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SPOTLIGHT
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Who are the 47%?

Published on -9/21/2012, 7:22 AM

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If you haven't seen Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's video about freeloaders, you've at least heard about it.

At a critical point in the campaign, Romney is being forced to deal publicly with comments he made at a private fundraiser regarding those who don't pay income taxes.

To his credit, Romney is standing behind the message, even though it was "not elegantly stated." Addressing supporters who could afford the $50,000 price for admission, the multi-millionaire described 47 percent of Americans who are "dependent upon government, who believe they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them. ... My job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."

The GOP nominee said the remarks were not intended to demean those Americans. Instead, they were meant to contrast his belief in a "free-market approach" versus President Barack Obama's "government-centered society."

We do not believe Romney is displaying an inability to connect with people who aren't wealthy when he describes those "who are dependent on government ... who believe they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it."

Instead, we would offer a disconnect between Romney and the very people who support him.

It is true 46 percent of U.S. households paid no federal income tax last year. About half of them didn't earn enough income to incur a liability. The rest are groups that because of tax breaks didn't have to pay, including senior citizens, the working poor, those with education expenses, and even 430,000 households making more than $100,000 a year -- 4,000 of which top $1 million a year. Tax exempt interest, reduced rates on capital gains and dividends and other deductions don't necessarily go to poor people. Romney himself benefitted from these tax breaks.

It also is true that 49 percent of Americans receive federal benefits last year. Programs such as Social Security; Medicare; Medicaid; food stamps; Women, Infants and Children food program; housing assistance; veterans compensation; workers' compensation; military and federal retirees; disability checks; assistance to farmers; unemployment benefits; etc. No less than 150 million people were recipients in 2011.

It is impossible to imagine all these "victims" are Democrats. A significant number of those who refuse to "take personal responsibility and care for their lives" are the very Republicans Romney hopes will vote for him. And they will, at least in Kansas and other solidly red states. The disparaging remarks obviously were intended for others, not us.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net

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