Ambrose: Mitt Romney went too far, but there's more to the story

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, left, and vice Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, left, and vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin greet the crowd in Norfolk, Va. (Aug. 11, 2012) Photo Credit: AP

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It was an overstatement when Mitt Romney said the 47 percent of American workers who pay no income tax are also dependent on government and therefore are President Barack Obama lovers.

But it was no more an overstatement than all kinds of liberal assertions. Listen to them and you'd think that the economy is scooting toward a hallelujah moment, that the pork-ridden, corrupt stimulus saved us from disaster or that the rich do not pay their fair share of taxes.

Let's see -- the first of these is bogus, the second highly questionable and the third divisive and silly. Meanwhile, we are getting understatement from supposed experts, as some tell us that the 47 percent do pay payroll tax. Sorry, but 18 percent of American workers pay neither, and the missed point, at any rate, is that large numbers have little to no tax threat when federal spending goes berserk.

That means these people are less likely to worry as much as others about an out-of-bounds welfare state. I am not talking here about the earned entitlements of Medicare and Social Security, although they absolutely must be restructured to avoid fiscal calamity, as even Obama has admitted while castigating remedies that might actually work.

I am instead talking about means-tested welfare programs that now reach more than 100 million people and too often go beyond helping the needy to indoctrinating them in a diminished way of life. As common sense teaches and social scientists have demonstrated, giving people something for nothing often leaves them with no will to work. And when welfare operates as a daddy substitute, it furthers fatherless homes, probably the single biggest issue in American life today.

While there are clearly exceptions, fatherless homes on average lead to more crime, less education and continued poverty, and those shrugging their shoulders are the worst enemies the poor ever had. Now, suppose you park this phenomenon of family destruction next door to a redistributionist-minded, collectivist-oriented president vastly increasing welfare through a mismanaged economy. What you then get is a tipping-point formula and desperate need for change.

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Although Romney's remarks missed the mark in some ways, there was a core reality behind them -- a scarily changing culture brought on by efforts to buy votes along with leadership incompetence and ideologically wrongheaded policies. It is therefore more a commentary on the observers than the observed that his words attracted a hurricane of scorn while far worse flubs by Obama and his henchmen have stirred up little more than a spring breeze.

We have been told, for instance, about all the jobs he has created, when there's actually been a job loss since he took office. Job gains per month have lately been heading downward. Middle-class incomes have dropped. By the calculations of some economists, the stimulus flopped.

Obama has said he did not drop work requirements for the program that used to be called Aid to Families with Dependent Children, when in fact his administration is letting states draw up their own work rules that could well be flimflam. His suspension of work requirements for food stamps has been a factor in increasing the number of recipients to 47 million, according to recent reports.

Despite an Obama pledge of no new taxes for the middle class, Obamacare will hit an estimated 6 million middle-class citizens with new taxes in 2016. His plans to soak the rich -- who already pay far more than their share of taxes -- would do next to nothing about deficits.

We do need tax reform to produce more revenues, though the last thing we want is an end to earned income tax credits that encourage the poor to work. I am for far more work rules in welfare and the end to any anti-marriage incentives. We simultaneously need faith in free markets and less in central planners trying to tie everyone's shoelaces at long distance. The Obama way does not work, and that's no overstatement.

Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado.

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