Opinion: Columnists

The truth about the 47%

Opinion,Conn Carroll,Columnists,Campaign 2012,Politics Digest

Mitt Romney may be tied with President Obama in the latest Gallup tracking poll, but that has not stopped the liberal media from declaring the race over ... again.

The pundits' latest excuse for writing off Romney is a grainy videotape from May in which Romney can barely be heard saying: "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."

Worse than most off the cuff remarks, the above quote is a mess of overlapping, but very different, demographics, ideas and statistics. Let's untangle them a bit.

First off, Romney seems dead accurate on his estimation of how many Americans will support Obama this fall. Gallup has Romney and Obama both pegged at 47 percent in its latest poll.

But, even though 46 percent of Americans pay no federal income tax, not only do many of those same Americans pay payroll taxes, but many of them, including the working poor and senior citizens, are probably going to vote for Romney this fall. These people are not victims, and Romney should not write them off.

Romney is much more on target when he suggests that Americans are dependent on government like never before. According to the Census Bureau, 49 percent of Americans currently live in a household where at least one person received some type of government benefit. (Medicaid, Social Security, food stamps, Pell Grants, etc.)

But again, many of the people in this group -- particularly Social Security and Medicare recipients -- will be voting for Romney in the fall too. And again, these people do not necessarily perceive themselves as victims. The federal government promised them that if they paid payroll taxes throughout their careers, then Social Security and Medicare would be there for them when they retired. Protecting these programs is no different than honoring a contract signed long ago. There is nothing more conservative than that.

Unfortunately, the federal government can't afford all the promises it has made. According to the 2012 Trustees Report, the Social Security system is already paying out $165 billion more in benefits than it will take in in taxes this year. The same is true for the Medicare Parts A, B, and D -- programs which were $225 billion in the red.

Instead of fixing this existing entitlement fiscal disaster, Obama chose instead to create a brand new one. Obamacare will cost $1.8 trillion during just the first 10 years. Obama has convinced the American people that all of this deficit spending can be paid for just by raising taxes on the rich. It isn't true.

According to Obama's own budget, his tax hikes will raise only $952 billion over the next 10 years. In the meantime, he plans to spend more than $40 trillion while adding another $6.4 trillion to our existing $16 trillion debt.

These numbers show why Obama's legislative affairs director, Rob Nabors, admitted to Bob Woodward, "You could raise all the taxes you want on millionaires ... and it would never raise enough."

The kernel of truth behind Romney's riff on the 47 percent is that our country simply can't afford Obama's spending plans without massive tax hikes on everyone ... even those who are currently struggling to get by while paying no income taxes at all.

Conn Carroll ( is a senior editorial writer for The Washington Examiner. Follow him on Twitter at @conncarroll.

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