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Mitt's '47' remark contains a percentage of truth

Date published: 9/22/2012


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 one. Economic analyst Robert J. Samuelson characterizes the program as a "political quagmire." He writes that in 1988, 4 percent of men and 2 percent of women ages 40 to 59 obtained disability benefits--a figure that rose to 5 percent and 6 percent respectively by 2008.

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.

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