Jack Kelly: Too many depend on government for aid

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It's like a cat with nine lives, or a zombie, liberal journalists must think. They keep declaring the Romney campaign dead -- most recently last Tuesday, when Mother Jones made public a video of Mitt Romney speaking at a closed door fundraiser in May.

• The video was a "political earthquake," said Diane Sawyer of ABC News.

• "Very, very damaging," said Piers Morgan of CNN. "A monumental gaffe."

• "Today, Mitt Romney lost the election," said Josh Barro of Bloomberg News.

• "The last three weeks for Mitt Romney have been about as brutal as we can remember for any presidential candidate," said Chuck Todd of NBC News.

Yet two days later the race was tied at 47 percent, according to Gallup's tracking poll. Eight days earlier, President Barack Obama led, 50-44.

What was Mr. Romney's "monumental gaffe?"

"There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president, no matter what," he said. "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. ... These are people who pay no income tax."

It wasn't his job to "worry about those people," Mr. Romney said. "I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."

The "really disastrous thing" about those remarks, Mr. Barro said, is "the combination of contempt and pity that Romney shows for anyone who isn't going to vote for him."

Where Mr. Barro sees "contempt," University of Wisconsin law professor Ann Althouse, an Obama voter in 2008, doesn't. Mr. Romney is "not saying he doesn't care about them as citizens and human beings, just that he won't devote any attention to trying to cull some of their votes," she noted.

Mr. Romney was speaking an important, if inconvenient, truth, said Washington Post economics writer Robert Samuelson.

"The fact that roughly half of Americans receive some government payment to which they feel morally entitled is a big part of our budget problem," Mr. Samuelson said. "Dealing with it ought to define the next president's mission."

But Mr. Romney overstated it. In 49 percent of American households, at least one member receives a government benefit, according to the Census Bureau. That's up from 30 percent in the 1980s, 44.4 percent four years ago, and 47 percent last year. Last year, 46.4 percent of households paid no federal income tax, according to the Tax Policy Center.

There are 2.6 people in the average household so Mr. Romney's 47 percent figure overstates the dependency problem, and may understate the tax problem.

Someone in 26.4 percent of households is enrolled in Medicaid. The other figures are: Social Security, 16.2 percent; food stamps, 15.8 percent; Medicare, 14.9 percent; rental assistance, 4.5 percent, and unemployment compensation, 1.7 percent.

Many in the 47 percent support Mr. Romney. I'm an example. I had to sign up for Medicare this month, but I didn't change my political views when I did so. The other programs are for the needy, but Social Security and Medicare are financed by payroll taxes. And many who are getting food stamps or unemployment compensation would rather have a job.

But there are, alas, many who wouldn't. "A huge percentage of Obama's voters are basically wards of the state," said Howie Carr, a radio talk show host and political columnist in Boston. "There are millions of them, and they have no intention of voting for anyone who might want them to ever go out and work for a living."

Liberals think we should have our feelings hurt because Mr. Romney's comment lumps us in with the deadbeats. But even though Mr. Romney's math was off, we know what he meant, and we agree with him.

According to a Rasmussen poll last week, 64 percent of adults think there are too many Americans dependent on government for financial aid. Most of us prefer work to welfare, opportunity to dependence. If the election hinges on this, Mr. Romney will win.

jackkelly

Jack Kelly is a columnist for The Press and The Blade of Toledo, Ohio. jkelly@post-gazette.com, 412 263-1476. This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To log in or subscribe, go to: http://press.post-gazette.com/


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