Friday, September 21, 2012

47% v Redistribution

It's the battle of "secret" and "previously unreleased" recordings.  James E. Carter IV (grandson of former Pres. Jimmy Carter) provided to the Mother Jones website a video recording of Gov. Romney speaking at a private fundraiser in May (the recording appears to have been made clandestinely on a cell phone, in violation of Florida law.  No word on any legal action being considered).  In the snippet of the recording initially released, Gov. Romney is answering a question about motivating people to get behind his message of reduced taxes and reduced government spending:

"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.
I mean the president starts off with 47, 48, 49, he starts off with a huge number. These are people who pay no income taxes. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income taxes.  So our message of tax cuts doesn't connect. He'll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich. I mean, that's what they sell every four years.

So my job is not to worry about those people, I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives. What I have to do is convince the 5 to 10 percent in the center that are independents that are thoughtful, that look at voting one way or the other depending upon in some cases emotion, whether they like the guy or not, what he looks like."

Objectively, what's wrong with this statement?  It's factually correct in it's evaluation of those who currently have no net Federal Income Tax liability.  If anything, he understated the situation (latest estimates are that the number of Americans who have no net Federal Income Tax liability could be as high as 49%!)  Predictably, the response from the President and various Democrat politicians has been to claim that Mr. Romney is out of touch and doesn't care about the poor, is only out for his millionaire friends and big business.  If you really look at what he said, however, you will find his statement to be true.  Perhaps uncomfortably so.

Whenever you have conditioned a group of people to become reliant on government handouts, subsidies, welfare benefits, food stamps, etc, you have also sown the seeds of helpless dependency and an eventual fear of possible cuts to those benefits, regardless of whether or not they are financially sustainable.  If you are dependent on welfare or other government benefits for your whole existence, for example, and a Democrat says that if you don't vote for him/her their Republican opponent is going to cut your benefits, or your Social Security, or your VA Pension, you are naturally going to be afraid to take the risk of losing your sole source of support and will vote Democrat.  That's the point Mr. Romney was addressing.  That those who feel dependent on government aren't likely to take the risk of not voting for the candidate/party promising continued or increased benefits and taking the chance that the other party might have a better long term solution for their situation. 

It is also unarguable that a large proportion of those on government assistance DO, in fact, believe that they are victims.  Victims of an unfair society, victims of bad luck, victims of greedy corporations and businesses, victims of the evil rich guys, etc.  Seeing themselves as victims, they reasonably believe that it is one of the primary functions of government to address their victimized status by making sure they get what they are entitled to, by whatever means necessary.  Including, but not limited to, increasing taxes on the so-called rich to provide more benefits to the less fortunate (a recent poll found that 73% of Democrats believe that it is one of the functions of government to provide a guaranteed minimum level food and shelter to people).

Anyone who has listened to more than two of Mr. Romney's speeches knows that the claim that he doesn't care about the poor and can't relate to anyone who has suffered hard times is an absurd mis-characterization of the man's position.  What he has stated numerous times in different ways is that his vision for America is one where we take care of the least fortunate among us, "Americans are a caring people, we have always taken care of each other and we always will", and where the government maintains a safety net for those who suffer misfortune or illness/injury, helps them back on their feet, and then "gets out of their way and allows them to create their own future prosperity."  The "getting out of the way" is key.  You will never do as well as a Ward of the State as you will if you are allowed to live up to your full potential.

You can access the full transcript of Mr. Romneys speech here

Not to be outdone, the Romney team responded quickly with the following recording (not clandestine) of a speech given by then-state Senator Obama in 1998 at Loyola University:

I think that what we’re going to have do is somehow resuscitate the notion that government action can be effective at all. There has been a systematic, uh, I don’t think it’s too strong to call it propaganda campaign, uh, against the possibility of government action and its efficacy and I think some of it has been deserved. 

[The]Chicago Housing Authority has not been a model of good policy making. And neither, necessarily, have been the Chicago Public Schools. What that means then is that as we try to resuscitate this notion that we’re all in this thing together — leave nobody behind — we do have to be innovative in thinking, 'how…what are the delivery systems that are actually effective and meet people where they live?'

And my suggestion, I guess, would be that the trick — and this is one of the few areas where I think there are technical issues that have to be dealt with (as opposed to just political issues) — I think the trick is figuring out 'how do we structure government systems that pool resources and, hence, facilitate some redistribution?'”

Because I actually believe in redistribution — at least at a certain level to make sure that everybody’s got a shot."

Gov. Romney immediately jumped on these remarks to illustrate Pres. Obama's supposed antipathy to American business and entrepreneurs.   And he was attacked in turn for doing so.  As we did with Mr. Romney's remarks, let's look a little closer at what appears to be a pattern of belief for Mr. Obama:

He believes "... in redistribution — at least at a certain level to make sure that everybody’s got a shot." and wants to "...structure government systems that pool resources..." but he doesn't specify what that certain level is, leaving it open to speculation.  No one has asked him to clarify at what level someone has a "fair shot" at being a success or exactly what resources he wants to "pool".  Maybe we should give everyone who doesn't have it a check for $100,000 and tell them, "Here's your chance, make the best of it."?  What is most likely to happen in that circumstance is that a large majority of those who had nothing when they received the hundred grand would be broke within six months, due to poor decisions and wasteful spending (although they would place the blame on someone, or something, else), while those who already had some measure of success would have leveraged their money towards greater success and security  (There's a parable in the Bible that illustrates this lesson particularly well).  What would be the answer to the new problem of those who failed to succeed, even when they were given such a huge step up?  Do we make this redistribution an annual event?  At what point does the redistribution accomplish it's stated goal of "making sure everybody's got a shot"?  (Here's a clue:  Progressives equate having equal opportunity with experiencing equal results.)

You can access the Loyola speech here.

Does his belief in redistribution indicate at least a sympathetic leaning towards Socialism or Marxism?  Well, we do have a history of Pres. Obama's quotes on the subject, including "I just think that when you spread the wealth around, it's better for everybody"--Obama, speaking to "Joe the Plumber", "There will be a time for profits, a time for bonuses, but that time is not now."--Obama, on corporation's profitability during the financial crisis of 2008.  "The rich are going to have to do with a little bit less, so the rest can have a little bit more"--Michelle Obama, on increasing taxation on the rich.  "I didn't run for President to help out the fat cats and rich bankers on Wall Street"--Obama, speaking on his desire to increase regulation on banks and businesses.  "If you've got a successful business, you didn't build that!  Someone else...made that happen."--Obama, pointing to government assistance and infrastructure spending as the basis for success in business.  And finally, you have the biggest example of Pres. Obama's belief in centralized governmental power, Obamacare, which many have said is a back-door attempt to institute single payer (ie, government-run) healthcare:  “I happen to be a proponent of a single payer universal health care program. I see no reason why the United States of America, the wealthiest country in the history of the world....cannot provide basic health insurance to everybody."--Obama, speaking to the Illinois AFL-CIO June, 2003

Click here to access the healthcare recording.

While no recordings have as yet come to light of Barack Obama plainly saying "I believe in Socialism" or "I believe in Marxist ideals", the above at least seems to indicate beliefs directly at odds with the traditional American system of individualism, being able to enjoy the fruits of one's success and providing for one's self.  Especially when combined with his own assertion that his youth was spent in close association with various communists, anarchists, and student radicals as well as mentors the likes of Jeremiah Wright and Frank Marshall Davis.

So it would seem that we will, indeed, have a clear choice between two sharply contrasting ideologies concerning the type of country we will be going forward.  Will we choose the path of freedom, exceptionalism and self-determination?  Or the path of mediocrity, complacency and dependency on others?  Will we choose the uncertainty of attempting to achieve our own individual success?  Or will we give up independence in favor of a perception of security?  As I've written in earlier posts, we are near to the tipping point warned of by Alexis de Tocqueville, and others that the failure of the great American experiment will not come about from a foreign invader, but from within, once the population receiving from (and depending on) government matches or exceeds those whose labor and treasure supply government.  The balance is now 51% to 49%.

Which side are you on?

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