Mitt Romney uttered some courageous words the other day when relating that it is not his job to worry about the 47% who pay no taxes. He further showed some backbone when he refused to back down from his words, and instead doubled down. There are many courageous and insightful elements to his statement, but perhaps the most courageous is his willingness to stand up to Grover Norquist and Republican orthodoxy on taxes.
Mitt Romney has shown throughout the campaign that he understands the very important distinction which needs to be made between Americans. Wealthier Americans, the job creators, fulfill a different role in our moral sphere from the rest of the nation, a nobility as it were, that the nation needs to honor and appreciate for their unique contributions to the nation’s welfare. It is proper that the nation should repay these contributions with a lower tax rate, so that they can continue to do what they do best, in the public interest. The non-wealthy Americans make up a different class, and for this class it is a moral imperative that they pay higher taxes and have skin in the game. This, as not only Mitt Romney understands, but also his running mate Paul Ryan, is in their own best interests. From this the split with the Norquistian Republican tax orthodoxy. Raising taxes on some Americans is good and proper, and ensuring that all Americans pay federal income taxes is critical not only to the well-being of the nation, but to those who currently don’t pay taxes.
Some have made hay from the fact that of those 47% who don’t pay taxes, fully 40% are elderly on Social Security who don’t have enough other income to reach a tax bracket. But just as we hear tales of poor people who accomplish great feats and rise into the wealthy class, so we hear tales of men and women into their eighties and beyond continuing to work to better themselves and society. Just because a person has reached retirement age is no reason for the nation to coddle them and allow them to get away without paying their due of taxes.
Another 40% of those not paying taxes are those simply too poor to make it into a tax bracket. A family of four is allowed an $11,900 exemption for the primary earner and $3800 for himself and each of his three dependents, for a total exemption of $27,100. Those who earn more than this amount get to have it deducted from their earnings before computing taxes. But those who don’t earn this amount don’t even pay taxes. This must be corrected, and Mitt Romney understands again that Americans, ranked by their wealth, are also ranked by their value to our society. Those with the highest ranking deserve the benefits, since they contribute so much; those at the bottom need to pay more to make up for the fact that they don’t contribute enough. And so it is entirely appropriate that lower income Americans be made to pay taxes that their higher income compatriots are exempt from. Republican tax orthodoxy may disagree, but Mitt Romney is correct to want to raise taxes on those not contributing enough to America’s greatness.
Mitt Romney also displays tremendous courage for standing up to Ronald Reagan when he has made a mistake. And clearly Reagan made a mistake when he expanded EITC, the earned income tax credit. This program was designed to make work more attractive than welfare by allowing poor workers to keep more of their income, rather than reverting to the benefits of welfare. But since it allows a significant portion of the 47% of non-taxpayers, about 15% of them, to avoid taxes altogether, it is bad for the nation and needs to be eliminated.
All that said, Mitt Romney is in a bit of a quandary about the 6 among the 400 highest income earners who paid no taxes. Since Romney wants to cut taxes on the wealthy, the job creators, are those 6 just the epitome of his policy goals, the wealthy who are so valuable to America that they should not have to pay taxes at all? Or are they also among the deadbeats in the 47% who Mitt Romney doesn’t care about? Since he has taken some courageous and laudable steps to right so many wrongs, I’m sure he is up to sorting this one out, as well.