October 29, 2012—Team Obama continues to hit Mitt Romney with ads concerning his “47 percent” remarks. It’s time to cut through the fog of the campaign and to clarify the truth and implications concerning this controversy.
Some 49 percent of Americans live in households in which someone receives a direct federal payment, up from less than one-third of households in the early 1980s.
The Social Security system makes us victims of a government by limiting our autonomy.
But Romney is also wrong. While he’s right that those dependent on government have a strong incentive to support politically those who will give them more, he is wrong to think that all of those individuals are happy in their servitude. Indeed, Romney has “walked back” his statement and says he’ll be the president of 100 percent of the people.
But he should argue clearly that individuals should be responsible for their own lives and well-being and that the government programs are the principal reasons they cannot be. He should argue that dependence on government is morally debilitating, by telling people they have a “right” to that which they did not earn. He should argue that we are all better than this, that we should resist the vile addiction sold to us by politicians of all stripes.
Romney has made some of these arguments but many of his policy prescriptions, while better than the Democrats’, still don’t reject the premise of government as the ultimate nanny in a nanny state.
Let’s hope that those this debate over the 47 percent continues so that the implications become clear. Politicians and citizens alike should have to choose between a society of freedom and personal responsibility and one of servitude and dependence.
Edward Hudgins is the former director of advocacy for The Atlas Society, the author of numerous Atlas Society commentaries, and the editor of several books on politics and government policy. He is now research director for the Heartland Institute. He has also worked at the Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute, and Joint Economic Committee of Congress.