"There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it -- that that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what. ... These are people who pay no income tax. ... [M]y job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."
I don't know which government benefits Mr. Romney had in mind when he said 47 percent of Americans are dependent upon government.
As a personal finance columnist, I write about government benefits one or more of which 100 percent of Americans depend on at some point in their lives (student loans, veterans' benefits, unemployment insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.)
As a business reporter, I know the assertion that 47 percent of Americans don't pay federal income tax and are therefore government dependents is grossly misleading: Two-thirds of the Americans who don't pay federal income taxes are people with jobs. They pay payroll taxes. They don't owe federal income tax because their earnings are reduced by tax credits and/or tax deductions that enjoy strong Republican support -- like credits for the working poor, for households with children, and for military families, and deductions for mortgage interest and student loan interest. Only 18 percent of Mr. Romney's 47 percent pay neither federal income taxes nor payroll taxes; 10.3 percent of them are senior citizens, and 6.9 percent are people who earn less than $20,000 a year.
As a someone who pays attention to demographic and political trends, I know that a great many of these hardworking lower-middle and middle-income people and senior citizens are Republican voters, not Obama supporters. (That's why William Kristol, the neo-conservative editor of The Weekly Standard, called Mr. Romney's comments 'arrogant and stupid." )
But as a voter, what I find most striking about these remarks isn't Mr. Romney's philosophy about the role of government or his ignorance about which groups typically favor Republican candidates.
What I find astounding is Mr. Romney's matter-of-fact statement that 47 percent of Americans are self-pitying freeloaders who can never be persuaded to take responsibility for themselves.
I never expected to hear anything like that from a would-be president of the United States.
Please send your questions to Lynn@LynnBrennersFamilyFinance.com. I'm sorry I can't respond personally to every email. Questions are only addressed online.