By Thomas Scott
Recently, Presidential candidate and Republican nominee Mitt Romney was caught using less than complimentary language when describing those he believed made up incumbent President Barack Obama’s primary political base. Romney’s comments regarding the so-called 47 percent have caused indignation among media outlets and individuals alike. Comedians such as Jon Stewart have drawn comparisons between Romney and “The Simpsons” character Mr. Burns. But for all of the focus on the insensitivity of Romney’s comments, there has been all but meager validation of the problems surrounding the fact that there is roughly 47 percent of the nation’s population that does not pay income taxes.
Romney was mistaken when he remarked that this group would “vote for the president no matter what.” By referring to the 47 percent as “dependent upon government” he was implying that the bulk of this demographic is composed of lower income brackets. To a degree this inference is correct according to Factcheck.org, which stated in a recent article that “22 percent receive senior tax benefits… whose adjusted gross income is less than $25,000” and “15.2 percent receive… credits for children and the working poor.” While Mr. Romney’s comments are hardly delicate, they highlight an alarming trend, which has culminated in the status quo.
According to the tax foundation “Washington lawmakers have increasingly turned to the tax code to deliver social benefits… and funnel money to targeted groups” which has “eliminated the income tax obligation for millions of tax filers and their families.” As a nation, we have reached a point where we are still maintaining New Deal and Great Society era programs without any rational way of paying for them. They have been maintained out of necessity, because the middle class as we know it is shrinking. In part this is because of the proliferation of low-level service jobs, such as Wal-Mart greeters and structural unemployment in places such as the rustbelt, which is the result of economic developments like outsourcing.
Romney’s website asserts that a “troubling” aspect “of the American economy today is the mismatch between the skill set of the American workforce and the requirements of the employment market.” Yet instead of offering any meaningful policy to create middle class jobs, introduce development and increase the tax base, while not necessarily increasing taxes themselves; Romney relegated this vast group of Americans, many of whom factcheck.org claim “plan to vote for” him, to the category of dependents.
To have any hopes of a successful campaign Romney needs to lay out a proper framework for long-term economic growth. On the campaign trail and on his website Mitt Romney has hinted at his plan to spur job growth. His website claims that he will cut red tape, “pursue… a system of Personal Reemployment Accounts for unemployed individuals” and make it easier for ‘job-creators’ from foreign countries to start businesses. If he truly believes in creating a prosperous future for all Americans, he needs to recognize the significance of government investment in infrastructure such as the Transcontinental Railroad, Interstate Highway System as well as the Internet’s predecessor ARPAnet. These ventures allowed the industries of the then future to develop and created higher paying jobs, allowing a greater number of people to contribute to the country’s overall prosperity by taking entrepreneurial risks. Currently, conditions are not ideal for those taking such risks like employees and employers involved in fledgling businesses. With the ever-increasing national debt, which is the by-product of a diminished tax base, more and more of “peoples savings [will] go to purchase government debt rather than toward investments in productive… goods” resulting in a “crowding out of investment” which “would lead to lower… incomes,” according to the Congressional Budget Office.
If Romney can present a viable roadmap to create real middle class jobs through smart investment that has potential alleviating effects on the national debt, then he has my vote and, perhaps, the votes of the 47 percent.