All the leading players in the Corner repertory have weighed in at this point, and we’re all making good points. The big picture is that Mitt’s argument is fundamentally reasonable but, as Rich says, it needs some disentangling. My attempt would be as follows:
1. It’s too simplistic to think that all people who are partly or wholly dependent on government will vote Democrat. They won’t, but over time they will feel a growing temptation to do so.
2. So, although dependency is mainly a social, moral, and economic problem — it saps self-reliance and ruins lives — it has some electoral impact too. Anyone who denies that has forgotten how the politics of entitlements has repeatedly played out in the past.
3. Yet as Ramesh points out, the dependency impact more recently has been swamped by other trends, notably poorer voters moving right and wealthier ones moving Left.
4. And that may be partly because the 47 or 49 percent figure for people receiving state assistance of some kind or other exaggerates dependency both practically and, as Jim Bennett points out, psychologically.
5. It’s a simple coincidence that the percentage of Obama supporters in the electorate is also 47–49 percent. They’re not the same people. (It may also have been a seductive coincidence for Romney making an off-the-cuff speech.)#more#
6. As for the 47 percent who don’t pay federal income taxes, these are a third category — separate from but overlapping with the other two.
7. But this last category leads me to the point that Romney should stress: They pay many other taxes, often without realizing it. Indeed, Americans pay more taxes in more ways than they realize. In effect some of these taxes are hidden from any but the most inquisitive voters.
8. So, many people receiving benefits have no idea of the degree to which they may be paying for them from these various taxes. They may well imagine that they are less self-reliant than they actually are — and be correspondingly too grateful to government.
9. By making the taxes all Americans pay the focus of his response, Romney can mount a serious and principled attack on Obama and his overblown government, point out how the failure of this bloated government has increased the numbers on various kinds of welfare, develop the contrast — “America on welfare or America at work” — in his speeches and responses to questions, and so clarify his anti-dependency argument and correct any errors in a bold and even aggressive context.
10. And this is important because Romney must get out of the apologetic and reactive mode in which he’s been stuck.