Kadner: He’s the type who pays income tax
By Phil Kadner firstname.lastname@example.org September 18, 2012 11:06PM
Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney addresses the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Los Angeles, Monday, Sept. 17, 2012. (AP Photo/David McNew)
Updated: October 20, 2012 6:17AM
Mitt Romney apparently thinks I’m one of his people.
I pay federal income tax and don’t receive government subsidies. Therefore, I could be a Romney voter.
By now you may have heard the Republican presidential candidate’s speech at a May fundraising event (recorded without his knowledge). Romney claimed that 47 percent of Americans are Obama voters who “pay no income tax,” “are dependent upon government” and “believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.”
Since his comments went viral on YouTube, Romney has said he probably didn’t explain himself too well but still hasn’t really said what he meant.
I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he doesn’t want people to go hungry, homeless or without health care.
In fact, as governor of Massachusetts Romney launched a universal health care system for everyone in that state, so he once understood that was something all people should be “entitled” to.
I also think it’s human to misspeak, and given the millions of words uttered by presidential candidates, some of their mistakes are going to be whoppers.
Because political opponents are always looking for any opening, it should surprise no one when a candidate’s opposition jumps on and exaggerates such statements.
That said, I think Romney’s comments do offer an insight into the way that many Americans think about their fellow citizens.
You’re either a lazy slob who wants to freeload on the backs of hard-working taxpayers or a greedy billionaire looking to squeeze every dime you can out of the government and the working man.
There’s some truth to both stereotypes, but the much larger truth is that you really can’t squeeze large numbers of people into narrow boxes. When you do that, you’re always wrong.
Romney’s statement about people not paying income tax is a great example of how numbers can lie.
It’s true that nearly half of Americans don’t pay income tax, but many don’t because the government has deliberately created a tax code that allows them to zero out what they owe.
For example, the fastest-growing share of the group that doesn’t pay income tax are those making $75,000 to $100,000 a year, according to the Detroit Free Press.
The newspaper reported that in 1996, only 5,000 people in that income bracket paid no income tax, but by 2009 that number had reached nearly 500,000.
In 2009, more than 20,000 filers making more than $200,000 a year (1,470 with a gross income of more than $1 million) owed no income tax, according to the Free Press.
Still, it’s true that the lowest-income Americans, those earning less than $25,000 a year, account for the largest number of those not paying any federal income tax — 76 percent in 2009.
But that number includes many senior citizens who worked all of their lives. I wouldn’t call them lazy.
Even Romney’s assumption that low-income people wouldn’t vote Republican is wrong because studies show that many of the Red states — such as Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Texas — have substantial low-income populations that vote solidly Republican.
Many poor people vote on social issues such as abortion and gay marriage rather than in their economic interest.
I am apparently in Romney’s target voter base, but he would also write me off. That’s because I believe in health care for all, even though I don’t support Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
Readers of this column know that I’m also an advocate for better housing for the homeless and more spending on job training.
During the current economic recession, its amazing that anyone would make a blanket statement about the types of people needing government help.
There are millions of hard-working people who have lost their jobs and can’t find another one, including veterans. That’s another reason so many people aren’t paying income tax. No income means no tax owed.
In addition, both Democrats and Republicans appeal to voters by creating more and ever-larger income tax breaks, exemptions and deductions.
I’ve mentioned before that it makes no sense to me that as the federal government goes deeper into debt, it keeps handing out tax breaks to everyone.
Sure, the government may be spending more, but arguments over whether it’s justified aside, deliberately reducing your revenue stream and demanding a balanced budget is hypocritical.
But both political parties pander to their bases by handing out tax cuts.
Romney has said his remarks were not “elegantly stated,” but I think his statements indicate he is seriously misjudging the American people.
To win this election, he has to convince some of those “Obama voters” in the 47 percent that their lives will improve if he is elected.
As for me, I’m still awaiting the candidate who won’t make me feel like a dope for paying my income tax bill.
Taxes are the price of citizenship, but I hate the feeling that citizens much wealthier than I are “entitled” to tax breaks I’m not getting.