Last Thursday, September 13, a few bloggers, both Democratic and conservative were saying that Romney’s were claiming that Mitt Romney’s egregious exploitation of the deaths of an American diplomat and two Marines was the end of the Romney campaign. As Mitt Romney told nearly half of America that they were leaches, there was a similar round of hand wringing from some Democrats and conservatives. Both of these events and the subsequent reactions remind me of a blog post I read before the 2004 election. I don not remember him, but the post got a fair amount of attention at the time. he was not a political blogger per se but was occasionally posting some of his personal observations. he noted that his grandmother was going to vote for Bush. Even by the end of his first term Bush 43 has rung up quite a list of scandals, criminal negligence, sleazy exploitation of a national tragedy, various acts of corruption and general malfeasance in governance. The blogger went on to very politely and diplomatically explain some of those things to his beloved grandmother, to no avail. The post was a nice combination of humor and a look at the personal psychology of voting, and partisanship. In his summary he noted that short of a hundred witnesses and video tape of Bush having relations on the White House lawn with farm animals his grandmother and people that thought like her were going to vote for Bush regardless of how many reasons that Bush was hurting the country. It is also the reason that Romney, who conservatives were never in love with, in the way they were with Reagan and Bush 43 ( until the second year of his second term anyway when his disapproval ratings reached an historic 62%), will probably shed some voters, but is still in the running. What Romney said in that video is not new in terms of what the conservative movement believes is sociology-economic gospel, which is why he has doubled down on what he said, simply claiming that he could have been more eloquent about how he said it:
“There are 47 percent who are with him (Obama), who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them,” Romney is heard saying on the video. He also said the 47 percent did not pay taxes.
The video gave the Obama campaign a chance to return to a popular theme – that the multi-millionaire Romney is an out-of-touch elitist.
“It’s not elegantly stated. Let me put it that way,” Romney said in response.
“I’m sure I could state it more clearly and in a more effective way than I did in a setting like that,” he told the news conference in California.
However, Romney stuck by his video-taped remarks, saying it was a message that he would continue to carry in the run-up to the Nov. 6 presidential election.
“Frankly, my discussion about lowering taxes isn’t as attractive to them and therefore I’m not likely to draw them into my campaign as those in the middle,” Romney said.
“This is really more about the political process of winning the election and of course I want to help all Americans have a bright and prosperous future and I’m convinced that the president’s approach has not done that and will not do that.”
The reason the 47% world view is outrageous is that it is wrong on the facts and the thinking behind it is a cancer eating away at American democracy and capitalism. Romney has clearly stated the conservative movement’s dogma that those in modest economic circumstances belong there. They belong there because they are not deserving, they are not virtuous enough or working hard enough. The wealthy – people such as Romney, Shedlon Adelson, the Koch brothers, the billionaires that contribute to American Crossraods PAC, Frank VanderSloot, Bob Perry, Wayne Hughes, Fred Eshelman and Robert Mercer believe that something akin to divine providence made them very wealthy and just as importantly, deserving of that wealth over others. They are the ruling class because the rules of social-Darwinism are at work. Half of America is struggling because they lack some magical ingredient. There is no use trying to get everyone a good education and not the guarantee, but the opportunity for a reasonable degree of financial success because nature has divided the deserving from the undeserving and any attempts by bleeding heart liberals to undue what nature intended is a kind of economic and social blasphemy. That is not how conservatives state their case of course. Even the most die hard white high school graduate Rush Limbaugh acolyte likes to think if they play by the rules, they’ll get ahead. The people who really run the conservative movement – some included in that list of the right-wing elite – could care less if Billy Joe Bob climbs the economic ladder or is able to afford to send his kids to the state university. We’ll All Be Moochers Someday. Yay!
Romney’s argument is actually an amalgam of two separate, although related, claims that you hear all the time in conservative circles. The first is about who pays taxes and, more important, who does not. Romney pointed out that, today, 47 percent of Americans don’t pay federal income taxes. But Romney neglected to point out that most people still pay federal payroll taxes and state taxes, both of which are regressive. And most of the people who don’t pay income taxes now either paid them in the past or will pay them in the future.
[ ]…The other claim might seem the more defensible of the two: It’s the argument that many more people have become dependent on government programs, placing unsustainable claims on the federal treasury and reducing incentives to work. A seminal text for this argument is “A Nation of Takers: America’s Entitlement Epidemic,” an essay by Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute. Its key piece of evidence is the observation that, since 1960, “government transfers to individuals” have risen sharply. According to Eberstadt,
What is monumentally new about the American state today is the vast and colossal empire of entitlement payments that it protects, manages, and finances. Within living memory, the government of the United States has become an entitlements machine. As a day-to-day operation, the U.S. government devotes more attention and resources to the public transfers of money, goods, and services to individual citizens than to any other objective: and for the federal government, these amounts outpace those spent for all other ends combined.
Just as over the course of sxity years or more conservatives made the term liberal into a profanity, they have also done the same thing with entitlements. They’re called entitlements because people pay into the safety net – than having reached the terms of the means testing like old age or severe disabilities – people collect those entitlements. Entitlements is a good word describing a reasonable remedy for poverty that killed millions of Americans up until FDR’s New Deal. He made Social Security an insurance program that Americans paid into, because – his thinking at the time anyway – was that no one could argue against collecting benefits they had paid for. It was and still is a brilliant free market answer to social-economic problems that the private sector have no clue or interest in solving. Conservatives – the shakers and movers of the conservative movement like the ironically named Free Enterprise Institute – hate these programs because they interfere with nature punishing the undeserving – the serfs, the modern wage class, the dirty undeserving underclass. They see the economy and our culture as one where the overlords at the top should collect the vast majority of rewards and the peasants should get the crumbs they overlords are kind enough to let trickle down. This is from one of the links Jonathan Cohn’s listed as a rebuttal to AEI, We’re all dependent on government, and it has long been thus
Nicholas Eberstadt’s “A Nation of Takers” argues that too many Americans have become dependent on government benefits. Over the past half-century, he notes, the share who receive a government cash transfer and/or public health insurance — Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment compensation, and so on — has grown steadily. The United States, according to Eberstadt, is now “on the verge of a symbolic threshold: the point at which more than half of all American households receive, and accept, transfer benefits from the government.”
Eberstadt doesn’t contend that this has weakened our economy. His concern is moral. He believes reliance on government for help is undermining Americans’ “fierce and principled independence,” our “proud self-reliance.”
In Eberstadt’s way of seeing things, we are either givers or takers — taxpayers or benefit recipients. This is mistaken. Every American who doesn’t live entirely off the grid pays some taxes.
I use the not politically correct term s like overloads and wage slaves where as Eberstadt using framing like “fierce and principled independence,” our “proud self-reliance.” Eberstadt and his brethren of conservative social-Drawinism are very clever to use this framing. Americans – with our justifiable pride in trying to be as independent as possible, our goal not to be a burden on our families and society – are easy marks for arguments based on self blame and guilt. I and most of you reading this have worked with the lazy and incompetent so we know that a job is no guarantee that someone is a genuine producer. Certainly many of the bosses we have worked for from middle managers to corporate jet using executives are some of the laziest scoundrels in the country. That is reality. Not the pure merit based lala-land that AEI sells to the gullible, including why Romney is wealthy and why the brick laying, house painting, fire fighting class are ungrateful riff-raff,
Growth of government spending is not, for the most part, a consequence of rent-seeking special interests or narrow-minded bureaucrats looking to expand their turf. It’s a product of affluence. As people and nations get richer, they tend to be willing to allocate more money for insurance (protection against risks) and for fairness (extension of opportunity and security to those who are less fortunate). Rather than lamenting an imagined shift from self-reliance to dependence, or claiming that we can’t afford more security and fairness, the American right would do better to focus its energy and creativity on devising alternative ways of pursuing these goals. Government doesn’t always do things best; and even when it does, there almost always is room for improvement. Nicholas Eberstadt’s essay is emblematic of the backward-looking orientation that has dominated America’s right for the past three decades. It’s an orientation that in my view has long since outlived its usefulness. The country will benefit when more smart minds on that side of the spectrum turn their gaze forward.
There are also some good points here, The Theory of the Moocher Class by Mark Schmitt
The conservative narrative of the “entitlement society” ignores the fact that most Americans are both givers and takers.
As David Brooks points out, Mitt Romney’s remarks describing 47 percent of the population as, in effect, moochers who would vote for Obama because they got government benefits were not “off the cuff,” as he described them today. There is a carefully developed theory behind his words, which has seen expression in previous Romney speeches, such as one last December in which he described Obama’s vision as an “entitlement society” in which “everyone receives the same rewards,” but in which “we’ll all be poor.”
The lab where this theory that we’re headed toward a radical egalitarian state is being developed is the American Enterprise Institute, the oldest of the conservative think tanks and one that, much like Romney, has forsaken the traditional business-minded conservatism of, say, the first President Bush, for hard conservatism in which everything is a grand showdown of incompatible worldviews.
Every dollar every millionaire ever made can be traced back to someone doing some actual work or providing a service. The very wealthy just play with money. They bet that companies wage slaves will produce a top selling product. If they win the bet they get more money taxed at a lower rate than the woman who assembled the product or the guy who supervised the loading dock.
Another part of this conservative movement Big Lie is who is befitting from gov’mint the most. I’m talking about government actually redistributing capital, not entitlement insurance that working Americans pay for one way or another or at one time or another,
It’s also worth noting that most members of the “Nation of Takers” probably don’t think of ourselves as “takers.” In her important recent book, The Submerged State, Suzanne Mettler of Cornell looked at data asking people whether they had ever benefited from a government social program. While most participants in the classic, older transfer programs were aware that they had benefited from programs, most of the newer programs, especially those delivered through the tax code, were invisible to a majority of their beneficiaries. (Even 45 percent of Social Security recipients said they had never used a government program, which may reflect the belief that they are receiving benefits they’ve paid for.)
While many on the left latched onto this data as evidence that Americans, especially conservatives, are hypocrites who revel in public benefits while maintaining an anti-government stance, there’s really much more to it than that. Delivering benefits through “submerged state” programs has broken any kind of connection between citizens and the benefits we receive. We can’t have a clear debate about whether we’re a “Nation of Takers” or whether these benefits are essential to maintaining the promise of a middle class country if most of us don’t even know the role that government plays in our lives.
Conservatives and liberals built the submerged state together, often sharing a preference for delivering benefits through the tax code. But a concerted effort to reduce the long-term budget deficit, with tax reform at the center of it, creates an opportunity to surface submerged programs and replace them with far more efficient, visible, direct programs. When the public is fully aware of the benefits it’s receiving, it’s possible that voters will recoil in shock at the degree of their dependency, or perhaps they will regain a healthy respect for the role of government in providing some of the security that helps them take full advantage of their capacities and opportunities.
It’s disappointing that Romney shows no interest in either drawing out the submerged state or in the bipartisan project (of which his health reform in Massachusetts was a part) of smoothing the path to economic success for families. Instead, he just sees half the country as people who can’t be convinced “that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” That’s a very strange view of this country and a tragic development in modern conservatism.
Just two examples of what mark is talking about and they include Mr. Take Responsibility for Himself, Mitt Romney Benefited From Government Bailout: Report
Ultimately, Romney managed to convince Bain’s creditors to take a steep discount on Bain debt, using a threat to pay Bain executives big bonuses that would have stripped it of the cash it had left, leaving creditors with next to nothing, according to Rolling Stone.
One of those creditors was the FDIC, which had taken over a bank that loaned money to Bain. The FDIC ended up collecting about $14 million of the $30 million Bain owed it, according to the magazine. Taxpayers didn’t foot the bill for this, FDIC banks did, but RS points out that those costs were in turn probably absorbed by bank customers in the form of higher fees.
You and I, the people who just cannot learn to take responsibility for ourselves paid for Romney’s financial shenanigans. Being an upstanding straight talking guy I’m sure Mittens will be sending our refunds and an apology any day now. Romney’s ‘Crony Capitalism’: Bain’s Big Government Subsidies
But a closer look at Bain’s record under Romney reveals that the company relied on the very government subsidies that Romney and Tea Party conservatives routinely denounce as “crony capitalism.” The Los Angeles Times ran a big story yesterday about Bain’s investment in Steel Dynamics, which received $37 million in subsidies and grants to build a new plant in DeKalb County, Indiana. An analyst at the Cato Institute called it “corporate welfare.”
Romney has recently pointed to Steel Dynamics as one of his success stories at Bain, including in a new ad, which contributed to the 100,000 net jobs he’s claimed to have created at the firm (an incorrect figure he’s subsequently had to walk back). He never mentions that government subsidies played a major role in ensuring that success.
Phil Mattera, research director for Good Jobs First, provides a few more examples of the government subsidies Bain received during Romney’s tenure at his blog, Dirt Diggers Digest.
GS Industries. In 1996 American Iron Reduction LLC, a joint venture of GS Industries (which had been taken private by Bain in 1993) and Birmingham Steel, sought some $20 million in tax breaks in connection with its plan to build a plant in Louisiana’s St. James Parish (Baton Rouge Advocate, April 6, 1996). As the United Steelworkers union noted recently, GS Industries later applied for a federal loan guarantee, but before the deal could be implemented the company went bankrupt.
Sealy. A year after the 1997 buyout of this leading mattress company by Bain and other private equity firms, Sealy received $600,000 from state and local authorities in North Carolina to move its corporate offices, a research center and a manufacturing plant from Ohio (Greensboro News & Record, March 31, 1998). In 2004 Bain and its partners sold Sealy to another private equity group.
What Bush did, with Paul Ryan’s help, what Romney is doing, what the conservative movement is doing is undermining faith in our nation. By their actions they’re destroying faith that the free market really rewards work and they’re destroying the idea that government and people who really care about good governance can make a positive difference in people’s lives. Conservatives have it backwards, American workers are carrying the wealthy parasites on their backs. There is nothing patriotic about that.