Stop complaining about the 47%

romney-monopolyIt 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.


Categories:Politics President Obama

  • MattyTheD

    I’m trying to figure out what this post has to do with being Catholic.

  • Michael Leonard

    I hate to lambaste you but if this is the single most important issue to you then you need to look in the mirror and get a reality check. The fact of the matter is that it doesn’t matter what the Republicans say around the media. Everything they say WILL be used against them in the court of public opinion. Get over it! If you voted for Obama you have no one to blame but yourself for what is going on right now. His attacking our religious liberty, etc. is no suprise to any well informed voter. He is doing exactly what he said he was going to do. He never said he was going to do any less.
    The sad reality is that the Democrats are Socialists now and the Republicans are just the old Democrat party intent on being in power and controlling the money. Neither party as it stands is going to change the country. Where is a Ronald Reagan or JFK (less the moral problems) when you need them?

    • Joshua Mercer

      Okay, but Reagan and JFK used soaring rhetoric. They didn’t grip and complain about moochers and the 47%. I know the media will be horrible and paint conservative candidates in a bad light. The point is not to confirm the media bias by playing into their characterization.

  • m haitz

    One of the grievances during the lead-up to the American Revolution was that there must be “no taxation without representation”. Is not the opposite also true? i.e. should there be representation without taxation?

    The author does not deny the truth of the 47% figure, but just wishes to ignore/downplay it. Still the fact remains that not only do almost half of those who file income-tax not pay any tax, but that the top 5% of earners pay a whopping 60% of all tax!

    When half of the population is forced to pay for the services/benefits used by other half, we are on the road to disaster.

    • Joshua Mercer

      Three years ago, I paid no federal income taxes. And so, that year I was a member of this 47%. Did this make me a big-government liberal?

      But even though I didn’t pay income taxes that year, I still paid sales taxes, property taxes, and of course: federal payroll taxes. After all, Social Security constitutes 22% of the federal budget.

      I acknowledged in this post that political pandering with goodies is a problem. But if Republican candidates for office are going to harp on this point all day long, it will surely lead to losing more elections. The 47% rhetoric is simply not accurate. Not everyone in the 47% are welfare bums. Included in this 47% are seniors collecting Social Security (are there no Republicans over 65?), veterans on disability (seemingly a GOP-friendly demographic), and of course families who receive the per-child tax credit. Are there members of the 47% who receive government assistance and vote for the big government party because of it? Of course that’s true. This is a problem that needs to be addressed, but much more carefully than Romney/Bachmann/Fleischer do. We can’t simply come off sounding like greedy old men at a country club. (I’m not suggesting that’s what you are or how you think. But that is how the other side portrays this fight.)

  • Sheesh

    I rarely agree with anything on this site, but this is *spot on.* More like this, please.

  • Anne

    Cute that Tim Carney thinks Fleischer, Romney, and Bachmann could find a Republican of any kind in Bloomington, Indiana.



Receive our updates via email.