As the presidential race heads into the major push for November, Republican nominee Mitt Romney is battling to frame his comments leaked yesterday from a private fundraiser about his thoughts on Obama voters and their dependence on government.
On The Daily Circuit Tuesday, Kerri Miller looked at what role the government should play in our lives.
From the Associated Press:
"There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what," Romney is shown saying in a video posted online by the magazine. "There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that 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."
"Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax," Romney said.
Romney said his role "is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."
His statement "reflects a general attitude about how the government is problematic and the private sector is really the sort of lifeblood of America," said Jason Johnson, associate professor of political science and communication at Hiram College on The Daily Circuit.
Nicholas Eberstadt, Henry Wendt chair in political economy at the American Enterprise Institute, said on The Daily Circuit that our income tax policy over the last decade has worked to exempt a growing fraction of Americans from the income tax. Despite those exemptions, a majority of Americans pay taxes in other forms, including payroll taxes, sales taxes and property taxes.
David Callahan, co-founder and senior fellow at Demos, said he doesn't think people receiving government assistance are lazy.
"I don't see people who are getting the earned income tax credit or who are getting food stamps even though they work or who are getting health insurance for their children as takers," he said. "I see them as people who are losers in our economic system and we as a society are trying to do something to help them out."
The video brings back memories of President Barack Obama's comment leaked in 2008, where he said rural voters in Pennsylvania cling to their guns and religion. But Johnson said Romney's comment have a different tone.
"In '08, Obama was making the point that people are clinging to these things, but if they would give my policies a chance, they would realize that's not necessary," he said. "Mitt Romney was basically writing off half the population and saying they're too dumb to realize that I'm the best option. I think the tone of the comments was different."
Romney's comments brought the candidates' differing views of the role of government back to the forefront of the election.
For some voters like John, a caller from Cloquet, Minn., Romney's overarching point in his statements rings true.
"I don't think that the role of government needs to be, 'let's take care of everyone, let's make sure everyone is OK,'" he said. "I think people need to have personal accountability. I am not a cold-hearted person, I like helping people, but if people are unwilling to help themselves, then why should I help them? Throwing my tax dollars away on those people is not giving me the choice to help the people I think deserve that help."
On The Daily Circuit blog, Dakota said people voting for Obama aren't doing so for government handouts.
"A fit leader should lead all and not just the percent that paid for his election," Dakota wrote. "A fit leader should have respect for all of humanity not just the select few who share his opinions. A fit leader should realize that wisdom and great ideas can come from everywhere, and be open to that. He should not discount the needs, wants, concerns or comments of 50 percent of a population."