Anti-natalist party upset with Romney for articulating problems with dependency…
by David M. Wagner
September 19, 2012
A large number of commentators think the video of Mitt Romney’s private address to donors has finished off his campaign.
At least in my in-box, these commentators all have one thing in common: they’re all British.
I suppose it’s the “House of Cards” culture that makes British politics so much fun: get caught with your pants down just once, figuratively or literally, and you’re done.
I suppose I misunderstand British politics just as badly when I watch and comment on it (as I love to do).
Anyway, the UK view of the Romney “shock” tape cannot account, for example, for why so many conservative Twitterers are urging the Romney campaign to run it uncut as one its own commercials!
That might be a bit much, especially if the other side is doing it to:
(“I’m Barack Obama, and I approved this message.”—“Get outta here, I’m Mitt Romney, and I approved this message!”).
But clearly there’s a perception that Romney articulated, in private, some problems that would actually benefit him if he articulated them in public.
Romney’s “inelegantly stated” speech (his words) was partly right, partly wrong.
Mitt is right that 47% of Americans don’t pay income tax.
Mitt is wrong that this 47% maps neatly onto the dependent sector.
Many non-income-tax-payers did not get that way because Democrats sent to Welfare-State Fairy Godmother to go “bing” with her wand over them and say, hey, stop working and paying taxes, here, have a stream of free checks instead.
No, many of them got that way by doing the things the tax code rightly allows them to do in order to survive as young, hardworking (in many cases, military) families: claim the personal deduction, the dependent deduction (more if you’re taking care of more family members), the child deduction (more if you’re raising more of the next generation’s taxpayers), and giving to charity.
We want people to do all these things, and, at lower earning levels, sometimes doing all of them zeroes out their net tax liability.
Liberals may want to change that because they’re anti-natalist and want the government to do things that families and private associations, especially churches, now do.
But conservatives should be pretty happy with at least some members of that 47%.
Mitt is right to imply that some liberal activist-intellectuals have hypothesized a “tipping point” at which enough Americans will be dependent on government that the party advocating moderate socialism will have a permanent majority over the party mildly critical of socialism.
Mitt may be right or wrong on whether we’re near that point now – near enough that it becomes a sensible electoral strategy for the non-socialist party to write off the dependent sector.
Note: this would never be a sensible governing strategy, and Romney never said it would be.
The issue is whether it would be sensible political strategy, a strategy for building a voting coalition to win the presidency.
On this there are different views among conservative writers who probably know more about it than I do.
John Hinderaker of Powerline says we’re there, and Obama’s lead, slim and disputable though it may be, in the midst of economic and foreign policy disaster, is the proof.
Ramesh Ponnuru of National Review says we’re not, and points to electoral math showing that some of the most dependent sectors, such as the elderly, have been trending Republican over recent elections. (And they vote.)
The video may damage Romney – or it may help him, since it articulates resentments that are actually felt by some independents and under-motivated Republicans.
Or the two effects may cancel each other out.
At any rate, Obama must certainly be glad to have Twitter and the political blogs talking about something other than the Mideast collapsing in anti-American flames, mustn’t he?
Those voters with those resentments – they may (or may not) be uninformed, but are they brutes?
There’s a quote of unknown origin that began making rounds or newspaper editorialists in 1951, and the rounds of the ‘net in 2000.
It is usually attributed to 18th century Scottish historian Alexander Tyler.
Tyler is real, but the quote cannot be found in his published works. So we may attribute it, perhaps, to general wisdom.
The quote is: “A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury.”
After that, said Pseudo-Tyler, a cycle of dependency sets in, and the democracy reverts to the “bondage” out of which it arose.
Tyler may never have said this; Romney said it most “inelegantly”; but it doesn’t do our democracy a bit of harm to think about it.
Professor David M. Wagner
Regent University School of Law
Virginia Beach, VA.