It was like nails on a chalkboard every time I heard Michele Bachmann complain that 47% of Americans don’t pay federal income taxes. (To me, that sounds like a good start! It should be 100%!)
And then Mitt Romney, who was desperately trying to win over skeptical donors, deployed that toxic rhetoric at a private fundraiser. But his words were secretly recorded by a member of the wait staff and the rest is history.
The day that hit the news, I thought: “There goes Ohio…”
And of course, Obama and the Democrats roasted Romney for it mercilessly. It fit perfectly with their caricature of him as a rich villain.
The reason that Bachmann’s rhetoric resonates with many Republican voters is the fear that many people clamor for big government in order to get goodies from the state. One would be foolish and naive to think there aren’t such people. Offering 26-year-old adults the opportunity to receive health insurance from their parents was an obvious pandering of this sort.
But does this mean that every person who is not paying income taxes is an advocate for big government?
That’s exactly what former Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer suggested when he tweeted:
In a country in which 1/2 the people pay income taxes & 1/2 don’t, is it any wonder we’re so polarized about what the role of gvt should be?
Washington Examiner columnist Tim Carney pushed back at Fleischer:
I find this point of view completely unconvincing and counterproductive.
What evidence is there that knocking people off the income tax rolls makes them warmer to big government or less concerned about federal spending? As Ramesh Ponnuru asked at the American Enterprise Institute when discussing Mike Lee’s tax plan, did expanding the child tax credit make middle-class parents more liberal?
Carney illustrated that a typical middle-class family of five making $58,000 a year in Bloomington, Indiana, would pay no federal income taxes at all (because of the $1,000 per-child tax credit).
So here’s one way to owe no federal income tax: Have a few kids and live in a part of the country where you can get by on a mid-five-figure income — in other words, being a stereotypical Republican.
Do Fleischer, Romney, and Bachmann want to tell these people they’re not Real Republicans?
Excellent point. Let’s throw away this 47% rhetoric. It’s simply not accurate. Conservatives remain baffled that Americans would vote for this stridently liberal Barack Obama. (Nevermind the more obvious explanation of war fatigue, his strong campaign abilities, weak opponents).
For many conservatives this 47% argument was the eureka explanation for how Obama got elected. But if they keep talking about the 47%, the Democrats will keep winning.