Forget Romney's 47/53 Divide, the Real Split is Over the Role of Government

Improbably enough, there was a kernel of truth at the core of Mitt Romney's much-derided comment about 47 percent of Americans paying no income taxes and, therefore, being bound to serve as Barack Obama's government-dependent minions. That bit of discussion-worthy data is that there is a divide in the country — a philosophical one — over the role of government and the kind of country Americans want to live in. That divide is tellingly revealed in the latest Reason-Rupe poll, which took a somewhat more sophisticated view of the matter than did Romney when he was chatting-up fundraisers.

Some key questions, and their answers, from the survey:

Do you think the federal government has too much influence on your life, not enough influence, or about the right amount of influence on your life?

Too much: 55%

Not enough: 7%

About the right amount: 36%

Don't Know/Refused: 2%

Total: 100%

Would you like to see Congress pass more laws, fewer laws, or about what it’s doing now?

More laws: 27%

Fewer laws: 45%

About what it's doing now: 21%

Don't Know/Refused: 7%

Total: 100%

Please tell me which comes closer to your own opinion…

We need a strong government to handle today's complex economic problems [or]: 49%

People would be better able to handle today's problems within a free market with less government involvement: 49%

Don't Know/Refused 2%

Total 100%

These are big-picture questions, asking people about their views of government, and showing, so far as I can tell, that a majority of people think they themselves should be left alone by the feds (I'm assuming the "fewer laws" constituency largely overlaps the "too much federal influence" respondents pretty closely), but people split pretty much down the middle when it comes to the treatment of their neighbors — or anybody else.

That respondents split pretty closely even when it comes to who should take the lead on providing for their golden-years pills, pokes and check-ups is pretty impressive this many decades into the financially unsustainable, but oh-so-popular Medicare program.

Please tell me which statement you agree with more:

People like me should be primarily responsible for saving enough money to pay for our own health care needs in retirement: 45%

People like me should primarily expect help from the government to pay for health care in retirement: 48%

Don't Know/Refused: 7%

Total: 100%

Not all the responses are so evenly divided. A clear majority take income-inequality as a non-issue, Medicare, as mentioned, remains popular, and a majority also want to raise taxes on those making more than $250,000. But nobody said Americans had to be coherent in their views. And there may be an information problem at the root of some of those responses. Only about a third of respondents realized that Medicare patients receive more in benefits than they paid in. And, as Emily Ekins pointed out earlier:

A majority of Americans, 57 percent, support raising income tax rates on incomes over $250,000.  However, the very same number—57 percent—says the top 5 percent of earners shouldn’t have to contribute more than 40 percent of the total federal income taxes paid to government. In 2009, the top 5 percent of earners contributed 59 percent of total federal income taxes paid.

Still, I take the poll results as an acknowledgement of the existence of the divide over the role of government — not as a measure of the size of the constituencies for big, intrusive government vs. a small, leave-me-alone state that we can basically ignore. That's a discussion that's not only worth having, but which is actually ongoing.

Of course, the debate continues, but the politicians keep delivering an increasingly bloated product no matter who wins.

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  • ||

    Would you like to see Congress pass more laws, fewer laws, or about what it’s doing now?

    The 27% who want more laws have, apparently, never heard of the iron law.

  • ||

    More laws about what?

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

    What kind of sick mind wants more government control of their own life?
    More control over others I can sort of understand, but your own?

  • Hugh Akston||

    I think most people believe that more government control means more government control over everyone. Combine that with the delusion that "Nothing I do could ever be wrong or illegal" and it becomes an ideal way to make everyone act like you.

  • cw||

    I don't know. I might just go out and burn someone's home down and skin his cat.

    Never know what would happen without Big Brother there to stop me.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Government regulation/legislation is like a warm blanket on a cold night.

  • Tulpa Doom||

    You can find 7% of people to say that yogurt is made from pig semen.

  • ||

    Of COURSE, nobody wants more government control over their lives. They just want government to give them free stuff.

    What they don't realize is that relying on the government to give you free stuff, gives the government control over your life.

    You mgiht think that free shit is free, but wait until they snatch it away from you, unless you vote for them. Wait until they start attaching a few strings to that free shit. Then you'll find out how free it is.

  • ZackTheHypochondriac||

    lol at this point i think they just keep bringing up the 47/53 comment to piss off the republitarians like john.

  • ||

    Love the graphic. Here's a pic of his wife:

    http://pandroia.com/wp-content.....RkbXlu.jpg

  • Hugh Akston||

    That's the ass that Warty is tapping. I didn't know she was married.

  • JeremyR||

    Better yet, instead of passing more laws period (either fewer or more), how about start repealing them?

    A few months ago I was reading a book, and one of the characters remarked, "There are too many laws, nowadays, for life to be lived naturally."

    That book was written in 1916, when there were a small fraction of the laws we have today.

  • db||

    People like me should primarily expect help from the government hire a lackey to go door to door to steal money from other Americans to help me to pay for health care in retirement:
  • cw||

    I'm sure Weird-Spaces-T-o-n-y is all for repealing crappy laws. He just can't name any specifics.

    Oh, and lower tax-rates = government handouts. In bizarro universe.

  • T o n y||

    These poll questions are stupid. Ask them "would you prefer to do without Social Security or keep it the same?" We've had decades of propaganda giving the word "government" a negative connotation. (Like redistribution, welfare, and others.) You guys should know; you react to these words with your brainstems.

    Ask about the specific programs Americans enjoy and you will discover quite a bit more support for big government than responses to these platitudinous generalities will indicate.

    We should be talking about whether programs are good things. Anyone using fiscal problems as the excuse to argue against them should first be asked whether he believes in the programs at all. Assuming we can afford it, is it worth the expense not to have old people in destitution?

    BTW if we can't afford it being the wealthiest nation on earth then something's quite wrong. We can at least try to afford it. But you guys don't want to have anything to do with such notions.

  • cw||

    Assuming we can afford it, is it worth the expense not to have old people in destitution?

    Loaded question, and an implicit "either/or" fallacy.

    Right on target, Tony w/spaces.

  • T o n y||

    Meaning that there's some theoretical magical system out there that can keep all old people with basic needs met that doesn't cost anything.

  • Calidissident||

    So Tony, what's the magic number of destitute old people that justifies a program that gives money to all seniors? How many makes it ok to take from everyone else, limiting their ability to plan for their own retirement, just to make sure people who make bad decisions don't face the consequences?

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

    I believe the standard answer is "If it helps just one"

  • T o n y||

    Growing too old to work and being too old to afford health insurance is not the consequence of bad decisions.

  • Calidissident||

    There's this thing called saving that people can do these days. In fact, people are actually starting to pay more into SS than they'll be getting out. Negative savings rate ftw! (Not to mention inflation). And god forbid people use private charity, or dare I say it, family to support them in old age

  • Not an Economist||

    Hey, Warren Buffett needs all the help he can get!!!

  • ||

    You. Are a fucking moron.

  • OldMexican||

    Re: Tony,

    Growing too old to work and being too old to afford health insurance is not the consequence of bad decisions.


    Your use of the adverb "too" means ipso facto there was a known point until which a person could work to avoid any or all pitfalls. So YES, they would be the consequence of previous bad decisions - it is not like most people fall into a 30 year coma and wake up "too old to work or to afford health insurance."

  • OldMexican||

    Re: Tony,

    Meaning that there's some theoretical magical system out there that can keep all old people with basic needs met that doesn't cost anything.

    The new Hunger Games: Have the young work their asses off so that all old people can have their basic needs (like enough Turtle Wax for their Caddies) met forever!

  • cw||

    Meaning that there's some theoretical magical system out there that can keep all old people with basic needs met that doesn't cost anything.

    This seems to be what you believe. At least, there is no system that should cost the right people money to take care of them.

    Oh, and the fact that your system relies on the threat of force to pay for it all. Talk about shoving your beliefs down others' throats!

  • Sam Grove||

    So old = poor?

  • Calidissident||

    Tony's arguments all rely on loaded questions, false dichotomies, and baseless assumptions.

    Also, while conservatives may have over the years verbally criticized "government" as an abstract concept (their actions speak otherwise, and there are plenty of instances where you can get very pro-government rhetoric from conservatives. Foreign Policy, the military, the WOD, the War on Terror, etc.), I find it hard to think (like liberals do) that this outweighs all the pro-government propaganda people hear from the media, public schools and the Democrats

  • OldMexican||

    Re: Calidissident,

    Tony's arguments all rely on loaded questions, false dichotomies, and baseless assumptions.


    Oh, you noticed it, too?

  • Jordan||

    Yep. The well is always poisoned when that mendacious idiot is around.

  • Killazontherun||

    Tony's arguments all rely on loaded questions, false dichotomies, and baseless assumptions.

    He tortures logic like a kitten. There isn't really any need to point out the errors because they tend to be prima facie. Some people like filling in crossword puzzles, others like to sort out a pretzel.

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

    Who cares if they're good or not, that's not relevant.
    It's no excuse to fund them with theft.

    SOCKPUPPET

  • T o n y||

    Then the same goes for the government guns protecting people's homes and money.

  • OldMexican||

    Re: Tony,

    Then the same goes for the government guns protecting people's homes and money.


    I don't need no stinkin' government to protect my property. Try breaking into my house, so you can get to meet my two friends: Smith, and Wesson.

    (Besides, your contention is laughable and an insult to anybody's intelligence, considering the systematic depredation by government of our money and property.)

  • T o n y||

    So if I want your property legitimately, all I need to do is bring a bigger arsenal? Or will you go crying to the police?

  • circadia||

    No the same at all. Protecting people from criminals is one of government's proper roles.

  • T o n y||

    Begging the question for $500 Alex.

  • OldMexican||

    Re: Tony,

    We've had decades of propaganda giving the word "government" a negative connotation.

    I knew it! I knew those School House Rock shorts were anti-government propaganda! And the Cookie Monster!

    Ask about the specific programs Americans enjoy and you will discover quite a bit more support for big government than responses to these platitudinous generalities will indicate.

    And this despite the decades of propaganda to which you alluded.

    We should be talking about whether programs are good things.

    [Young Frankenstein's monster]
    "Free money... Goooood!"

    Anyone using fiscal problems as the excuse to argue against them should first be asked whether he believes in the programs at all.

    "We're broke!"

    "You... you... you unbeliever!"

    Gosh, you're too easy, Tony.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Assuming we can afford it, is it worth the expense not to have old people in destitution?

    And everyone collecting a Social Security check is in, or near, destitution?

  • T o n y||

    Many would be, without Social Security.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Tits?

  • Mike M.||

    There is a small kernel of truth in what our number one sockpuppet says here in that these kinds of polls don't really mean anything.

    Even if you completely filter out the people who don't really know anything or have any clue of what is going on, most Americans hold wildly contrasting and conflicting beliefs that can't be reconciled with real life and make no real sense as any kind of coherent, rational philosophy. In the modern world, wishful thinking and cognitive dissonance reign supreme over all.

  • ||

    BTW if we can't afford it being the wealthiest nation on earth then something's quite wrong.

    Who says we're the weathiest nation on Earth. You realize what the size of the budget deficit and national debt are, dont you.

    So cut the crap about the wealthiest nation bullshit. Resources are finite. We don;t have them.

  • ||

    "What kind of sick mind wants more government control of their own life?
    More control over others I can sort of understand, but your own?"

    it's referred to as the institutional mindset. even stephen king makes references to it in his Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption. People who have been in a system, like prison, where their schedule (light on, off) mealtimes, recreation time, etc. are STRICTLY controlled often have a very hard time dealing with the lack of external control in the world outside prison. The freedom literally becomes oppressive and overwhelming. They need somebody to set down some structure. As noted , they will often reoffend, just a minor offense, to get back to the "safety" of the fixed, known environment

    apparently, these people you mention up above, for whatever is in their background or makeup, suffer the same symptoms

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

    OTTAWA -- The Harper government has been quietly studying private prisons in other countries as a possible model to save money in federal penitentiaries, CTV News has learned.

    Read more: http://www.ctvnews.ca/politics.....z27ASuXOvl

    NDP MP Paul Dewar said his party is against private prisons because the experience in other countries “has been a disaster.”
    “The problem with privatizing prisons is it’s all about profits and not rehabilitation,” he said. “What we need to know is: what is the real agenda? The government -- are they going to privatize prisons or not?”
  • General Butt Naked||

    We had a real scandal in PA when a juvenile court judge was being bribed for stocking the local youth facilities. Like giving kids 3 months for wearing an offensive t-shirt to school and other ridiculous shit.

  • db||

  • db||

    Privatizing prisons isn't necessarily the problem, but it causes perverse incentives to be in place. Whether these incentives are substantially different than the factors influencing operation of public-owned prisons is a subject for debate.

    One can't argue our current prison system is clear of abuses and profiteering.

    Bottom line, these entrenched constituencies will continue to attempt to arrogate power, be they public or private. Best to try to keep them as small and powerless as possible. Things like the drug war only offer new opportunities for abuse.

  • np||

    I agree that with the way it is now, it will cause perverse incentives. The real solution is to completely privatize them, removing all government funding.

    The right market forces will be in place when they are privately funded, most likely by insurance and/or security companies in a developed free society.

    Currently people don't give much thought to how their tax money create these perverse incentives because they're forced to pay taxes and have little to no say in how it's used. But if it was a voluntary service that they directly or indirectly (via insurance companies) paid for, it would create the right incentives, favoring restitution, decreasing recidivism over mass and prolonged incarceration.

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

    Have I shared this already?
    Probably.

  • ||

    nice. it's the correct message.

  • Skip||

    Has the Left always been whining about the lower tax on investments or is this a new thing? Jon Stewart, for example, is OUTRAGED like he just discovered it yesterday.

  • ||

    There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what.

    That is 47% of voters not Americans.

    Romney's much-derided comment about 47 percent of Americans

    Last I checked most Americans don't vote.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    "What kind of sick mind wants more government control of their own life?"

    T

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Shit.

    "What kind of sick mind wants more government control of their own life?"

    People like Tony, Mayor Bloomberg, Rick Santorum, Nancy Pelosi, Newt Gingrich... fuckstains from both Teams, in other words.

  • ||

    It's not at all complicated. People want free shit, and they don't want to pay for it.

    That's what the fuckign definition of "free" is.

    Any government that promises to give them free shit - which can come in the form of either more shit and no tax increases, or the same amount of shit and lower taxes, is going to get votes.

    Anyone who says "sorry we're broke, you're either going to have to pay for that shit, or not get as much of it", is going to lose.

    The American people are retarded lazy selfish assholes. The country has been ruined. It's too late. It's time to change the flag to something involving a giant hand holding out a big sugary browning and an obese slave kneeling and licking it from his master's hand.

  • ||

    er brownie.

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    energy to sustain by themselves in type for example they need to.That is why they may possibly be looking at physique shapers. Monster beats kopfh rer is http://www.drdrebeatsbydreaustralia.org/ altering as well as enhancing to satisfy the particular developing demand.Body shapers will be also recognised as Beats merely by dreand slimming bodysuits..

  • The Worden Report||

    I agree that the philosophical issue in this election is the role of government. In addition, the question of judgment comes into play concerning the candidates themselves. Romney's judgment in trashing half of the American population and saying it would not be his job to worry about them may point to a flawed judgment as a character flaw. Additionally, the question of trust is relevant, given Romney's political interest in subsequently stating that he had been "very wrong." Convenient at best, given the conflict of interest. For more, pls see my essay at http://thewordenreport.blogspo.....flict.html

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