Romney has said his statement could have been made more elegantly. But inelegant or not, he was right; we are becoming a nation of people who depend on government. Nearly half of Americans pay no income tax -- Romney suggested it was 47 percent, coincidentally the same percentage that support Obama. But even though many of these people contribute payroll taxes, income taxes are what pay for government spending outside Social Security and Medicare.
All Americans share the benefits of national security and other necessary government programs, but nearly half of them contribute little or nothing to pay for those programs. Democrats believe this is as it should be -- we should just tax the rich more. But what does it say about a nation when half its population contributes so little to the protection and services they enjoy?
Of course not all those dependent on government subsidies are Democrats or Obama supporters. Seniors make up the biggest share of dependents. Most seniors feel that they've "earned" their Social Security checks and Medicare benefits. In fact, the majority of recipients will receive substantially more in benefits over their lifetimes than they contributed.
But Romney's larger point was that it's harder for candidates who want to talk about personal responsibility and smaller government to make headway when an increasing share of the population become recipients of government largesse. And it's harder still when the media distort what the candidates actually say and the context in which they say it. Romney summed up his answer by saying, "what I have to do is convince the 5 to 10 percent in the center ... " He wasn't writing off half the country but outlining a strategy to win the election.
The media's attempt to twist Romney's statement moves them from being journalists to partisans. And in an election this close, media bias just could be the deciding factor.
Linda Chavez is the author of "An Unlikely Conservative: The Transformation of an Ex-Liberal." To find out more about Linda Chavez, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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