Washington Secrets

It's worse than Romney said: 49% on federal aid, 49% pay no tax

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Politics,Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets,Columnists

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney underplayed the percentage of Americans receiving some federal aid in that new clandestine fundraising video that is giving liberals, the media and President Obama's team fits.

While Romney suggested that 47 percent of Americans are dependent on government aid of some sort, the number is actually slightly higher. Over 49 percent of Americans live in a household where somebody is dependent on federal assistance, according to federal statistics.

And the percentage of people who don't pay taxes is worse than Romney pegged at 47 percent. According to the Heritage Foundation, it's over 49 percent. This is from a report they just issued: "In 1962, the first year measured in the Index of Dependence on Government, the percentage of people who did not pay federal income taxes themselves and who were not claimed as dependents by someone who did pay federal income taxes stood at 23.7 percent; it fell to 12 percent by 1969 before beginning a ragged and ultimately steady increase. By 2000, the percentage was 34.1 percent; by 2009, it was 49.5 percent. In short, the country is now at a point where roughly one-half of 'taxpayers' do not pay federal income taxes, and where most of that same population receives generous federal benefits."

U.S. Census figures cited by multiple sources including the Wall Street Journal, CNN and Heritage, find that American reliance on federal assistance has surged under Obama. When he took office, it was 44.4 percent. And it's a trend: some 30 percent relied on assistance in the 1980s.

Some of that, of course, individual Americans paid for, such as Social Security and Medicare. According to the sources, the breakdown goes like this:

-- 15 percent of American households are on food stamps.

-- 15 percent tap Medicare.

-- 26 percent use Medicaid.

-- 2 percent are on unemployment.

-- 16 percent receive Social Security.

Overall, under Obama federal aid to health, welfare, housing and retirement programs has spiked. But it's dropped dramatically to education and rural and agricultural programs, said Heritage.

What Romney inartfully said has been echoed by small government advocates for years. But for critics of expanded federal aid that concern is reaching a crisis as they worry the government is spending itself into bankruptcy and American liberty and independence is evaporating.

Said Heritage's federal spending experts William Beach and Patrick D. Tyrrell in their latest report on government dependence: "Perhaps the greatest danger is that the swelling ranks of Americans who enjoy government services and benefits for which they pay few or no taxes will lead to a spreading sense of entitlement that is simply incompatible with self-government. Are Americans completely indifferent to history's many examples of republican government collapsing under the weight of just such populations? Are Americans near a tipping point in the nature of their government and the principles that tie it to civil life?"

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