay no Federal Income Tax many pay payroll tax, or Social Security taxes, or benefit from various tax breaks.  Romney defended today the video content conceding, however,  his remarks were not “elegantly stated”.  Be that as it may, Romney continued, “this is ultimately a question about the direction of the country. Do you believe in a government-centered society that provides more and more benefits, or do you believe instead in a free-enterprise society where people are able to pursue their dreams?”

David Brooks in a New York Times op.ed. today characterized Romney’s 47% analysis  as an overly “hyperindividualistic and atomistic social view”.  Romney’s Democratic critics simply explain he is out of touch with the middle class and the poor. For my part my critique has to do with the appropriate scop and size of government in people’s lives. More than a year ago at the earliest beginnings leading to the presidential elections now only five week hence I addressed the question of the  role of the Federal Government in the lives of the ciitizen.  Musing on the Relevance of Truman’s 1948 Electoral Victory, a blog , April 6, 2011, observed: “Republicans meeting after unexpected defeat and Truman’s election they came to realize politically you can’t reject the New Deal out of hand . . . Both parties must, and have, related positively to the role of the Federal Government in the lives of the citizen. The question is how much or how little the party should relate to the central government’s role . . . The vast middle of the electorate relates either somewhat to the left or right of center. One wonders if the present rather sharp move rightward of the Republican majority in the house places them in political danger. That remains to be answered in the forthcoming election.”  Another blog a few weeks later, April 18, 2011, New York Times – The New Republican Landscape  addressed the same political questions:  “This new political landscape obviously is a sharp movement to the right. No matter what our own political stance might be, it can be observed that the electorate tends to gravitate near the mid-point of the political spectrum. Swings to the left then to the right. It can be predicted, I think, voters next year will move the current Republican Landscape back towards the middle, perhaps even somewhat leftward.” (The last remark , perhaps, unrealistic).  In my view the scope and role of government in the lives of people  need not impinge negatively in, as Romney proposes,”a free-enterprise society where people are able to pursue their dreams.” But this cannot be achieved by dismantling, in the words of Joe Klein (op.ed), ” the Roosevelt welfare state – the regulatory programs initiated by Teddy Roosevelt and the social safety net initiated by FDR.”

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