They’re Both Losers

A few days ago, a video came to light in which Mitt Romney, the Republican Presidential candidate, made the following remarks earlier this year:

There are 47 percent who will vote for the President, no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent on the government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it…. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect. And so my job is not to worry about those people — I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.

And to some extent, he’s right:

  • About 47% of Americans pay no Federal income tax.
  • About 47% of Americans (actually somewhat more) live in a household receiving financial aid from the government in one form or another.
  • About 47% of the electorate will vote for Obama no matter what.
  • Some percentage of Americans, though probably not 47%, see themselves as victims deserving compensation.
  • Some percentage of Americans have absolved themselves of personal responsibility for their actions.  (This is one of the reasons we have the highest prison population of any nation on Earth.)

Nevertheless, it was an unwise thing to say: the way it came out, it suggested that the only worthwhile Americans were the 53% who paid income tax.  But we already knew that Romney has a tin ear for how his remarks will resonate with the public.

What’s worse is that these remarks confirmed what we suspected about Romney: that he lives in a bubble surrounded by like-minded advisors who don’t recognize that, for example, many of the 47% who don’t pay income tax are simply people trying to make a living, or retirees receiving Social Security.  (But then, Obama lives in a similar bubble.)

Romney also said, this past week,

A tape came out a couple of days ago, with the President saying, yes, he believes in redistribution.  Well, I don’t!  I believe the way to lift people, and to help people have higher incomes, is not to take from some and give to others, but to create wealth for all of us.

It’s an admirable sentiment, to be sure, but how does he plan to accomplish it?  (And don’t say ‘tax cuts.’)

I’m disgusted with Romney.  Unfortunately, the alternative is even worse.

President Obama has been an abject failure as a leader.  The first signs of this appeared in 2009, even before he was inaugurated.  He had said that there should be a stimulus, and then threw the matter over the fence for Congress to hash out.  Congress, in turn, ran around like kids in a candy store, spending money on this and that, and in the end doing very little to get the economy producing again.  It was the Obama administration’s efforts in Libya (with ‘kinetic military action’) that introduced ‘leading from behind’ into our political lexicon.

And this week, our President remarked,

Obviously, the fact that we haven’t been able to change the tone in Washington, is disappointing….  So I think that I’ve learned some lessons over the last four years, and the most important lesson that I’ve learned is that you can’t change Washington from the inside.  You can only change it from the outside.

If that isn’t an admission of defeat, I don’t know what is.  (Change from the outside?  You mean, like, invasion by a foreign army?)

5 thoughts on “They’re Both Losers”

  1. The reality is with this Obama just won re election. Whether one agrees with Romney or not, it was a tacky thing to say and he should have been more careful, knowing that so many think of him as out of touch.

    However having said that to some extent what he was saying is right. As of now we live in a “not my fault” system where people don’t take personal responsibility then want everyone else to pay. Is it the 47% he’s talking about? not all of that amount but some. I’m talking the people who do things like buy houses they knew they couldn’t afford or babies they couldn’t afford then expect taxpayers to pick up the tab. I have seen many cases like these.

  2. People are hurt by their optimism in a lot of cases. They don’t expect to lose their jobs, or don’t expect to have unwanted or unplanned pregnancies. They also believe that they know more than they do and that their information is more reliable than it is.

    I remember the housing boom in northern Virginia in 2004-2007. Every few weeks, I would get an offer in my mailbox for some apartment complex that was being converted to condos. The only problem with the offer was that it worked out to be just about twice as expensive, all tax considerations included, to buy that condo as it would be to rent the same space. The company was really anxious to sell their condos, to the point where you could buy them with no money down. Again, there was a catch: they wanted you to use THEIR mortgage company and do an 80/20 mortgage, which is two separate mortgages, one for the 20% down payment, another for the main mortgage. I was able to figure out that using their mortgage company would cost me about $100 more per month than the mortgage for which I could be preapproved by my bank. Most people lack the capacity to do the analysis that I did, even though it does not require much more than the ability to calculate compound interest.

    John Mackay noted in his book, “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds” that people go mad in groups, but become sane again one by one. In a lot of cases, it is the fear of missing out that drives us. If we listen to the hype rather than analyze the data, it is very easy to drive us to decisions that may not be in our best interest. For instance, a lot of teenage pregancy could be avoided if the girls thought that they had better options. It was clear to me in high school that if I got pregnant, it would close a lot of doors that were open to me. I believe that I would have resented having to raise that child at that point of my life, so it was an easy choice not to have children at that point in my life. I was not thrilled with the prospect of having children in general, but having been raised by a mother who felt cheated of her life by her children did a lot to make me feel that having children was not worthwhile.

    We are shaped by what we see and experience. We cannot do things deliberately where we lack knowledge of how to do it. It is a hard thing to see another person’s perspective, particularly if their background is too different from ours. We could make the decision as a society that it is a good thing for people to have access to health care, but it’s an easier sell to offer it to families with children, and propose to pay for it out of tobacco taxes, whether or not those taxes will be sufficient to pay for the program, even as most people depend on their employer for access to health insurance. To get a program sold, it has to seem that it is at no cost to someone, usually the beneficiaries, and it is the norm to grossly underestimate program costs, because the people doing the estimates forget that there is infinite demand for free services.

  3. With regards to teen pregnancy part of it is the culture, which glorifies it. I know back when I was a teen when a girl got pregnant there was pity and not envy. I’ll never forget when this 14 year old girl in choir got pregnant and everyone was like “she screwed up her life”. She ended up getting pregnant again a year or two later. For me I knew how disappointed my parents would have been had I become pregnant as a teen so I was scared of this. Same thing with many of my friends. Yes a few became pregnant and they had abortions and the parents never knew. However for those who became pregnant things were rougher. A classmate married the man who got her pregnant and so did a few other classmates, one of which is still married (not sure about the others). Today our society that says it is fine to have a baby without marriage and rewards them with welfare. 54% of all births in Illinois are on Medicaid and that is a serious problem. I think if we cut all these programs and made the father and mother liable for the baby we would see less of it.

    As for the housing, while there have been scams and increases, not to mention unemployment and the like, there were people who bought houses they knew they couldn’t afford. I know people who make $30,000 who were getting $200,000 housing loans and knew they couldn’t afford the payment but did it anyway. The loans do this because they know eventually they will lose the house but I blame those who took out loans they couldn’t afford.

  4. A joke from my childhood is that the only birth control that a Catholic can use is a St. Joseph’s aspirin held firmly between one’s knees. It amazed me that the birth rate was higher at the local Catholic high school than at the public high school, where teenage pregnancy was considered “a black thing”. Maybe all of the white girls got abortions.

    The ability of banks to sell mortgages immediately rather than have to hold the mortgage did a lot to increase the riskiness of lending. The people who got loans for 6-7 times their income probably had to pay a lot more in points and interest than I would have to pay. The banks should take some share of the blame for the liar loans and generally poor underwritng standards.

    Unless you have someone helping you or you are running a scam while you are on welfare, it isn’t a pleasant life. There should be better enforcement of income limitations, but lots of people on welfare work under the table . Bring on the forensic accountants!

  5. My former best friend was a stripper and was on welfare plus her boyfriend lived with them and worked. That’s how she scammed the system and it disgusted me. I turned her in and she thanked me for doing so. I had heard a story when I was in high school that many girls were pregnant at the Catholic high school but I think many were forced into marriages. Many I knew (including a friend at a Catholic school)had an abortion and I am willing to bet almost half of my female classmates did.

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