We’re a Nation of Makers and Takers, Including Romney — and Me

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I try not to get worked up about politics, but I hate the Tea Party delusion that we’ve become a nation that is split between makers and takers. It’s the false idea that Mitt Romney, who probably doesn’t believe it, parroted in that cringeworthy video to suck up to wealthy donors who do. The point of my Sept. 17 TIME cover story, aside from getting pictures of my kids and dogs in the magazine, was to show that most Americans are makers and takers, including me. But we’re proud of our making and blind to our taking, which is why appeals to the 53% — minus Romney’s gross I-got-mine attacks on families who think they’re entitled to eat — have some political appeal. Most of the alleged moochers in the 47% — seniors, disabled veterans, the working poor — don’t even realize they’re part of it. They understandably assume politicians must be talking about some other moochers, because they don’t feel like moochers.

(PHOTOS: The Rich History of Mitt Romney)

I really hope the stir over Romney’s political snuff film will help end the slur that half the country pays no taxes. As many political reporters who never bothered to correct that nonsense when it wasn’t part of a “gaffe” are finally pointing out, the 47% of Americans who don’t pay something imprecisely called income taxes do cough up payroll taxes on their income as well as state and local taxes, gas taxes, sales taxes and other taxes. And most of us cough up more than the 13% of Romney’s (unearned!) income that he paid in 2011 while running for President. It’s hard to say if we pay more than Romney did before that, because, well, you know.

It’s good to see a broader recognition that most of us are makers and that most of the nonmakers are seniors on Social Security and Medicare. What I tried to show in the article is that we’re takers too, even those of us with a comfortable income. We benefit not only from publicly subsidized roads, water, electricity, schools, trash collection, police protection, national defense and, in my case, tennis courts but also lucrative tax advantages for our mortgage interest, health care, child care, 401(k)s, business expenses and, in some cases, dressage costs. Some Americans who work in the financial sector enjoy lucrative tax breaks for their “carried interest,” but of course it’s impossible to know without seeing their returns.

I hope you’ll read the article; it’s even more relevant today, although I’m heartbroken to report that one of those hyperactive unsubsidized Boston terriers, our beloved Shamu, died last weekend after his star turn. I hope Romney’s nasty comments will attract more attention to that crazy, irritating, theatrical, soulful, unbelievably wonderful dog scavenging under the chair. RIP, Shampers. We miss you terribly.

(LIST: All Campaign Gaffes from 2008)

But back to Romney. I doubt he really believes those obnoxious things he said; his political career would suggest that he was just saying what he thought his audience wanted to hear. That said, it doesn’t really matter what he honestly believes if he feels he has to do what his audience wants. It’s hard to imagine a President Romney standing up to the Tea Party and his wealthy donors. In any case, this should calm the latest furor over his supposedly inept staff, which, as I’ve argued in the past, is doing a pretty impressive job with an inept candidate. You can’t blame that awful video on Stuart Stevens.

105 comments
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Kalynn
Kalynn

This is a weird and feeble article.  Typical "Wimpy"-ness at it's finest.

JohnParish
JohnParish

Help support the change in the way election campaign funds

are raised.  Stop the Super Pacs from

steering the candidates and ruling the government. 

Come march on Congress and show them that the American

Population do not want candidates to be persuaded by these Super Pacs any more.

Visit www.indiegogo.com/SuperPac

and help raise the awareness of this problem.

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Jill Louis

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Bob Guzauskas
Bob Guzauskas

RE: "One Nation Subsidized"

Nice intro to our Nationhood, Michael. This Republican believes we owe ourselves some mutual support. As a dentist I love my work but hate the way I'm paid. So I hope "Vouchers" is a code word for the elimination of Fee-for-Service health care. As an employer I pay an agreed, "living wage". And I make a tax deposits for my hires. Shouldn't I get the tax refund of my hires, OR, shouldn't that refund go to their Social Security and Medicare account? And as a Citizen and Business Owner I'm totally opposed to bail outs for auto companies, banks, AIG..., anybody. My business and my employees are at risk. The same should be true for all. It's good business. IMHO, subsidy often puts us on the wrong track. Subsidy forgives foolishness, excess, laziness and greed. So less is better.

And, Michael, your book, "The Swamp", sets the bar.

Bob G

WPB, FL

Glen Fiddich
Glen Fiddich

Overheard, between Mitt and Ann, in bed watching Jersey Shore late at night:  

Mitt: I just love Snooki, she’s just so perky. Those little people sure are amusing.  

Ann: Now dear, remember she does make over $250,000 a year…  

Mitt: You’re right dear. She’s a job creator. Right along with Paris Hilton

and that Kim what's-her-name. Snooki is another example of what makes

America great.

Nonaffiliated
Nonaffiliated

So, why don't we all just vote each other million-dollar pensions and go home?  All this debate about austerity and reducing the budget...who cares?  Tax those millionaires to 99.99% and be done with it.  If that's not enough money, borrow it from China or just print some more. 

"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only

exist until the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the

public treasury. After that, the majority always votes for the

candidate promising the most benefits with the result the democracy

collapses because of the loose fiscal policy ensuing, always to be

followed by a dictatorship, then a monarchy.

"

Glen Fiddich
Glen Fiddich

 Well...we had the democracy with Jefferson, and the dictatorship with Lincoln.  I guess Mitt and Queen Ann are the monarchy.

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MACV
MACV

Romney is part of the 47% that pay no Taxes.  Don't take my word for it ... look at his 2009 Tax Return and ... WHAT? HE WON'T SHOW THEM? WELL, THERE'S YOUR ANSWER.

Prakash Iyangar
Prakash Iyangar

couple of points, About the moochers who you said use subsidized roads, electricity etc- Well if they are paying taxes, then they are not mooching. We should be paying taxes for the services we get from the government. That must be the only criteria for taxation. 

As far as the veterans are concerned, that is the whole problem with the Pay-as-you-go system... if the govt policy fails (as they usually do) and they overpromise and underdeliver( as they usually do ) then the current bunch of tax payers or even worse future tax payers are in trouble. This is the reason i advocate zero govt intervention in any welfare schemes.. to make the point clear, the only solution is the reduction in benefits through welfare ( pensions and old age healthcare  etc) schemes ( since they did make their contributions they musnt be left high and dry ) but a slow elimination of these as the current generation should expect to take care of themselves when they grow old.,

It is a bit unfair on the currently young generation but its  a bullet we have to bite for our own sake cause if we rely on the current system we are not going to get anything at the end of our lives anyways... so its better for us to plan and live accordingly and not hope for govt doles to continue 30-40 years from now! 

sacredh
sacredh

Mitt Romney channels Leona Helmsley.

paulejb
paulejb

The left is outraged that Mitt Romney revealed their election strategy. Barack Obama and the Democrats intend to secure a permanent majority by creating dependency among more than 50% of the population. That is the plan which will destroy the Republic and allow Democrats to rule in the ruins.

sacredh
sacredh

I'm hoping Mitt "outrages" me every day instead of every other day like he has been doing. Even Clint Eastwood is looking at Romney now and saying "That guy is nuts".

Godzilla1960
Godzilla1960

Outraged?!?!?!  Are you kidding?

The left can't believe that this man is giving the election to Mr. Obama, who by all historical precedent should be toast.

Outraged?  Try overjoyed.

paulejb
paulejb

The two biggest takers in the USA, George Soros and Warren Buffet are also included in the 47% supporting Barack Obama.

JohnYuEsq
JohnYuEsq

The Wannabe Emperor has NO CLOTHES!

Glen Fiddich
Glen Fiddich

 The honorable thing, of course, would be for The Dear Liar Mitt to

lock himself in an  empty room with a revolver...and give the

RepubliKKKrappers an opportunity to select a more -- likely --

candidate.

Say....Michelle Bachmann.

PWHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH

Godzilla1960
Godzilla1960

I hate it when conservatives and Republicans go off the deep end with their idiocy, but it is ten times worse when someone whose beliefs are more closely aligned to my own proves to be a giant moron.

Just embarrassing.

Glen Fiddich
Glen Fiddich

Awwwwwwwww......gollygeewhiz!

OK....I just looked at my day calendar.

I've got 15 minutes between 12:45 and 1PM on Friday that I can spend worrying about your opinion.

Does that work for you?

Glen Fiddich
Glen Fiddich

So, then Friday at 12:45 is not good for you?

And those zingers of yours!!!! Wow....You are almost as impressive as the Afterbirther Paule. Did you study with him? Does he feel threatened by you? I gotta say I'm impressed.

Godzilla1960
Godzilla1960

I don't expect you to give my opinion a second thought, when it is obvious you didn't give your own a first thought.

sacredh
sacredh

Mitt sure is screwing up Ryan's chances for 2016. Can Paul drop Mitt from the ticket?

JohnYuEsq
JohnYuEsq

NIT WIT Mitt = HITLER. Think about it. 

 

VOTE the DEMOCRATIC TICKET. Save the USA.

chrismmc
chrismmc

An interesting conundrum. So, if I work all my life and pay into the Social Security System and Medicare and then draw benefits at the time I'm supposed to am I a Taker?

No - I earned that. If I serve 20+ years in the military and then get a retirement and military benefits - am I a Taker? No - I earned that too. If I've worked all my life and paid taxes and then lose my job and home and have to get public assistance - am I a Taker? No - I paid into the system to help me when I need it. Now - there are people in this country who consistently take out more than they put in and who could do better but don't - those are the Takers. However they aren't the majority - not evn close to 47%.

Godzilla1960
Godzilla1960

If you retire at 62 and live the average lifespan of 78 you will take out of social security about twice what you put into it.

Taker.

chrismmc
chrismmc

Not quite. I've checked my numbers and my forecasted benefits. No way I am going to eat up 40+ years of my FITW contributions in two years at less than $2000 a month - even if I don 't add interest.

The Federal government owes us at least the money they took from us without our consent plus interest. I will admit however that at some point the payments will cross the proper payout line if I beat the average mortality age.

Thanks - Chris McGrath

Sean Dawson
Sean Dawson

Mitt Romney told it exactly like it is.  47%, whether they be "moochers" or not, pay NO federal  income tax. 

I don't care about state and local taxes, if you have a beef with that, then take it up with the state or city.  Our federal government does not exist to make up whatever taxes you pay in state local and sales taxes.  Social Security and Medicare are defined benefit programs, and most people get more back than they pay in there as well.

We have things we have to pay for, real things that come out of federal revenue that is raised by income taxes.  It is ridiculous that 47% pay nothing.  I could see maybe 25%, the elderly and the poor, but if you are calling 47% of the nation's earners poor, I am calling BS.  Everyone but the poor should be paying SOMETHING.

filmnoia
filmnoia

You have a major case of false consciousness.You should be more concerned about the top 1% that use all sorts of loopholes and offshore accounts to avoid paying their fair share - which the rest of us have to pick up . Stop attacking the powerless and go after those who are the true enemies . The 1% rely on suckers like yourself to keep their gravy train filled.

Sean Dawson
Sean Dawson

hey filmnoia, they are A FEW who use loopholes, etc to keep from paying their fair share, and I support curtailing excessive loopholes, etc and vote for that as well, but the vast majority of the top 1% pay their "fair share" and much, much more.  I define "fair share" as pying the same percentage in taxes as the percentage of total income they earn (which i think is very fair). 

The top 1% earns 20% of the nations total income, but is responsible for 40% of the nation's tax revenue, almost DOUBLE what their "fair share" is.  I'm not going to sit and feel sorry for high earners, but I do think they are entitled to their property as much as you and I are.  Just because they are only 1% of the population, we have no right to bully them and steal their money, which is exactly what is being done.

The left keeps talking about "skin in the game" but fails to mention that as far as federal revenues are concerned, 47% have none.  They have no incentive whatsoever to contain the spending of someone else's money, MY money, (yes, I am one of the 53%) because they don't pay for it, someone else does.

Yes I would end the tactics of a few at the top to escape taxes.  I would also end deductions on the middle as well, the large portion of that 47% who is neither poor nor powerless.

Benevolent Lawyer
Benevolent Lawyer

Part of the reason so many Americans don’t pay federal income taxes is that Republicans have passed a series of very large tax cuts that wiped out the income-tax liability for many Americans. That’s why, when you look at graphs of the percent of Americans who don’t pay income taxes,

you see huge jumps after Ronald Reagan’s 1986 tax reform and George W. Bush’s 2001 and 2003 tax cuts. So whenever you hear that half of Americans don’t pay federal income taxes, remember: Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush helped build that.

Some of those tax cuts for the poor were there to make the tax cuts for the rich more politically palatable. “Do you think we wanted to include a welfare payment to people who don’t pay taxes and call it a tax cut?” A top Bush administration official once asked me. “No. But that’s what we needed to do to get it done.”

But now that those tax cuts have passed and many fewer Americans are paying federal income taxes and the rich are paying a much higher percentage of federal income taxes, Republicans are arguing that these Americans they have helped free from income taxes have become a dependent and destabilizing “taker” class who want to hike taxes on the

rich in order to purchase more social services for themselves.

The antidote, as you can see in both Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney’s policy platforms, is to further cut taxes on “job creators” while cutting the social services that these takers depend on. That way, you roll the takers out of what Ryan calls “the hammock” of government and you unleash the makers to create jobs and opportunities.

So notice what happened here: Republicans have become outraged over the predictable effect of tax cuts they passed and are using that outrage as the justification for an agenda that further cuts taxes on the rich and pays for it by cutting social services for the non-rich.

See more on:

http://www.dailykos.com/story/...

Sean Dawson
Sean Dawson

Yes, some Republicans have advocated that, and normally I'm not adverse to lowering taxes, but we should not be subsidizing portions of our citizens leaving the rest to pick up the tab.  Lower taxes?   Great, lower them for everybody.  If someone wants to have kids, great, pay for it yourself.

Paul Dirks
Paul Dirks

http://www.nationalreview.com/...

One thing that frustrates me is that many Republicans who’ve embraced the “takers” interpretation of the fact that 46% of tax units didn’t pay federal income taxes forget why Republican policymakers of the past created policies like the EITC and the child tax credit in the first place. 

chrismmc
chrismmc

It's an interesting conundrum. If you paid into Social Security and then get benefits - you're not a taker - you made money and paid into a benefit that you earned. If you are a military person who did 20+ years in the military and recieve retirement and military benefits, you aren't a taker - you earned it. So yes - there are many people who receive money from the Federal Government but the question is - who earned it and who didn't. Take a person who has worked all their life, had a good job, paid their taxes, but now - lost their job and their home and is on welfare. Are they are taker? No - they earned that over the time they had a job and paid into the system. However, there are people in our society who consistently take more out then they put in, and who could do better but don't. Those are the takers - but I don't think they count up to 47%. 

Godzilla1960
Godzilla1960

If you retire at 62 and live the average lifespan of 78 you will take out of social security about twice what you put into it.

Taker.

chrismmc
chrismmc

OK - but Uncle Sam owes me at least all the money I paid in - involuntarily I might add - plus some prevailing rate of interest.

Thanks - Chris McGrath

chrismmc
chrismmc

Yes - under the current system. However - if we want to change the Program such that people get back what they put in plus - say - whatever the average prevailing treasury rate was over the contribution period, then we could convert the program such that recipients are no longer "takers" - just getting back their just due. Of course - I am dreaming if I think the politicians will ever accomplish that.

Thanks - Chris McGrath

Godzilla1960
Godzilla1960

Actually, that is not how it works.  

You aren't getting what you pay in.  The money you pay in goes to those who are currently retired.  You will receive benefits from those working when you retire.

Kind of a pay it forward deal.

Sean Dawson
Sean Dawson

Chris, I don't count medicare or SS recipients "takers" at all.  Those are defined benefit programs.  Yes, most DO receive more than they ever pay in, but not much.  The big problem is that of the remaining federal budget in regards to entitlements( food stamps, medicaid, welfare, housing assistance), our safety net  requires almost nothing from those who would benefit from it if things went bad for them.  They need to be invested in their own safety net, as well as have it subsidized.

Gary McCray
Gary McCray

Children and retired people who "Mooch" on the government.

The retired ones paid their dues and to Social Security as well, so you bemoan them this.

The parents of all the kids pay plenty.

The remainder is a much smaller group, many of whom have legitimate reasons for not paying taxes.

In fact the most galling group of non or under tax payers is really the group Romney was addressing, including himself.

What a Fool!

I do realize this could be viewed as a cheap shot at an obviously disadvantaged candidate and for that I apologize.

Sean Dawson
Sean Dawson

Hey Gary, the 47% number is of EARNERS. No children.   Social Security recipients are supposed to pay taxes on their income, same as you and I.  Our poverty rate is 14%, yet 47% pay nothing. You do the math.

Gary McCray
Gary McCray

A lot of seniors don't pay tax because their income is below the level at which tax is due, true for many others as well.

Our current collapsed and contracted economy has forced many people into the insufficient income zone where with increased expenses they can barely survive.

The poverty numbers do not begin to reflect the pervasiveness of this situation.

Wealth has become much much more distributed to the upper 1% (or less) and the middle class has been forced into the lower class.

Basically the only people with all the money are whining that they don't have enough tax incentives to acquire even more of the available money.

These are the people our potential president is trying to appeal to.

Ivy_B
Ivy_B

Former G HW Bush speechwriter and U.S. News and World Report columnist Mary Kate Cary and Voto Latino's Maria Teresa Kumar discuss Romney's statements and refer to Grunwald's TIME cover story at one point. Kumar says it's an example of the takers and we can't continue to pay for all that. I keep asking what is the reading comprehension problem with Republicans.

http://www.npr.org/2012/09/18/...

retepc
retepc

Thanks, Michael.  Spot on.  I especially like this line: 

"We benefit not only from publicly subsidized roads, water, electricity, schools, trash collection, police protection, national defense and, in my case, tennis courts but also lucrative tax advantages for our mortgage interest, health care, child care, 401(k)s, business expenses and, in some cases, dressage costs."   Ouch! 

John Mitchell
John Mitchell

Neither side is right at this point, and no matter the rhetoric, the country is going in the wrong direction. I think that once everyone begins to agree on that, we can ALL work together to bring the country back to greatness...unless some people do not want that...anyone willing to say that they DON'T want this country to come back strong?

Godzilla1960
Godzilla1960

Nobody is right and the country is wrong.  Care to be a teeny bit more specific?