To blame the poor for subsisting on welfare has no justice unless we are also willing to judge every rich member of society by how productive he or she is. Taken individual by individual, it is likely that there’s more idleness and abuse of government favors among the economically privileged than among the ranks of the disadvantaged.
–Norman Mailer, author (1923-2007)
Mitt Romney’s recent comments are not in the least bit controversial among wingnuts. He said:
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.
Conservatives have been spewing the exact same crap for as long as I’ve been paying attention (and probably a lot longer than that). The idea that federal taxes are an unjust assault on Hard-Working Real Americans, an evil and nefarious plot to redistribute their justly deserved wealth to all those undeserving moochers, layabouts and parasites of the underclass undergirds the argument for fiscal conservatism. It’s a sentiment that instantly triggers the lizard brain: narcissism, racism and classism are all inherent in its premises, all animated by the core American myth of the self-made bootstrapper, and impervious to facts. It’s the distilled essence of
Paul Ryan’s Satan’s budget: if you don’t have food, shelter or healthcare, it’s because you don’t deserve it.
So who are these federal income-tax-dodgers-who-will-vote-for-Obama-no-matter-what, who believe they are entitled to health care, food and shelter, and will never take “personal responsibility” for themselves and get with the bootstrap program already? First — and let’s get this out of the way — a significant majority of them pay other taxes. According to CBS News fact checkers:
“nearly two-thirds of households that paid no income tax did pay payroll taxes. And most people also pay some combination of state, local, sales, gas and property taxes.” (based on data from the Tax Policy Center.)
That such people dare to expect food, shelter and basic health care in return for the taxes they pay on their meager incomes is an egregious affront to the elite, who believe that any taxes collected should be solely for their own benefit. You know: like trillion-dollar bailouts for too-big-to-jail bankers, or, say, enormous tax breaks for obscenely profitable oil and gas companies.
Also according to the same CBS News analysis, many federal income-tax-dodgers-who-will-vote-for-Obama-no-matter-what are working poor:
According to 2011 data from the Tax Policy Center, more than half of the filing units not paying income taxes are those with incomes less than $16,812 per year. Nearly a third – 29.2 percent – of those paying no income taxes are tax filers earning between $16,812 and $33,542, and 12.8 percent are those with incomes between $33,542 and $59,486.* In other words, the poor are least likely to pay federal income taxes, but many middle-class families are also exempt.
Mitt Romney has never seen “hard work” unless he’s seen the working poor. Fortunately for him, they have the good sense and decency to locate themselves far outside of his opulent bubble, so he can continue to pretend that they do not exist. But even if they do, they obviously do not deserve adequate food, shelter or healthcare for their labors. If they deserved these things, they would have them already!
The unemployment rate is currently 8.3%, and many more workers are underemployed or struggling to survive on much lower wages in our craptastic New Economy. And all of that — all of it — is due directly to the crime, fraud and unbridled avarice of the Masters of the Universe (like Mitt Romney) who devastated the U.S. manufacturing base, offshored capital and wealth to avoid taxation, and then for good measure, cratered the economy. But these particular parasites are apparently Special Snowflakes: they cried like babies and were instantly bailed out and made whole—courtesy of everyone’s tax dollars.
But lookie here. Who else is among the many federal income-tax-dodgers-who-will-vote-for-Obama-no-matter-what:
Smaller but significant numbers of the higher-income earners are also exempt: The same data shows that in 2011, 78,000 tax filers with incomes between $211,000 and $533,000 paid no income taxes; 24,000 households with incomes of $533,000 to $2.2 million paid no income taxes, and 3,000 tax filers with incomes above $2.2 million paid no income taxes.
Well, well, well.
That 47% of our citizens pay no federal income tax is appalling, but not for the reasons CPD cases believe. It is appalling that in the richest country in the world in all of human history, nearly half the population is too poor to afford even a modest federal income tax. Equally appalling: a sizable number of rich, entitled doucheweasels do not pay any either. I wonder how they vote? (No, I do not wonder how they vote.)
Speaking of voting, Mitt Romney is wrong that his “job is not to worry about those people,” the ones who pay no income taxes who he’ll never convince to “take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” That is because so many of these federal income-tax-dodgers-who-will-vote-for-Obama-no-matter-what will not, in fact, vote for Obama. Take a look at this map:
Here’s an explanation from Dylan Matthews at WaPo (in a piece aptly titled “Mitt Romney will probably get 95 electoral votes from ‘moocher’ states. Obama will probably get 5.”:
The Tax Foundation put out this helpful map of the states with the highest and lowest percentage of people who don’t file income tax returns. The biggest non-filing states are — except Florida and New Mexico — solid red states…
[I]n terms of the electoral college, many of the states Romney is taking for granted, and some of the states he’s working hardest to win, have the highest populations of “takers” he derided as part of the Democrats’ base.
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My Many Tens of Loyal Readers™ may recall my post from February Yes for me, but not for thee, in which I dissected a loooong New York Times piece entitled Even Critics of Safety Net Increasingly Depend on It. Some interesting research was cited in that article:
One of the oldest criticisms of democracy is that the people will inevitably drain the treasury by demanding more spending than taxes. The theory is that citizens who get more than they pay for will vote for politicians who promise to increase spending.
Dean P. Lacy, a professor of political science at Dartmouth College, has identified a twist on that theme in American politics over the last generation. Support for Republican candidates, who generally promise to cut government spending, has increased since 1980 in states where the federal government spends more than it collects. The greater the dependence, the greater the support for Republican candidates.
Conversely, states that pay more in taxes than they receive in benefits tend to support Democratic candidates. And Professor Lacy found that the pattern could not be explained by demographics or social issues.
The authors of the Times piece are mystified by this seeming paradox and offer no explanation for it: they merely document it. The explanation is no mystery at the Palace, however. As I said then (have said before, am saying today, and will no doubt have occasion to say again), the explanation is Conservative Personality Disorder:
[T]hey’re narcissists. I have yet to meet a conservative of any stripe whose political “principles,” when it comes right down to it, do not distill to “I’ve got mine, fuck you. And, especially, fuck them.”
As a case study, in that Times piece we met Mr. Gulbranson, who lives in Chisago County, a suburb of northeast Minneapolis:
[Gulbranson] owns a logo apparel shop, deals in jewelry on the side and referees youth soccer games. He makes about $39,000 a year and wants you to know that he does not need any help from the federal government.
I noted that if he ever did need help from the federal government—for things like adequate food, shelter or healthcare— I would gladly support it with my tax dollars. After all, he is a fellow citizen, and we are all in this together.
He says that too many Americans lean on taxpayers rather than living within their means.
Well, he’s the expert, so it must be true. Oh, wait. [Citation needed, Mr. Gulbranson.]
He supports politicians who promise to cut government spending. In 2010, he printed T-shirts for the Tea Party campaign of a neighbor, Chip Cravaack, who ousted this region’s long-serving Democratic congressman.
Yet this year, as in each of the past three years, Mr. Gulbranson, 57, is counting on a payment of several thousand dollars from the federal government, a subsidy for working families called the earned-income tax credit. He has signed up his three school-age children to eat free breakfast and lunch at federal expense. And Medicare paid for his mother, 88, to have hip surgery twice.
Why, if we did not know what a principled conservative Mr. Gulbranson is, we might get the mistaken impression that he and his family are leaning on taxpayers rather than “living within their means.” To recap: Mr. Gulbranson and his family are receiving taxpayer-funded benefits in order to live a decent quality of life. But “the problem,” you see, is that all those other Americans “lean on taxpayers” rather than “living within their means.”
I’ve got mine, fuck you — and especially, fuck them.
Then there’s this paragon of conservative virtue:
Brian Qualley, 49, has a sister who survived a brain tumor but was disabled by its removal. The government pays for her care at an assisted-living facility. Their mother scrapes by on Social Security.
Mr. Qualley said that the government should provide for those who need help, but that too much money was being wasted.
Mr. Qualley, who owns a tattoo parlor in Harris, north of North Branch, said some of his customers paid with money from government disability checks.
It’s okay, though, because Brian Qualley and his family deserve to benefit from government assistance. I’ve got mine, fuck you.
Gordy Peterson, 62, who has used a wheelchair for 30 years since a construction accident…
“I’m a conservative,” he said by way of introducing himself. He built his own house before his injury and paid for it in cash. He still thinks the government should operate that way. He never intended to depend on federal aid and said he sometimes felt guilty about it.
But for the last three decades, he has received a regular check from the Social Security disability insurance program, and Medicare has helped to pay his medical bills.
Mr. Peterson used a workers’ compensation settlement to buy a farm that he managed with his brother-in-law, who is mentally handicapped and also on government disability.
You see, he and his family deserve to benefit from government assistance. In other words: “I’ve got mine…
(all together now…)
Conservative economic policies have devastated the middle class over the last 30 years — deregulation, outsourcing, wage stagnation, the financialization of our economy, etc. — and overall, American standards of living have cratered and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. And yet the same wingnuts who enabled all of this want more of it. They cannot get enough.
The cult of self-sufficiency is a dangerous myth. Humans are a social species: our interdependency is just a fact, no matter how stratified our society may be. The number of our fellow citizens who are truly self-sufficient is vanishingly small: How many American families grow all of their own food on their own land, make their own clothes from the fibers at hand, build housing from their own timber, home-school their children using only their own ingenuity, and never receive professional health care? Is it even possible for any significant fraction of 311 million American people to live this way within the geographic borders of the U.S.? More important, how many Americans would want to?
I would bet that even our friend Mr. Gulbranson would not.
The (allegedly) more sophisticated conservative argument goes like this: private industry and free markets are the best solution to every problem, and in any event they are always better than a government solution. Conservatives have gone so far with this “logic” that they have even privatized the U.S. fucking military. But this argument is demonstrably, abjectly, irredeemably false. Healthcare is but one instance where it is beyond dispute that a government-run, single-payer system for universal health care is by far the best system ever devised by humans, for health and for the bottom line. This is why the arguments one hears in opposition to it all boil down to nothing other than “I’ve got mine, fuck you.”
In summary, Mitt Romney is wrong, factually and ethically, about a whole lot of stuff that comes out of his mouth. I’m going to go way out on a limb here and say there’s a good chance that he is wrong about everything that matters. He’s a conservative.
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I just checked: the Dow Jones Industrial Average is currently 13604.87. I’m sure all the minimum wage workers and other undeserving miscreants with no medical benefits are absolutely thrilled.
*I think it’s a fair bet that middle class families earning between $33,542 and $59,486 are likely zeroing out whatever federal taxes they would otherwise owe with deductions and tax credits, such as mortgage interest, extraordinary health care expenses (because the rubes don’t “deserve” universal, single-payer healthcare), charitable/church donations, etc. Of course the same deductions are available to everyone, including Mr. Romney. I am nearly 100% certain that he takes full advantage of them.