Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Sticking it to the wretched 47 percent

    It's time to stop dog piling on Mitt Romney for what he said about the "47 percent." Time is better spent dogging him for what his words mean regarding public policy.

   After all, that's what elections are supposed to be about.

   Let's give the GOP standard-bearer credit for spawning, on tape amid the clinking of high-rollers' champagne glasses, an amazing public information campaign. The problem for him and his partisans is that the truth revealed runs directly counter to one of their favorite talking-point myths.

    That claim: The wealthy pay way more than their share in taxes, and a whole bunch of us pay nothing.

    As analysis after analysis has explained since the unveiling of Mitt''s YouTube daytime nightmare, that couldn't be more wrong — particularly when it comes to the payroll tax that funds Social Security. In fact, the working poor and middle class pay a higher percentage of their income into that than the wealthiest, for whom taxes are capped at the first $108,000 of income annually — six sumptuous digits to which the sorry, dependent-on-handouts, allergic-to-personal-responsibility 47 percent can never aspire.

     Taxes? Don't forget that a goodly chunk of Mitt's 47 percent are retired and paid income taxes throughout productive working lives. Now they have little income to tax. Freeloaders. Professional victims.

    And those people, like the rest of us, pay regressive sales taxes, state and local. Add the federal motor fuels tax and assorted fees.

    So much for the notion that 47 percent of Americans aren't carrying their load. The obvious implication: They should carry more.

    That's what drives one of the more cynical proposals that never leaves the table when Republicans convene: the flat tax. Add its cousin, the national sales tax.

    Prove me wrong, but in each free-market maven's heart of hearts is a lust for two things (1) no taxes; (2) failing that, a low flat tax or a consumption tax that benefits the wealthy.

    Romney was one of few contenders for the GOP presidential nomination who did not advocate for a flat tax. Rick Perry: 7 percent. Newt Gingrich: 15 percent. Herman Cain: 9 percent. Ron Paul: um, zero percent?

    Romney is characteristically vague about what he'd do. Let's just say, however, that if he were president, emboldened Republicans in Congress would go for the gold: the flat income tax.

    This, of course, would mean significant tax increases for those in the wretched 47 percent.

    Flat-tax proponents who don't want their pet proposal to be seen as regressive and punitive talk of direct payments to the poor to make up the difference. Sure. And watch those payments evaporate once the trickle-downers decide this is just so much government dependency by a bunch of victimhood losers.

    Virtually every effort of today's Republican Party is directed by the quest to lower taxes for upper incomes. That's what the House-passed Ryan budget would do. The lost revenue? Ryan and Romney say they'd make up for it by "closing loopholes," though are scrupulously vague about which ones they'd close. Mortgage interest? Charitable deductions? Medical care?

    Romney would rather that we talk about how his passionate hands can produce millions of new jobs. Unfortunately for him, his "47 percent" statement has told many voters where his real love lies.

    A new Obama campaign advertisement featuring those comments points to Romney's sub-14 percent tax rate in 2010 and the untold bounty he has sheltered in the Cayman Islands.

    Yes, 1 percent brethren, let's figure out a way to get that 47 percent to shoulder more of the tax load. Flat tax. National sales tax. The super wealthy, whom Romney represents in body and soul, have had it too tough too long.

     Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.   

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