Just over three years ago, George Will voiced strong criticism of Mitt Romney’s now-famous observation about how President Obama won a second term.
In a conference call several days after his defeat, the former Massachusetts governor said Obama lavished key players in the Democratic coalition with “gifts”. Said gifts, of course, are expansive public assistance programs. The incentive to maintain and expand these programs, in Romney’s view, galvanized support for Obama.
Appearing on This Week, Will urged Romney to stop “despising the American people.” He went on to mention that no small number of Americans take advantage of tax credits which were increased by Republican politicians.
Of course, Ronald Reagan’s name was floated. Considering the Gipper has become a pseudodeity for many in the conservative movement, this should be none too surprising.
I believe that some serious mental gymnastics would be required to accept the notion of Romney loathing our society’s downtrodden. When the facts are considered, his analysis of voter motivation holds true. An NBC exit poll indicated that 20 percent of voters earned less than $30,000 annually. A remarkable 63 percent of these backed the President, while only 35 percent supported Romney.
The trend is anything other than difficult to notice.
Now, the 2012 election is thankfully behind us. However, an economy of diminishing returns is here to stay, along with partisan gridlock. The debate over income tax rates, made even more contentious than usual due to the aforementioned factors, does not seem especially productive.
For decades, middle-income Americans have been supporting the very wealthy and very poor alike. Championing one group at the expense of the other is a sure plan for envy-based politics, which cannot sustain any country in the grander scheme.
Keeping this in mind, what can be done to spur long-term economic growth?
The tax credits Will spoke so glowingly about should be reconsidered, which is to say phased out entirely. Marco Rubio’s plan of supplying less-than-affluent families with credits that incentivize childbirth stands the prime example of what to avoid. If parents do not have enough money to support a family, why should the government subsidize their making an already bad situation worse?
Likewise, the public sector has no business picking winners and losers in the private realm, which is exactly what commercial tax credits, no-bid contracts, and bailouts constitute. If those at the lower end of the totem pole are not to receive a fiscal free pass from Uncle Sam, why should folks on top continue skating by?
Simply put, if the economic extremes had less deductions, loopholes, and giveaways, then our country’s playing field would be far more level.
This realization would work as a wonderful starting point for lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Unfortunately, those at the top and the bottom hold disproportionate sway over politicians’ decisions. The former group holds the purse strings, and the latter can be mobilized to form essential voting blocs.
So, as per usual, the middle income bracket is left paying well beyond its fair share. Amusingly, too many to count still believe that the wealthy are stealing from the poor. Others think that the average earner is mooching off the wealthy.
In reality, most middle-income Americans are not only holding their own, but picking up the tab for everybody else. That is why the time has come for real free riders to step off the gravy train.
Joseph Cotto is a historical and social journalist, and writes about politics, economics and social issues. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org