By Karen Alter |
A recently leaked video from a Mitt Romney fundraiser last May shook up the presidential campaign, as it captured the former Massachusetts governor describing a large swath of Americans in less-than-flattering terms:
"There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon 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. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what ... These are people who pay no income tax."
President Obama and his supporters pounced on the comments, saying that Romney's remarks show he does not understand the economic situation many Americans face and thus is ill-equipped to lead the country. However, many conservatives say that Romney was correct in this characterization—that far too many Americans have become reliant on government services while other Americans are expected to foot the bill. "There are makers and takers, there are producers and there are parasites," Republican strategist Mary Matalin said on CNN last week. "Americans can distinguish between those who have produced and paid in through no fault of their own and because of Obama's horrible polices who cannot get a job or are underemployed. That's what the campaign is about."
Romney did not back down from his controversial sentiments. At a press conference soon after the video surfaced, he clarified that "those who are reliant on government are not as attracted to my message of slimming down the size of government." Since, his campaign has trumpeted a video of 1998 Obama, then a state senator, saying he believed in wealth "redistribution." Romney referred to the video last week, arguing, "He [Obama] really believes in what I'll call a government-centered society. I know there are some who believe that if you simply take from some and give to others then we'll all be better off. It's known as redistribution."
Has the United States become a nation of makers and takers? Here is the Debate Club's take:
Daniel Mitchell Fellow at the Cato Institute
Phil Kerpen President of American Commitment
Daniel S. Hamermesh Professor of Economics at the University of Texas at Austin and Royal Holloway University of London