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Mitt Romney’s division of the US electorate into “contributors” and “takers” is ironic because it is far from clear what taxes Mitt himself has been paying and what tax breaks he has received. The underlying Romney message is that those who fit his definition of takers exploit the system and are essentially deadbeats. How else do you explain “I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”? Per the GOP groupthink, “takers” are also quite likely regarded as so improvident as to not have jobs that include healthcare or 401-Ks.

There are many taxes that moderate income earners pay disproportionately: social security, Medicare, personal property, sales, usage, and excise on goods like gasoline. More than two-thirds of Americans own their homes and real estate taxes are in many states like New Jersey at punitive levels. So nearly everyone but those in the underground economy pays taxes.

But I would also like to suggest that if Mitt and company want to restore republican (small r) rigor they might adopt the citizenship standards of ancient Greece and Rome. Only property owners had the full franchise. In Rome, the voters were organized in tribes and the more property one had the more one’s vote meant as the tribes voted in sequence from the richest to the poorest and once a majority was reached the voting stopped. It is unlikely that the numerous Roman urban poor, the headcount, ever actually got to vote.

And the other aspect of using property as the measure of the rights and responsibilities of citizenship which really is appealing in the context of Mitt Romney is military service, particularly as Mitt has branded himself as a foreign policy hawk. The Greek and Roman front line soldiers who were fully armored had to buy their own very expensive panoplies and were therefore drawn from the wealthiest classes. It was believed that those who had the greatest stake in the survival of the state would be highly motivated to lead the fight to defend it. They also could not run away in all that armor. Adhering to the ancient model should mean that Mitt’s five sons would find themselves in the front lines in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, not running around doing their patriotic duty by helping with Dad’s campaign. And it also means that Mitt himself would have gone to Vietnam rather than on a Mormon mission to Paris.

(Republished from The American Conservative by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Mitt Romney 
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  1. Ah, Rome. Politics and justice and losing the Republic were so much simpler then! (note: fun, but not for the squeamish 🙂

    Great points, as always, Phil

  2. Linda says:

    Did Mitt Romney take the 2009 Swiss Bank Account Amnesty?

    While working in Switzerland in 2005, I had a bank account at the same Swiss UBS bank that Romney used. I was unable to close my Swiss UBS bank account because of running late for my flight back to the US. UBS refused to mail bank statements to my US address. Instead they mailed it to my former Swiss employer. I received the Swiss UBS bank account in my former employer’s envelop. The envelop used to send my small account balance to the US had a shipper’s address instead of the Swiss UBS bank’s address.

    Under US pressure, in 2008 UBS agreed to provide the names of US citizens with Swiss bank accounts.

    Interesting information about a whistleblower that disclosed UBS’s hiding US citizen’s money. He spent three years in prison, but in September 2012 he received a \$104 million IRS Whistleblower Office awarded.

  3. Jon H says:

    “More than two-thirds of Americans own their homes and real estate taxes are in many states like New Jersey at punitive levels.”

    I should think even renters end up paying property tax, because owners of rental property will pass it on to the tenants as higher rent.

  4. excellent points, all around. by Romney’s math; it could be argued that venture capitalists, hedge fund managers, et al; are among the 1% who “don’t pay taxes”. if the standard for “earned income” is 25% (let’s just say); but paper-shufflers, Wall Street gamblers; and U.S. citizens who park their earning in the Cayman Islands, Switzerland, etc.; only pay 13% to 15%; the Romneys (and Buffets) of the world are “dependent” on the government to not pay 10% – 12% of “their taxes” (buy virtue of the lopsided “deferred interest” ruse they lobbied into the tax codes. Obama has been a mess; but it’s a mess we have lived with (and for some; managed quite well). Romney is a dead end.

  5. Russell says:

    To the 47% Romney thinks too dumb to tax , add the 50% of the population with three digit IQ’s whom Santorum has dissed by maintaining:”We will never have…bright people on our side.”

    That leaves 3%

    It’s enough to make one wonder if Dan Quayle’s Chief of Staff is running the Ryan campaign?

  6. TomB says:

    I’m really surprised at the number of people here—clearly the vast majority who have commented on this issue—who can seem to be dissing the idea that there are indeed such things as net tax payers and then net tax consumers.

    Or, to put it another way, the vast majority who can sound more like Mother Jones’ readers than conservatives.

    Certainly some of the financial/statistical arguments made have merit, but let’s face it, at bottom there are people who net contribute and those who don’t, and it’s a fine denigration of the former to pretend that gee, somehow those who work all their lives and pay their taxes are no different than the person who is in one way or another on the public dole so much that their contribution pales in comparison to their consumption.

    Reminds me of the sneers one sees from the Left at those who have trouble with the amnesty schemes for illegal aliens that pretend that the illegals never having paid taxes is meaningless. (Because, for instance, “they’ve had to pay sales taxes!” or etc.) It’s either not meaningless and a serious thing, or then let’s see the Left support the idea that everyone can have a few years of not paying their taxes. And the Left ought not have the conniption fits it does then with the Republicans constantly trying to lower taxes or even with people evading them like crazy.

    There is a difference between net paying and not paying, damnit, and so despite the fact that there are complexities involved in it let’s not totally indict Romney for perceiving that there *is* at least that clarity somewhere in the situation.

    I will be the first to admit though that there was a repugnant smugness to Romney’s tone not only not merited by his finding a way to only pay only a 14% rate or so, but also by another factor probably applicable him to at least some degree and certainly applicable to the heavily-invested Swell Class he was talking to at that meeting that hasn’t been mentioned, and that is the bailouts.

    If I’m not mistaken Warren Buffett even has said that but for the bailouts he’d be selling apples on the corner (and so should be), so Mitt oughta be ashamed of standing up and saying what he did in front of that crowd who probably just had its ass saved by Washington’s welfare to Citicorp and Goldman Sachs and GM and all the others.

    In short, Mitt’s got a huge point, but it’s not one he or *his* kind of people have the right to make: *They* after all are the very ones who have now perfected the tax avoidance and government preference/bailout-sucking fun we see so much of today. Instead it’s a point to be made, as usual, by the great middle class who on the whole *are* net tax payers and not tax consumers, and who *should* be recognized and honored for that.

  7. This is the kind of stuff I expect to see on Huff Post. Americans are all virtuous and dutifully contributing to the common good.

    Why are municipalities declaring bankruptcy all over the US? Why does every State have a fiscal crisis? Why is official US fiscal deficit over \$1 trillion? Why is the unfunded liability over \$200 trillion? How can these problems exist when everyone is paying taxes?

    Romney is a jerk, but the Republicans knew that before he was nominated. Look at how the Ron Paul campaign was treated by the RNC.

    This is like the 5th blog post claiming the road to redemption for Conservatives is to do a better job of pandering than Socialists.

    We are no different from Greece. Everyone thinks their check from the government is an entitlement that they paid for with all their hard work and taxes. There is no way possible to close the fiscal deficit with that mentality. But that is what democracy is all about: stealing from the other guy and taking your “fair” share of the loot.

  8. Phil’s suggestion is a Swiftian character.

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