Mero Moment: The ‘Takers’

Like many Americans by now, I listened to the recording of Mitt Romney talk about the “47 percent.” While there are some things to criticize about what Romney said, I have to admit that after I listened to him I thought, “Yeah, he’s right.” I had an instinctive concurrence with what he said. I didn’t pay attention to the actual number 47 but I sure felt like that number was pretty close to what I imagined Romney was talking about. So what was he talking about?

I assumed he was talking about a composite citizen – a person who comprises many of the characteristics he described. Are there people who are dependent on government? Yes, of course, there are. My mom and dad receive Social Security payments. Was Romney talking about them? No, I didn’t think so. Social Security isn’t a welfare program even if seniors are dependent upon it today.

Frankly, I assumed Romney was talking about people, who because of a variety of socio-economic variables, choose government welfare over work, inflexible people out of work who pridefully choose unemployment checks over work, people from intergenerational poverty who only know government assistance, and even young people from strong families who choose food stamps, WIC and Medicaid benefits instead of asking parents for help just to maintain the appearance of independence and adulthood.

I thought he was talking about a growing culture of Americans, especially young adults most likely to vote for Obama precisely because of their youthful ignorance, who actually feel entitled to government benefits, almost as if they tapped their parents for every last nickel and now they’re looking for more freebies from “the government,” which they conveniently disconnect from taxpayers. Romney was right: Those folks won’t vote for him.

Romney’s critics say I’m wrong to think all of that. They insist that Romney was literally talking about actual taxpayers and non-taxpayers, poor citizens who never pay a tax and wealthy citizens who likewise never pay a tax who also, evidently, should be the only people who pay taxes.

I’ve seen more charts trying to explain what Romney was saying than I care to ever look at again. But here’s what I do know: eventually prosperity creates idlers and free riders and America is certainly a prosperous nation. We see it in our own families with our kids. Why do we think it doesn’t happen throughout society? While Romney made a poor attempt to conflate facts and opinion, I remain steadfast in my belief that his sentiment was correct – even if, for political reasons, he’s apologized for the construction of his opinion. I think Mitt was right.

And while I’ve been criticized for echoing the use of the term “takers” to describe people needlessly on government assistance, I won’t apologize for discerning how needless those circumstances often are amidst a culture of indulgent prosperity like we’ve never seen before – a culture wherein kids think milk comes from cartons and money comes from wallets. From Obama’s view, America is a divided nation of givers and takers. Obama, who set this rhetorical tone himself, has inflamed this division. Mitt Romney hasn’t. I haven’t. I get that there are people in real need. I also get that there are people in need who shouldn’t be. I don’t know what percent that is but I know it’s more than it needs to be and those are the “takers” of whom I speak.

By using the term “takers” I’m not purposefully objectifying any one of God’s children. I believe we are all beggars in the eyes of God.  I am saying that this nation cannot long afford to reward idleness or the politicians who institutionalize a soul-destroying welfare state just for votes.

For Sutherland Institute. I’m Paul Mero. Thanks for listening.