Social safety nets: The opportunity to take responsibility: There's plenty to dislike.
The 47% of people that pay no income tax include lots of people who nonetheless pay tax. For the working poor, payroll taxes are a substantial share of income. It also includes people who aren't currently paying income tax but who soon will—like students—or who already spent a long career paying into federal coffers—retirees. And some of those paying no income tax are very rich people who derive most of their income from investments.
A not insignificant share of these moochers are Republican voters.
It should be obvious how incredibly wrong it is to characterise most of them as unwilling to take personal responsibility, as blithely dependent on the government, and as in hock to the Democratic Party as a result.
Moreover, many of these people have fallen off the tax rolls thanks to Republican policies. It was Ronald Reagan's decision to implement Milton Friedman's negative income tax, in the form of the Earned Income Tax Credit, that makes it possible for many of this 47% to avoid paying income tax. Not only was that a GOP policy, it was a good policy and it worth defending, not using to stoke resentment among the well off.
Those arguments account for most of the scathing treatment he's receiving…. But I was also interested to see his comments last night at a hastily called damage-control press conference….
Do you believe in a government-centred society that provides more and more benefits, or do you believe instead in a free enterprise society where people are able to pursue their dreams? ...We have a very different approach the president and I between a government-dominated society and a society driven by free people pursuing their dreams...
To me, this perfectly illustrates the massive blind spot in current GOP orthodoxy…. For most Americans, public schools are a critical piece of the machinery of economic mobility. Things like unemployment insurance and social security, meagre though they are, sometimes mean the difference between destitution and the possiblity of a second chance or a non-wretched standard of living. For many Americans, the ability to even contemplate dreams for a better life is down to the small cushion and basic investments provided by governments, provided for precisely that reason, because an economy in which only those born with a comfortable financial position can invest in human capital and take entrepreneurial risks is doomed to class-based calcification.
America's welfare state is far from perfect. But it is necessary; indeed, it's hard to imagine a just and sustainable system of free enterprise without a robust social safety net…. A party that can't come up with a better answer to this dynamic than to conclude that half of America simply isn't trying hard enough probably isn't a party destined or deserving of electoral success.