A Defense of Romney's "47 Percent" Comment

Sooner or later, says Judge Napolitano, the government will run out of other people's money. Romney understands that.

As readers of this column and viewers of Fox News Channel may know, I have not hesitated to criticize Gov. Mitt Romney's presidential campaign and the governor himself. I have argued that his message is muddled and his values are unknown beyond his ardent wish to improve economic conditions through the use of free market mechanisms rather than central economic planning, a position with which I agree entirely.

I have also maintained that his willingness to abandon, or not to accept, first principles has made these questions reasonable: If Romney is elected president, which Romney will show up for work on Jan. 20, 2013? Will it be the Romney who ran to the left of Ted Kennedy in 1994, the Romney who governed Massachusetts as Mario Cuomo governed New York, or the Romney who now claims to be a "severe" (his word) conservative? Will it be the Romney who spent the entire presidential primary season assuring conservative Republican primary voters that he'll dismantle Obamacare on "Day One" (his phrase), or the Romney who told reporters last week that he approves of a limited federal role in managing health care? Or will it be the Romney who, when caught by the press saying something not intended for public consumption but demonstrably true, sticks to his guns?

A few months ago, at a private fundraiser, Romney spoke to supporters and contributors and observed that 47 percent of Americans do not pay any income tax, and thus his call for not raising taxes (though he wants to eliminate some familiar deductions, which is the functional equivalent of raising some folks' taxes) will not resonate with the voters in that group. Then he went on to say that this is roughly the same 47 percent who are dependent upon the government for part or all of their subsistence; and to that subsistence of food, shelter, education and clothing, the feds have now added health care. Then he referred to those dependent upon the government as "victims" (his word). Then, among my leftish colleagues in the press, all hell broke loose.

The reason hell broke loose among most of the media is that Romney spoke a painful truth, and often a painful truth is difficult to accept. I have argued that FDR deliberately set out to create dependence upon the federal government -- and hence upon virtually all Democrats in Congress and Republicans afraid to resist them -- by establishing entitlement programs and inducing reliance upon them. FDR went so far as to lie to Americans when he stated that the federal government will "hold" (his word) your Social Security contributions for you until you retire, and then you'll receive your nest egg of cash. We know he lied about this, because at the same time he was saying that the money deducted from your pay is yours, he dispatched Justice Department lawyers to argue in a constitutional challenge of Social Security before the Supreme Court that the money deducted from your pay is the government's money, and the government can spend it as it wishes. The Supreme Court agreed with that argument.

Now comes Romney to say that this has gotten out of hand. The feds have deliberately created a class of persons -- 47 percent of people living in America today -- dependent upon them. The governor is right. Anyone lulled into a false sense of security is a victim, and any government that has deceived members of the public to get them there is dangerous. Thus, the revelation that the big-government types who have dominated the federal government for 100 years, who want voters dependent upon them so that they can count on their votes, and who have made those voters victims have stung the Obama campaign and its media supporters. Romney was correct to call the 47 percent who are dependent upon the government victims of the government's deceptions and lust for power, and he is courageous to stick to his guns.

Dependency breeds a sense of complacency and entitlement and fosters a government that -- in order to stay in power -- will further that dependency. Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton agreed on little publicly, but they did agree that when the public treasury becomes a public trough and the voters recognize that, they will send to the government only those who promise them a bigger piece of the government pie.

Then, sooner or later, the government will run out of other people's money. Romney understands that.

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  • Question of Auban||

    Bastiat said it best : "Government is the great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else."

    I miss you Judge Napp,you were one of the few reasons to watch Fox!

  • bendover||

    This article is, by far, the best "reasoned" and complete of any written on the Hit and Run blog concerning this matter.

    Please, would all of you junior varsity players that write here - take note, this is how it should be done.

  • Question of Auban||

    I agree. Judge Andrew Napolitano is Reason Magazine's best writer.

  • Vapourwear||

    A judge that can write, how novel!

    Vapourwear, Esq.

  • ||


  • Proprietist||

    Again, not making enough to pay income taxes does not equal welfare queen. And the wealthy are arguably the worst and most expensive of all welfare queens.

    So while I appreciate the sentiment that government will run out of other peoples' money, it was still a stupid statement. It is also another form of class warfare and channelling resentments for political gain.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    Then, sooner or later, the government will run out of other people's money. Romney understands that.

    Then why is Romney still crying about the $716 billion in needless Medicare subsidies that Obama killed?

  • Question of Auban||

    "Then why is Romney still crying about the $716 billion in needless Medicare subsidies that Obama killed?"

    Is Obama using that money to pay off part of the National Debt? No, he is not. Is Obama using that money to lower taxes? No, he is not. He is using that money to help pay for Obamacare.

  • SugarFree||

    Be careful, Auban. He'll get his dipshit all over you.

  • db||

    Honestly, how much do you get paid to sit around all day and spin your whirlwind of bullshit? It just goes around and around in circles.

  • Question of Auban||

    Has anyone heard from the primitivist WI since you had to register?

  • db||

    Are you saying I was WI?

  • Question of Auban||

    No, I do not think you were WI. PB, perhaps, but not you.

  • Proprietist||

    Naw, PB is Shrike I'm pretty sure. Longtime regular.

  • Generic Stranger||

    Nope. That was the primary reason for going to registration, actually, and it seemed to have worked.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    OT: Ok, we know that at the Trinity test that Oppenheimer quoted the Bhagavad Gita, and that Bainbridge said "Now, we're all sons of bitches."

    But which physicist said, "Aw damn, booooyeeee!!!!"? I wouldn't be surprised if it were Feynman, but I'm guessing it was Rabi, as he just won a bet.

  • ||

    This "bottom 50% don't pay taxes" is fucking bullshit. Maybe if you are a single mom who has downloaded a bunch of dependents, but if you are a single male, you pay taxes. I earned 17624.00 in 2011. My federal income taxes were $1113.00. That's not nothing. So, fuck the this bullshit meme about the bottom. I paid the State of Arkansas, $37.00 and I paid Arizona $249.00.

  • West Texas||

    If you pay taxes, you're not in the 47%.

    Reading comprehension is hard.

  • Proprietist||

    There's only about 6% of households that don't pay any income taxes at all. Those are the people for whom EITCs are enough to make up for any payroll taxes paid.

  • Heartless Bastard||

    Payroll taxes are the classic progressive red herring. If the government didn't steal that money it wouldn't go to the employee. Employers would pocket the payroll tax. It's no more a tax on employees than the electric bill paid by their employer is.

  • Hneckone||

    Not to nitpick Troy but it's 47%, not "bottom" 47%. If you paid federal income taxes, you are obviously not part of the 47%.

    I do however feel the outrage over all freebies that go to chicks pumping out kids (aka meal tickets) when they can't support them. Maybe proving you're on birth control should be a requirement to received these benefits. Not to mention all the tax breaks folks with kids get. Oh yeah, and my insanely high property taxes-75% of which go to "education". People who are responsible and don't contribute to the vast overpopulation problem get it shoved up their asses.

  • WTF||

    People who are responsible and don't contribute to the vast overpopulation problem get it shoved up their asses.

    Damn right they do. I don't have kids and never will, but my property taxes have tripled since I bought my house in 1999, and it's mostly to pay for 'education' for other people's crotch-fruit.

  • T o n y||

    Would you rather said fruit be running around uneducated?

  • ||

    So you're saying it's a form of extortion, then?

  • T o n y||

    I'm saying it's a benefit to you even if you don't have children. An ignorant society is a poor society.

  • ||

    Therefore I should just shut up and pay, correct? Your valuation must needs apply to my money?

  • Hneckone||

    So Tony, only the government can provide education? If the government doesn't do no one will? Then why are so many people seeking out private schools (even though they still have to pay for the crappy public schools they're trying to avoid) ?

  • dinkster||

    Yes. The internet age makes learning easy.

  • Smurfs Poop Blue||

    That is the greatest alternative descriptive term for children I have ever read.

  • DarrenM||

    This "bottom 50% don't pay taxes" is fucking bullshit

    *Income* taxes. Though there was not differentiation between state and federal income taxes, in context a reasonable person would interpret this as Federal income taxes given the whole issue is related to the campaign for a Federal elected office. Admittedly, it would be nice if people were more specific.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

  • Rich||

    Beheshti, who emerged from the infirmary three days later, said he did not file a complaint against the girls.

    I'll have a little hope if the girls don't get stoned to death anyway.

  • bendover||

    This article is, by far, the best "reasoned" and complete of any written on the Hit and Run blog concerning this matter. Please, would all of you junior varsity players that write here - take note, this is how it should be done.

  • Mike M.||

    Seconded. The Judge is a rare gem indeed, and he actually makes it worth suffering through the endless shit parade of Steve Chapmans.

  • Generic Stranger||


  • ||

    Thanks for posting twice, Ben.

  • Brian from Texas||

    Oh I agree that AT LEAST 47% of Americans get government handouts in some form or another. Where Romney has it wrong is that not all of them are Obama-supporting welfare recipients. Or does corporate welfare not count as a handout as far as Conservatives are concerned?

  • Bardas Phocas||

    Please, the Presdent has explained that corporate welfare is an INVESTMENT in our nation's future. Welfare for middle class and poor are for FAIRNESS and vote buying.

    And yes, the Republicans still believe that also.

  • T o n y||

    Among the 47% who don't pay federal income tax, 61% pay federal payroll taxes. Add this up, and 82% of the population works and sends some money to the federal government. (This is leaving out state and local taxes--which universally put a larger burden on the poor.)

    Much of the population included in Romney's moocher class are the elderly, and there is only 1 state (New Mexico) among the 10 states with the highest percentage of income tax nonpayers that is not a Romney lock for electoral votes.

    What's the main reason there are so many people not paying federal income tax? Republican tax cuts under Reagan and Bush--their real agenda was tax cuts for the rich, but they had to include lower-income tax cuts to make those palatable. In Reagan's last years the number of households not paying income tax jumped 10%. Bush caused them to jump a further 25%.

    In short, nearly everything Romney said was an ignorant conflation or a lie. The only thing Judge gets right is that it was painful--for Romney. It's a good day in politics when telling lies does damage to a campaign.

  • Heartless Bastard||

    By payroll taxes, I assume you are speaking of the SS/Medicare contributions? Unlike the taxes most of us pay, these actually come with a return that is far greater than the amount paid in, at least until it breaks.

    I can't keep the progressive storyline on SS straight. Is it a regressive tax or an essential program that helps these people save?

  • Jackand Ace||

    What a conspiracy theory!
    The government purposely created Social Security in order to make everyone dependent on the government.
    Yeah, it had nothing to do with the fact that the majority of elderly Americans before SS had nothing to live on once they had to stop working. Barely any money, no health insurance with zero prospects of getting any. Yeah, that had nothing to do with it. Right, the government never saw that human nature was to not have saved enough for their later years...they only saw the chance to lie to the American people. The only thing the government did wrong was to never keep up with changing demographics. That they deserve blame for.

    But everything to those on the right is the result of a conspiracy. Government, the media, gays, and on and on and on. Its really getting old. You're putting the 9/11 conspiracy theorists in the minor leagues.

    What Romney said was idiotic, and so is every defense of the remark including the Judge's.

  • sasob||

    Yeah, it had nothing to do with the fact that the majority of elderly Americans before SS had nothing to live on once they had to stop working. Barely any money, no health insurance with zero prospects of getting any. Yeah, that had nothing to do with it. Right, the government never saw that human nature was to not have saved enough for their later years...they only saw the chance to lie to the American people.

    When Social Security was passed many of the elderly had had their life savings wiped out in the stock market crash of '29. But instead of punishing the miscreants who had caused it, FDR decided to lay a new tax on the working stiffs - those who still had jobs, that is.

  • Jackand Ace||

    While I take your point, it should be noted that in the later years of the 20's, out of about 120M people, only about 2M owned any stock. That would hardly show much retirement plan effort in the stock market.

  • lightning||

    I agree with your point, and would add that when SS was first created it was not for everyone. It was also intended as "insurance" NOT as income. There are other aspects of SS that started out one way and changed drastically in the intervening years. This program no longer is the same as it was presented by FDR.

  • Calidissident||

    Yes, the government must protect the ignorant masses from the consequences of their decisions. What bullshit

  • Jackand Ace||

    No, its called a functioning society. But of course, you might think its OK to allow everyone to drive after downing a fifth. Thank God government tries to protect us from those ignorants.

  • BelowTheRim||

    Funny Stuff,

    Because Drinking and Driving deaths are extinct because of state laws banning the practice.

    Oh wait.

  • Jackand Ace||

    Don't wait too long.
    Outside of the fact that the laws clearly have had an impact in driving down the number of occurrences (I know lots of people who will not even drink if they are the driver), those that do and find themselves arrested get their licenses taken away.
    Funny indeed that you were not aware.

  • niobiumstudio||

    While I agree that there is a class of "moochers" it is complete BS that if you take a government handout you become complacent and will keep doing that forever. In college, I got a little over $12,000 in govt. subsidized student loans (out of over $120,000 in tuition). Last year, my federal income tax (not including SS, medicare, payroll, etc..actual income tax) AFTER my refund was just under $11,000. So who is the moocher? Me who took 12k interest free from the government for four years or the government who takes the entirety of what I borrowed every single year? When I was in school I didn't pay income tax so I must have been a moocher and because I was a moocher I will always be?

    It is interesting how when people scoff at Mitt Romney (or anyone who makes millions of capital gains income) for paying 13% taxes and he can defend himself by saying "I pay every single cent the government asks of me" yet the people who pay EXACTLY what the government asks of them - even if they don't take any handouts (like my parents) are moochers.

    I get attacking the people who take all they can and don't pay taxes, but to equate everyone who doesn't pay INCOME tax to those people is retarded.

  • Jackand Ace||

    People throw out these terms like "mooching" and always say its what the other guy does.

    Is filing for protection during bankruptcy mooching? How about stashing money in overseas accounts? How about oil companies who take advantage of subsidies?

    I would be willing to bet everyone who posts here, including the Judge, has "mooched," or are standing on the shoulders of parents who at one time "mooched."

  • Proprietist||

    Bankruptcy protection and state incorporation are arguably the two biggest forms of hidden welfare, giving free artificial liability protection upon vast sums of wealth and incentivizing irresponsibility like all other forms of welfare do.

  • Jackand Ace||

    Fair enough...then we just have increased the mooching stats to include all those companies and executives who look for protection when the firm goes bankrupt.

  • Proprietist||

    Pretty much...oh, and just about everybody uses roads too. I guess that means we're all dependent mooches on the government.

  • Jackand Ace||

    Exactly. Like Paul Simon once sang, one man's ceiling is another man's floor.

  • lightning||

    According to most mainstream articles on this subject, "mooching" includes: tax deductions, corporate subsidies, farm subsidies, use of government services, the varying tax brackets, and the use of products made by any entity that has used/profited these items. Using this definition, we are all "moochers" regardless of if we work, pay federal income taxes, or supply our own energy. Personally, I do not believe the government "owns" my labor/paycheck. I do. I then, as a member of society, contribute a portions of my labor to items that create a functioning community. Where we have gone wrong is folks wanting government to do more than necessary, allowing for an income tax (which in my mind allowed for government growth), and the desertion of the free market. As a libertarian, all forms of a government handout are repugnant. I don't like anyone who asks for money: the corprate entities, the banks, the welfare queens, or the government itself.

  • Bob Straub||

    How about Social Security? It's many, many years since there was any thought that the government is holding our contributions in accounts for us, to be paid back when we reach retirement age. Our contributions have been and are paying benefits to retirees like me (Thank you, all). My financial advisor included Social Security income in my retirement plan, and I accepted that. I wish I had not, but It's a little late for that.
    How many of us would opt out of SS? If you want to opt out of SS, you must opt out of both SS and Medicare, and repay benefits that you have received. Your contributions, of course, would be non-refundable. Sans legislative reform, we are trapped in this system. It may be involuntarily, but almost all of us are, in one sense or another, dependent upon these benefits.

  • Frankstar||

    I don't think you are accurately representing what Romney said. The gist in tone and tenor of his statement was that 47 percent of the population is irresponsible. This accords in many peoples' minds with a conception of the poor as lazy. This of course is a vast generalization and is sadly one that has been consistently put forward by the Republican party (the part of huge defense budgets, the war on drugs, social intrusiveness) I think everyone would welcome an actual discussion of the role in government's lives, but sadly, this seems to be another preamble into harping on the same uncontextualized, irrational beliefs.

  • Robert||

    Good article. And if you happen to drive by 58 Plotts Rd., see if you can run over a few of Ralph Kathy's cats. I love 'em all, but there's just too many of 'em, and I won't notice which ones are missing. Just don't run over Bob, he's my special pussy friend.

  • ThinkThinkThink||

    There is a reasonable debate that can be made about the appropriateness of entitlements and their cost/benefit to society as a whole and to any given individual. BUT, there is NO justification for saying that all 47 percent lack the desire to take personal responsibility. This was asinine to say and even more asinine to defend. And, in the absence of an enormous Obama mistake with immediate, drastic consequences, it will cost Willard the election (adjusted for the success of voter suppression initiatives). Just sayin'...

  • scotchleaf@gmail.com||

    100% of Americans get government handouts in some form or another.

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