The 47 percent

Sep 19, 2012, 6:34 PM | Updated: 10:04 pm

Who do you think of when you picture someone receiving government benefits?

I’ll admit I used to think of the poor. I used to picture people living in housing projects in inner cities or in trailers in the rural parts of the Appalachian Mountains getting their welfare checks.

Years ago, that’s who I thought made up Mitt Romney’s 47 percent because I heard the stories too. The ones about the welfare recipients driving Cadillacs or the ones where women were having their sixth child just to increase her monthly checks.

The problem is I was wrong.

In reality, less than 2 percent of welfare spending is attributed to fraud while the majority of people receiving government benefits are actually middle-class senior citizens. Many of whom vote Republican despite Romney’s insistence otherwise.

David Brooks illustrated this point in The New York Times:

‘The people who receive the disproportionate share of government spending are not big-government lovers. They are Republicans. They are senior citizens. They are white men with high school degrees. As Bill Galston of the Brookings Institution has noted, the people who have benefited from the entitlements explosion are middle-class workers, more so than the dependent poor.’

Government spending on entitlements, he writes (here’s a list of them), has increased 700 times since 1960.

Seven hundred times!

In July of this year 62 million Americans received a Social Security check that averaged over $1,100. Forty million of those were over the age of 65.

Which brings back Governor Mitt Romney’s 47 percent. These are the words he used,

‘There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them.’

First, here are a couple of quick facts. Romney is using the Tax Policy Center’s numbers. He’s correct in saying 47% of Americans do not pay income tax. But, the larger point he’s trying to make involves a different number. This one: Forty-nine percent of Americans live in a household that receives at least one federal benefit. That’s just far too many.

While explaining his comments Governor Romney should make that the debate. He should call it the 49 percent, not the 47 percent. He would also be wise to point out there are 126 welfare programs in this country and welfare spending will reach $668 billion this year. He might just be able to pick up some support with those numbers.

However, a big problem would surface. Romney would have to admit the Republican Party is no savior to the taxpayer. Look at this nerdy little chart I’ve found.

Rob Hunter

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The 47 percent