Georgia Voices: Who are the ‘47 percenters?’
by The Gainesville Times
September 25, 2012 12:00 AM | 1582 views | 3 3 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
This election year already is being known as the battle of the viral videos, bringing us deeper into an era when we judge candidates more for what they “meant” to say than what their words clearly tell us.

The latest episode in the presidential race came when a video clip taken at a Republican fundraiser showed GOP nominee Mitt Romney referring to the “47 percent” of the U.S. populace who, to paraphrase, don’t pay taxes, live off government handouts and likely won’t vote for him anyway.

Since the clip emerged, Romney’s campaign has worked to clarify what he meant by those remarks, while admitting their awkwardness. Viral videos to counter that have emerged of President Barack Obama discussing income “redistribution” as an Illinois state legislator. Four years ago, his backhand slap at people “clinging to God and guns” caused another YouTube sensation.

So much for the era of teleprompters and speech writers dictating a race. Nowadays, candidates must be on guard, and on message, at all times lest someone catch them in an unscripted moment they don’t want shared with the world.

Romney’s comments have led Democrats to accuse him of being callous toward those in lower incomes and dismissive of half the country he seeks to serve. The Obama camp had ads responding to it on the air within days.

But beyond the blather of a campaign and notions of what he “meant,” the issue he brought up is one worth giving thought to: Do we have too many Americans taking more from government than they give? This debate is at the crux of what divides the two candidates, their parties and, to an extent, the nation itself.

Then again, wrangling over the role of the federal government is not new. That began at the very founding of our nation and was key to the give-and-take compromises that created the U.S. Constitution.

The debate is renewed with each election, particularly when the U.S. government is trillions of dollars in debt and must prioritize its spending priorities more effectively to remain solvent.

So let’s look at Romney’s claim about who may be overly dependent on Uncle Sam. That “47 percent” number he cites actually includes three separate groups that don’t always intersect.

First, it’s true that number likely is a baseline percentage of Obama voters. Admitting that isn’t akin to saying Romney doesn’t want to lead them; he just knows they’ll be hard to sway, which is merely being honest.

Associated Press research shows that 49 percent of Americans receive some kind of government benefits: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, etc. If you take out benefits to seniors, that leaves about a third of the population relying on the government for some part of their basic needs.

The number of those who don’t pay federal income taxes is about 46 percent, though all wage earners pay Social Security and Medicare withholding taxes, plus local and state sales and property taxes. Many earn tax breaks due to their low incomes or for other reasons. And many wealthy people claim tax deductions that leave them paying less than most.

So while we can quibble over the actual numbers, Romney was more or less right that nearly half of Americans pay little in taxes but receive some federal benefits. The real question then becomes: Is this a good idea?

Despite attempts by Obama and the Democrats to demonize the GOP nominee as an out-of-touch aristocrat, his statement taps into a true concern of many middle class Americans. Few want to dismantle our federal safety nets for those in need, or deny Social Security and Medicare benefits for those who have paid into those programs.

But those who pay taxes to fund what government returns to others would like to know they’re not in it alone. The cries over who should pay their “fair share” ring hollow when nearly half of the people do not, whatever one may deem as “fair” for a given group. Soaking the rich for more only widens that gulf without solving the issue.

When nearly half the population is drawing out more than it pays in, we approach a tipping point. When we have a majority of people dependent on a minority of their countrymen for daily sustenance, something is amiss.

Some have advocated having even the poorest wage earners pay something, even a trifling amount, to give them some skin in the game. If we are, as the president likes to say, all in this together, then shouldn’t we all have a stake in providing for the growing numbers who rely on public assistance? Shouldn’t everyone provide a share to help feed our public revenue streams?

Ultimately, the best solution is for a president and Congress to enact economic policies that will stimulate the free market and get more people working, earning better wages and paying taxes. The more of us who are doing so, the less each will need to pay. That scenario fills both public and private coffers and would restore our shared prosperity.

Obama and Romney should have a spirited, substantive debate on what they both see as the role of government and the responsibility we all share in funding it. Knowing where they stand on this all-important question will help us make the right decision Nov. 6.
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Maatf
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September 25, 2012
It is hard to know what Romney meant, since he confused those who receive entitlements, with those who receive welfare, with those who pay taxes. There were millionnaires who did not pay taxes and there were multi-million dollar corporations that did not pay taxes, along with people who had incomes too low to trigger a tax liability.

I am retired, receiving social security and medicare. It isn't much, but I make do. I didn't pay taxes last year because I didn't have enough income. I used all the tax deductions that are allowed, but it wasn't hard, given that I don't have any except standard deductions. So, I fit in some of the categories that Romney mentioned: those who depend on government and feel entitled to health care. I also fit into not paying any income taxes. Wow, what a loser!

If Romney has an idea about reforming the system that would not mean that people are just left to starve, he didn't talk about it. The fact that he could try to make political hay, raise money from wealthy people by belittling the struggles of others to make it in this world - that is what is sickening.
frogbreath
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September 26, 2012
@maat5f,

Don't play the victim game that so many liberals do. You know well who Romney was talking about and you do our country a disservice by trying to include yourself in that group. The 47% includes millions, yes millions of babies born yin America to parents who came here illegally. It includes many who CHOOSE not to work and to collect welfare and many of those make money in the "off the books" economy.

You sir/madam have paid your fair share, yet to elect to put yourself in the group that takes advantage of America's largesse, (which soon won't be large at all), in order, I guess, to intimate that Romney is out to hurt lower income people.

If it is through ignorance on your part, that is one issue. If it is a campaign tactic to influence voters, you are as shabby as the DNC.
Viral Video
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September 25, 2012
It is interesting in this day and age and with technology, that this guy can be so naive. It was clear that this was a controversial thing to say and would create outrage. Hence controversy is an important part of a Viral Video, hence this is why this video has gone viral.
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