It’s the spending! Romney muddles the message on non-taxpayers

Politicians are not always good at the “telephone” game. Witness Mitt Romney.

“Telephone,” as you may remember from your childhood, is the game in which one person whispers a phrase to another person, who whispers it to another, and so on, until the last person in line. When the message reaches the final set of ears, it’s usually been misspoken so many times as to be unrecognizable to the original speaker.

That game came to mind this week when a video surfaced, depicting Romney speaking at a May 17 fund-raiser in Boca Raton, Fla. Romney is recorded saying, in part:

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 …

And I mean the president starts off with 48, 49 — he starts off with a huge number. These are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax.

All this was by way of explaining why he would not even attempt to sell these Americans on his message of low taxes against Obama’s plan to soak the rich.

After this revelation, liberals declared Romney’s candidacy dead (don’t worry; the man trailing Barack Obama by less than 3 percentage points on average has been similarly pronounced “dead” many times before). Conservatives, meanwhile, argued about whether Romney’s words would hurt his chances because they were, by his own admission, “not elegantly stated” — or whether Romney was telling a hard truth about government dependence that voters would receive well.

As much as I’d like to believe the latter group is correct, and as much as there is a fundamental truth here about the size, scope and role of government that distinguishes Romney from Obama in this race, I have to point out a problem. The “telephone” problem.

Set aside Romney’s incorrect conflation of: a) people who pay no federal income taxes, b) people who are dependent on government, and c) people who support Obama. There is some overlap among these groups, but they hardly represent a monolithic bloc totaling 47 percent of of the electorate.

The “47 percent” statistic itself is well-circulated among conservatives, but for a very different reason.

As far as I know — and I wasn’t the first person in this game of “telephone” — that statistic began as a counter-argument to the liberal claim that “the rich” don’t pay their fair share of taxes.

In recent years, the top 1 percent of earners in America have paid more than a third of all income taxes. The top 5 percent, about three-fifths.

The bottom 50 percent bear almost none of the income-tax burden (if they have jobs, they do contribute payroll taxes) because most of them pay nothing or are even net recipients.

So, the point of this “47 percent” statistic is to refute the “fair share” claim. After all, if 47 percent pay nothing and the top 5 percent pay a majority, how can we say “the rich” aren’t paying a “fair share”?

But this is not necessarily an argument for raising taxes on the 47 percent. In fact, conservative policy created much of the 47 percent.

The child tax credit is a social-conservative initiative. The refundable Earned Income Tax Credit is largely based on the “negative income tax” proposed almost 50 years ago by conservative economist Milton Friedman.

In theory, these tax credits ought to be a way to make government smaller and lower-income workers less dependent on it, by eliminating the need for Washington to spend billions on redundant, bureaucratic (but I repeat myself) programs that have not appreciably cut the poverty rate over time.

It hasn’t worked out that way, because those programs remain. But let’s not forget the real issue here for this election, and what probably was part of that first “telephone” whisper about the size and scope of government:

It’s the spending, stupid.

– By Kyle Wingfield

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307 comments Add your comment

JamVet

September 20th, 2012
12:15 pm

I see the hate-filled one-note wonder has escaped Bookman’s this afternoon.

Don’t be timid, tibby. Come on over to JB’s and name some names.

Oh that’s right, oh hateful one! You shat the bed so bad, so many times, you can’t! As in never, ever.

LOL at your expense…

Stephenson Billings

September 20th, 2012
12:15 pm

The US Senate will vote at 2 PM ET today on a Continuing Resolution that will fully fund the President’s Health Care Law for the next 6 months.

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

September 20th, 2012
12:18 pm

Oh, and since we’ve veered into Bob Woodward territory, what do you people think about the Obama Justice Dept. working in concert with the uber-liberal Media Matters on story lines and blogging subjects favorable to Obama and denigrating conservatives?

Rather Nixonian of the current office holder, isn’t it?

Even with a White House “enemies list”, everything old is new again . . . :D

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

September 20th, 2012
12:20 pm

Pardon me, JDW.

I get the two of you confused sometimes, as you post the same tripe so often.

@@

September 20th, 2012
12:22 pm

Totally off-topic but REALLY!!??!!

An attorney for Victor Hill argued Monday some of the charges against the once and possibly future Clayton County sheriff should be dropped because his personal use of county-issued cars and spending campaign money for non-election reasons was little more than stealing from himself and not crimes.

The federal government reminds me of a larger than life version of Victor, our own “Little Napoleon.”

“In politics, absurdity is not a handicap.”–Napoleon Bonaparte

citizen

September 20th, 2012
12:22 pm

Read The Lewis Powell Memo -’ Corporate Blueprint to Dominate Democracy’ written in 1971 that describes a strategy for the corporate takeover of politics, judicial law, (ie: Citizens United decision), communications and education. (See the constitutional amendment on the ballot this fall for the Charter School Commission.).
I’m afraid we all had too much trust in our leaders that we still had our eye on the ball of what conservative means and what liberalism means that we allowed a takeover by the wealthy and now they are the global wealthy.

JamVet

September 20th, 2012
12:24 pm

Apparently someone has no earthly idea what Nixon’s “hit list” was.

Because his analogy is absolutely silly…

The official purpose, as described by the White House Counsel’s Office, was to “screw” Nixon’s political enemies, by means of tax audits from the Internal Revenue Service, and by manipulating “grant availability, federal contracts, litigation, prosecution, etc.

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

September 20th, 2012
12:25 pm

“because his personal use of county-issued cars and spending campaign money for non-election reasons was little more than stealing from himself and not crimes.”

That guy has gotta be a lib . . .

md

September 20th, 2012
12:25 pm

“judicial law, (ie: Citizens United decision)”

Ever since corps took over the media, CU was bound to happen………funny how so many have problems with CU but never seemed to have a problem with media corps being the only corps expressing an agenda/opinion.

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

September 20th, 2012
12:27 pm

AmVet, trying to rationalize what this Justice Dept. is doing (on taxpayer time, btw) is normal for the delusional.

Which is why I expected it from you . . .

@@

September 20th, 2012
12:30 pm

Tiberius:

Victor fancies himself a little Obama…he has the gift of gab.

@@

September 20th, 2012
12:31 pm

And yes…Victor is a Democrat.

Thulsa Doom

September 20th, 2012
12:31 pm

“That guy has gotta be a lib . . .”

Well of course he’s a lib and a Dem. How else could a politician facing 37 felony counts get elected? Can anyone imagine a Republican facing 37 felony counts getting elected???

gm

September 20th, 2012
12:34 pm

With the stock market at all time high is that redistribution? what about ssi, medicaide?

Please all right wing hypocrites please return your pell grants, maybe this could help pay down the debt””””

gm

September 20th, 2012
12:38 pm

@@

How about Newt?, 3 adultry affairs, 30 page ethic violations as speaker, what form of Gov does that reminds you of? or Nathan Deal how many ethic violation did he have before he resigned as Sen?

Hillbilly D

September 20th, 2012
12:38 pm

I have a bit of a different take on Victor’s lawyer and his line of defense. One of the famous lawyers, and I believe it was Clarence Darrow, said that “If the law’s against you, you talk about the evidence; if the evidence is against you, you talk about the law; if they’re both against you, you talk about what’s right”.

Sounds to me like Victor’s lawyer is having to try to make chicken salad out of chicken poop (sometimes pronounced differently). I doubt political leanings have anything to do with it. He’s got his work cut out for him but you can never can tell what a jury will do.

Brosephus™

September 20th, 2012
12:39 pm

Can anyone imagine a Republican facing 37 felony counts getting elected???

Depending on the location and the office, yeah it could happen. Partisans are the same regardless of the party they support. There are many on both sides of the political spectrum that vote party over substance. To claim otherwise is a trip through fantasyland.

Thulsa Doom

September 20th, 2012
12:40 pm

“With the stock market at all time high is that redistribution?”

gm,

The stock market started surging when the Fed announced QE3 which is another round of money printing. The anticipation is that much of that newly printed money is going to go into equities and hence the surge in stock prices. So the people making the money are the fatcats on Wall st. More of Obama’s trickle down economics for ya.

So who will be hurt with this? Yep- everyday Americans and especially the poor and middle class folks who will see their purchasing power decreased just as it has decreased something like almost 10% since Obama came into office and we started all the money printing.

And the true irony of all this is that there will be Democrat voters like you who still think Obama is for the little guy.

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

September 20th, 2012
12:45 pm

“what about ssi, medicaide?”

gm, in case you missed it, the government takes money from you early in life, so that you can have it later in life. And you have no choice in the matter.

Now, if you’d like to stop taking it and give us a choice, I’d gladly give it up.

Otherwise, that is not redistribution. That is simply getting back what was taken by force.

Thulsa Doom

September 20th, 2012
12:47 pm

Brocephus,

I’ve seen Rs re-elected who’ve been under the cloud of an ethics investigation. But I’ve never seen one re-elected facing so many felony counts or re-elected after being caught smoking crack like a Marion Barry. Electing and re-electing crooked and felonious politicians seems to be the purview of the Democrats from what I’ve seen.

Hillbilly D

September 20th, 2012
12:50 pm

The stock market has about as much effect on the real economy as a trip to Vegas.

Thulsa Doom

September 20th, 2012
12:52 pm

gm,

Was Newt facing felony charges? From what I remember his ethics violations had something to do with a history course he was teaching at a local college and the teaching of this course somehow being a conflict of interest. Seems kinda petty to me. And there are numerous Congressman of both parties who face much more serious ethics violations regarding money, taxes, etc. Folks like tax cheats Tim Geitner, Charley Rangel, etc.

Finn McCool (The System isn't Broken; It's Fixed)

September 20th, 2012
12:56 pm

Pawlenty jumps from the Romney Titanic voyage.

David R. Boag, DDS

September 20th, 2012
1:03 pm

Junior @ 11:29,

“So, we had a surplus a while back.
Then we gave it all away though tax cuts and a couple skirmishes.
And the only option is to cut spending?
And not let the tax cuts expire?

That’s the problem with short term memory.”

The problem is that you didn’t look at BOTH sides of the ledger in your question. During the same period of time that the tax cuts were given, what happened to the spending? Which got further from where it was originally? If the FAR bigger problem is that the spending exploded while revenue decreased some, where do you focus? You could say the same thing about cutting the spending back to those levels, but doing that will hurt more, so I noticed you didn’t include that in your solution options.

If you are going to accuse people of having bad memories, you’d better remember everything yourself!

@@

September 20th, 2012
1:07 pm

gm:

Newt’s ethics violations?

It ended with a special counsel hired by the House Ethics Committee holding Gingrich to an astonishingly strict standard of behavior, after which Gingrich in essence pled guilty to two minor offenses. Afterwards, the case was referred to the Internal Revenue Service, which conducted an exhaustive investigation into the matter. And then, after it was all over and Gingrich was out of office, the IRS concluded that Gingrich did nothing wrong. After all the struggle, Gingrich was exonerated.

As far as his three marriages…I wasn’t looking for a husband. I was voting for a nominee.

I didn’t vote for Deal. I voted for Monds (I).

Hillbilly:

He’s got his work cut out for him but you can never can tell what a jury will do.

‘Ya think??? I never thought the voters would elect him. He’ll be judged by a jury of his peers…the people who elected him.

WRITE-IN GARLAND WADKINS! That’s WADKINS with a “D” not a “T”.

(ISH)

Old Timer

September 20th, 2012
1:10 pm

Forget about the petty stuff. Our current president has no fiscal or foreign policy. He just talks in circles. As an orator he excels, as a President he fails. End of conversation.

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

September 20th, 2012
1:12 pm

“Pawlenty jumps from the Romney Titanic voyage.”

Finn proves once again how little he knows about political campaigns. You have an honorary campaign co-chair (largely unpaid and with no strategy input) leaving to get a job that pays the bills.

Absolutely nothing to see here. But Finn will spin it nevertheless.

td

September 20th, 2012
1:14 pm

Hillbilly D

September 20th, 2012
12:38 pm

I agree that Hill’s lawyers are trying to best defend their client. It is not about politics.

Brosephus™

September 20th, 2012
1:17 pm

Doom

There are websites devoted to the shenanigans of politicians from both parties. I’m not naive enough to make the claim that one party isn’t capable of electing someone facing charges. I’m also not naive enough to think that neither party has elected or re-elected someone who’s done something criminal, whether they’ve been convicted or not. I’m not just talking about ethics investigations either.

If you’ve watched every single election on every level in every state and feel that you can make such an assertion, then more power to you. I won’t defend either party as I think they’re both full of criminal behavior.

td

September 20th, 2012
1:17 pm

Gallop now says the race is 47-47. The most interesting number in the poll is Obama’s approval rating is down to 46%.

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

September 20th, 2012
1:19 pm

Haven’t seen that Gallup poll yet, but if it was taken after the embassy attacks, Obama is in trouble.

Towncrier

September 20th, 2012
1:25 pm

Great column on liberal doublespeak and hypocrisy regarding the “free speech” and the criticism of religion:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390444450004578002010241044712.html

Towncrier

September 20th, 2012
1:25 pm

td

September 20th, 2012
1:26 pm

According to the website the poll was an average of polling done the 17th – 19th. This would include the embassy attacks and the Romney video.

Thulsa Doom

September 20th, 2012
1:30 pm

Brocephus,

Yes. There are shenanigans on both sides and websites devoted to both. What I am saying to you is that just in general observations of watching the news and reading the papers that corruption and felonious behavior seems to be much more widely accepted in the Dem party. I think you’re just fooling yourself if you don’t believe that. And I also believe that if we just look at the Congress alone that the shenanigans of the Dems far outweighs those of the Repubs.

Last I think its telling in the expectations and differences in the 2 parties as to standards of behavior of their politicians. Newt had the common decency to resign even though the charges and evidence against him were minor and pretty flimsy. Did Barney Frank have the common decency to resign when it was learned his lover was running a prostitution ring out of Frank’s townhouse? And again. Do you honestly think that Repubs in a major city run by Repubs are going to re-elect a Repub mayor caught smoking crack or a Repub sheriff facing 37 felony counts.

The Repubs generally have a standard of behavior and common decency which is to be adhered to. One more example that illustrates it. What happened when that NY R congressman was busted advertising on craigslist shirtless looking for an affair? He immediately resigned as he should have. So what happened with Anthony Weiner and his fiasco? The guy tried hanging on for weeks until it cooled down and almost got away with outlasting the scandal before he finally resigned.

@@

September 20th, 2012
1:31 pm

I’m forced to vote for people with questionable ethics all the time here in Clayton County.

HECK! Our police chief is under investigation. Three of our commissioners have been subpeonaed to testify before a grand jury.

I spend my life waiting for the other shoe to drop ’round these parts.

kelly

September 20th, 2012
1:31 pm

When you have to take that much time to explain something so simple, you’re losing.

Iowa St Fair

September 20th, 2012
1:38 pm

Thulsa

The Administration with most investigated, indicted and convicted would be?

And did it stop people from voting for that Administration’s VP for President?

Iowa St Fair

September 20th, 2012
1:40 pm

Thulsa

If you feel better about yourself because you think somehow a D or R makes the politician or voter a better person, have it at.

Iowa St Fair

September 20th, 2012
1:44 pm

Thulsa

You sure are disingenuous with your examples. You purposely chose they ones that meet your narrative. To my point, it makes your feel better.

It is funny, I admit

Iowa St Fair

September 20th, 2012
1:46 pm

Thulsa Doom

September 20th, 2012
1:50 pm

Iowa St. Fair,

An administration doesn’t have hundreds of cabinet members- there’s not very many cabinet members as you doubtless realize.

Congress has hundreds of members. Between the 2 parties which one do you think has more criminal and questionable ethics and dealings amongst its party members?

Iowa state fair interesting handle btw. Reminds me of those flash mob attacks on fairgoers.

“For the past year, black flash mobs have been targeting white people in multiple cities across the US. Starting with the “Beat Whitey Night” at the Iowa State Fair”

Iowa St Fair

September 20th, 2012
1:51 pm

@@

Is someone making you live in Clayton Cty? You do have a choice. If it isn’t getting any better, whining because they are Democrat seems like an excuse. MOVE.

@@

September 20th, 2012
1:51 pm

Going back…w-a-a-a-ay back.

Newport Sex Scandal: Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt initiated an investigation into allegations of “immoral conduct” (homosexuality) at the Naval base in Newport, Rhode Island. After the report, the investigators themselves were also accused of homosexuality.

Too funny!

Thulsa Doom

September 20th, 2012
1:53 pm

“To my point, it makes your feel better”

So on top of being a mind reader you have the innate ability to feel people’s emotions. You’re quite a talented guy.

@@

September 20th, 2012
1:54 pm

Iowa:

I’m working on it. Has nothing to do with Clayton County’s politics. It’s a four-lane road that’s gettin’ me gone. That and too many people.

Not whining. I often recite the serenity prayer if that’s alright with you.

Thulsa Doom

September 20th, 2012
1:55 pm

Iowa St. Fair,

I can’t speak for @@ but I would assume that after the Clayton county school board fiasco and school accreditation issues that home values sank like a rock in Clayton. She probably would lose a pile of dough if she tried selling her home. Besides doesn’t Clayton have boatloads of those foreclosed homes already on the market which would make selling her home that much more difficult?

Towncrier

September 20th, 2012
1:56 pm

“What I am saying to you is that just in general observations of watching the news and reading the papers that corruption and felonious behavior seems to be much more widely accepted in the Dem party. I think you’re just fooling yourself if you don’t believe that.”

I think the evidence supports your conclusion, TD.

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

September 20th, 2012
1:56 pm

“If it isn’t getting any better, whining because they are Democrat seems like an excuse. MOVE.”

Nice to know that somebody doesn’t have a home underwater in value due to mismanagement via liberal policies, Iowa.

These Lying Eyes!!!

September 20th, 2012
1:57 pm