“These are people who pay no income tax. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
Romney delivered these statements in a very evenhanded and professorial manner, not an angry one, and his matter-of-factness suggested that his beliefs in this area are a settled matter — that these perceptions form a part of his worldview.
And that’s the problem. For the reality around this issue (who pays taxes) is far more complicated than Romney describes.
It’s just dead wrong to generalize about people who need help or government assistance. It’s certainly true that deadbeats and lazy people exist, and some of them receive welfare checks. It’s also true that public assistance programs must be designed as carefully as possible so as not to undermine individual motivation and initiative.
But Romney’s worldview that only losers are not successful, that people who are barely scraping by (and thus not paying income tax) are not trying hard enough, and that personal irresponsibility is widespread is inaccurate.
Most of the 47 percent of Americans paying no income tax are relatively poor, earning less than $30,000 a year (that’s 60 million households). And most of them work and pay local, state, sales, property and payroll taxes.
Many of the 47 percent receive marriage, children, education, military or earned-income tax credits, all of which act to reduce an individual’s tax exposure. And 16 million are seniors whose income is too low to be taxable.
Furthermore, public assistance during this recession has expanded. Unemployment benefits and food stamps especially have been extended to millions of new recipients — an obvious consequence of millions of layoffs.
Romney’s comments are very careless, and incomplete. He seems like a man whose worldview has been shaped overly exclusively by his own experiences.