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WILLIAMSBURG--Winston Churchill once said of his nemesis Clement Atlee, who trounced Britain's World War II leader for prime minister in 1945: "Mr. Atlee carries around his own China closet." The same can be said of GOP candidate Mitt Romney.
Whether it's the press dredging up a story of ferrying his Irish setter Shamus in a car-top dog carrier for 12 hours or his saying that he "liked to be able to fire people"--an allusion to cutting ties with health-insurance companies--the Republican nominee careers from one embarrassing event to another. It's like watching Sacha Baron Cohen's film character Borat stumbling through an antiques shop, knocking heirlooms hither and yon.
Yet Romney may be getting a bad rap for his latest controversial comment made in a private meeting with fat cats. According to a video disseminated by the liberal Mother Jones magazine, he reportedly described about half of Americans as "dependent upon government" and wrote them off as Obama supporters because they perceive themselves as "entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it."
While politically incorrect, the challenger for the White House had a point. A medley of factors--a sharp reduction in manufacturing, generally high unemployment, and relaxed qualifications for eligibility for government programs--has exacted a heavy toll on the vaunted American "work ethic."
A case in point is Social Security's Disability Insurance, launched in mid-1956 to provide income supplements to people who are restricted in their ability to be employed because of a notable disability--usually a physical
At the end of 2011, 10.6 million Americans collected SSDI--up from 7.2 million in 2002. Benefits average a little less than $1,000 a month.
Those who deserve help should get it; however, virtually no one ever leaves the plan, and there is no incentive to do so. Indeed, after two years individuals who qualify for disability payments become eligible for Medicare, food stamps, and other entitlements.
Now back to Romney's assertion that 47 percent of households pay no income tax and, by extension, are freeloaders. "My job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives," his voice intoned on the video.
His philosophy is his own business, but his calculations omit two facts reported by The New York Times and based on information from the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center: Most families pay payroll taxes; and the 18.1 percent who pay neither income taxes nor payroll taxes are largely the elderly and the deeply impoverished.
As the Senate has found, fraud afflicts SSDI and other social programs. Nevertheless, the Republican standard-bearer turns
In early 2011, Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent, lambasted what he called "corporate welfare" or "corporate entitlements." He found that the IRS had refunded $1.9 billion to Bank of America even though the financial powerhouse had recorded $4.4 billion in profits and scooped up nearly $1 trillion in a rescue mission launched by the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Treasury Department.
Similarly, over a five-year period General Electric piled up $26 billion in earnings in the United States alone, but received a $4.1 billion refund check from Uncle Sam.
Romney should be consistent in discussing individuals and groups advantaged by the government and its bewildering array of legislation. Otherwise, he will not satisfy a Churchill dictum: "The price of greatness is responsibility."
George Grayson, who served 27 years as