Baby, you're a rich man
By Gail Binkly
When I heard Mitt Romney’s remarks about the 47 percent of Americans who are government-dependent and irresponsible because they pay no income tax, my first reaction was relief. Relief that I wasn’t one of them.
Despite falling into an economic class somewhere between “destitute” and “able to afford cat food,” I have always paid income taxes – and at a higher rate than Romney! So, apparently I am not a moocher or a malingerer and am worthy of his concern, unlike the nearly 1 in 2 Americans who draw his contempt.
But when I tried to share my relief with my acquaintances, I got some unexpected reactions.
“Boy, that Romney is right on!” I told a casual pal, who works about 60 hours a week for a nonprofit. “Aren’t you glad he laid it on the line about those losers who never have to pay the IRS?”
He gave me a peculiar stare. “I don’t pay income taxes,” he said.
“What?” I was aghast.
“Well, I have two little kids, and my wife is home taking care of them, and with the earned income tax credit and the deductions, I never owe the IRS a penny. I do pay payroll taxes, though.”
I hardly knew what to think. This was a man I had respected, yet he was openly admitting to being a bum.
“Well, I hope you’ll take responsibility for your own life some time soon,” I said sternly, and walked away.
I called up an elderly gentleman I know, a retired energy-company worker and combat veteran. “Romney hit the nail on the head, didn’t he?” I asked. “It’s about time someone blasted those whiny, helpless victims.”
“What do you mean?” my friend shouted. I yanked the phone away from my head. “I don’t pay income tax!”
“Oh, come on,” I stammered. “You must. You’re a good citizen. You’re always hauling firewood to people who don’t have any and volunteering with charities. You’re not one of the moochers that Romney was talking about.”
“I’m 80 years old and living on Social Security!” he cried. “I don’t pay income tax!”
“Then maybe you ought to get a part-time job,” I said helpfully. “You don’t want to be a drain on society.”
“I paid income taxes all my life and I paid into Social Security, and I’ll be damned if any multi-millionaire politician is going to call ME a deadbeat!” he roared, hanging up.
With my ears still ringing, I gave my sister a call because I knew she, like me, always pays income tax — although only because she actually reports the tips she makes as a cocktail waitress.
“Aren’t you glad Romney was brave enough to speak the truth about lazy welfare recipients?” I asked her.
“I don’t know how brave he was. He only said it in secret, in front of a bunch of other millionaires that he knew would agree with him.”
“Yes, but since his remarks were made public, he has stuck by them, sort of. He did say they were inelegant.”
“Inelegant? I don’t know what that meant, but what he said was a lie,” she snapped.
“Well, some of those people who don’t pay income tax are the bravest, least lazy, most responsible people you could imagine. They’re our troops – U.S. military personnel on duty in war zones. They’re exempt from paying federal income tax.”
“I’m sure Mitt wasn’t thinking about them when he made those comments — ” I mumbled.
“Then why did he open his mouth if he didn’t know what he was talking about?”
“He probably heard that statistic about 47 percent of the population not paying income tax, and jumped to a few conclusions,” I admitted. “But I’m sure he meant no harm.”
“Then he’s an idiot,” she said. “Why would he even want to be president of the country if he thought half the population was a bunch of slackers?
“And you know what else?” she added, warming to her subject. “It doesn’t make a bit of sense for Romney to go around criticizing Obama because the economy is supposedly so bad and there aren’t enough jobs, when he tells these paté-gobbling millionaires that half the country is too lazy to work! Doesn’t that imply that they could get jobs if they wanted to, that there are plenty of jobs out there for them? Are there jobs or aren’t there?”
“You have a point,” I said.
“If there’s some form you can sign to opt out of paying income tax, then show me where it is and I’ll sign it,” my sister snorted. “But it isn’t that simple. Why aren’t some people paying income tax? I’ll tell you. Because they don’t make enough money, that’s why, or else they get deductions and credits that were mostly put in place by Republican administrations.”
“Oh,” I said.
“But he’s right about one thing,” she added.
“He shouldn’t count on those people voting for him.”
“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. ... [M]y job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” — Mitt Romney
Gail Binkly is editor of the Four Corners Free Press.