A Romney pratfall evokes valid concern
The Kansas City Star
If Mitt Romney wins this election, he will give the press a lot to write about. No denying the man is gaffe-prone.
The latest media bonfire was over a video made at a private fundraiser, in which Romney implied that the 47 percent who don’t pay income taxes are moochers who don’t care about becoming self-sufficient.
He’s been pasted not only by the usual libs, but by some conservatives as well. William Kristol at The Weekly Standard called the remarks “arrogant and stupid.”
Yet Romney put his finger on — or, perhaps I should say he put his ham-fist on — a real concern. They see the number of recipients of food stamps skyrocketing. They see the labor-force participation rate steadily dropping month by month. They wonder what is happening to the country. VP nominee Paul Ryan’s argument that we may be close to a tipping point “where we have a net majority of takers versus makers in society” is a widely shared.
Via his Bloomberg column, Ramesh Ponnuro of National Review notes that being “entitled” doesn’t necessarily turn a person into a robotic supporter of ballooning government, contrary to what some conservatives suggest. Seniors benefit much more from entitlements than younger people, yet they have been moving steadily toward the Republican Party.
And yet, the trend of rising dependency is troubling, not least because of its financial implications. Is there anyone who doubts that we have more government than we can afford? This is not strictly an American problem. The entire developed world is reeling from the problems of growing dependence and growing debt and the difficulty of finding ways to pay for it. As a headline in The Atlantic asked a couple of decades ago put it, If everyone’s entitled, who will pay?
The Obama administration has done nothing to deal with this problem. Obama has run as far and as fast as possible from entitlement reform. He served up joke budgets that couldn’t get a single vote in the Democratic Senate. He took a pass on tax reform — and the faster economic growth that would result — after the Simpson-Bowles commission handed him a golden opportunity.
As House Speaker John Boehner put it, voters “aren’t going to fall in love with Mitt Romney.” True enough. But the question for this election is whether he’s better than what we’ve got. No question in my mind, but he’s not making it easy for himself by stepping all over his message.