Mitt Romney. Will Hurricane Sandy give him New Jersey, though he didn't even campaign here? Mitt Romney. Will Hurricane Sandy give him New Jersey, though he didn't even campaign here?

Mitt Romney gives up too easily

Four months ago, so the latest story goes, Mitt Romney spoke to several of his most generous donors. He talked about many subjects. But everyone will remember only one subject: that nearly half the American people depend on government for one thing or another. Mitt Romney made a mistake, but not the mistake people think. He gave up too easily in trying to win those people over.

Mitt Romney speaks on entitlement

Mitt Romney told his donors some hard, cold math:

There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what. … These are people who pay no income tax. My job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.

As Romney explained, he was talking strictly about where his votes would come from.

The obvious mistake was letting someone slip into that meeting with a video camera. Mother Jones found the video and published that particular clip. Romney had to admit that he did not make his point very tactfully. But his less obvious mistake lay in giving up trying to convince people that they not only should but must take responsibility for their own lives. Because if they don’t, the government, and the larger society, will collapse.

What one could say about it

Mitt Romney, the GOP nominee for 2012
Former Governor Mitt Romney at a townhall in Sun Lakes, Arizona. Photo: Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic License

First, Mitt Romney is right. Business Insider has eighteen charts to show that more people depend on government today than did when Barack Obama took office. These charts come from the Heritage Foundation. Start with 47 percent of Americans paying no federal income tax. Go on to see that 70 percent of government spending goes to entitlement programs. And these trends have risen for more than fifty years.

Jim Messina manages the Obama campaign. He accused Mitt Romney of “[writing] off half the nation.” But if Mitt Romney did that, he wasn’t the only one. Messina did, too. And his boss did.

Incidentally, liberals do see themselves, and the people they try to reach, as victims. Whether victims of circumstance, or victims of oppression (or grand theft), doesn’t matter. People get used to blaming others, or “bad luck.” They don’t see that a successful person makes his own luck.

Next, one can readily show that the mainstream press collaborate with liberal politicians. Their behavior in making so much of this video (while also missing the full context; see the second embed below) is a prize example. The Daily Caller turned up a worse example: the Department of Justice asking Media Matters for America for advice in excusing abuses of power (and “executive privilege”) by the Attorney General.

Third, Mitt Romney has a record of private charity that Barack Obama simply cannot match. That record includes giving not only money but time and effort, too.

Why Mitt Romney made a mistake

Still, Mitt Romney made a mistake. He should not give up on people. True, nearly half the people subsist on some government check or other. But that includes military service members, United States Marshals, and FBI agents and other staff. Those aren’t dependents. They genuinely serve our country and fulfill the core functions of the State. Those people will not necessarily vote for “the entitlement President.” Their jobs do not depend on anyone’s politics. (Or if they do, then Mitt Romney will be a better friend to them than Barack Obama has been, or could ever be!)

And what of those who take handouts, or jobs that do not serve the core functions of the State? Should anyone, seeking high office, give up on telling them to be independent? Many of them do not want to stay dependent. Part of the liberal appeal is to tell people to lay their pride aside and take the handouts. If the Obama administration must do that, to drum up enrollment, then surely a Mitt Romney can encourage people to resign from that state and live independently.

Mitt Romney could start by quoting Will Durant, one of the finest historians America has ever produced. In The Story of Civilization: Our Oriental Heritage, Will Durant said this of the earliest communist societies:

Communism can help men cope with poverty, but it can never get men out of that poverty.

Neither can government entitlement programs. Mitt Romney can win, with that message. He cannot win if he gives up trying to convince dependent people to stop depending on government, or anything else.

Mitt Romney might also tell the people something else: once most voters depend on government, they vote for more programs, for fewer people to pay for. The game ends when everyone depends on the government, and no one pays taxes. Those who could pay, will flee—in person, not merely by banking offshore. Or they will stop doing money-making things, i.e. go on strike. Then, as Ayn Rand warned her readers, society will collapse.

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Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.

candidate, economy, election, politicians, president


Terry A. Hurlbut

Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.

Comments (15)

  • “nearly half the American people depend on government for one thing or another.”

    100 per cent of American people depend on government for one thing or another.

    “47 percent of Americans paying no federal income tax.”

    Half of that 47 don’t earn enough to make it a requirement, which is reasonable. I spent my first 10 years as a legal adult making enough income to live in a modest one-bedroom apartment but not beyond my standard deduction and further exemptions. Without that I would never have earned enough to better myself and finally pay federal taxes today. Other no-federal-tax groups include low-income families, exactly the kind of people trying to “take responsibility for their own lives” and those of their children, seniors, and wealthier folks who are very clever with tax paperwork.

    Though you don’t mention taxes everybody pays every time they buy something, not to mention federal excise taxes on gasoline (e.g.), I’m sure you know they exist. Just thought they should be acknowledged.

    “Nearly half the people subsist on some government check or other .. that includes military service members, United States Marshals, and FBI agents and other staff. Those aren’t dependents. They genuinely serve our country and fulfill the core functions of the State.”

    Turning ‘dependent’ into a subjective term is a little strange. A dependent is a negative until they’re doing something you see as important?

    “Their jobs do not depend on anyone’s politics.”

    Military service members absolutely depend on politics. A political system that favors force over diplomacy keeps them busy and paid.

    I do not plan on voting for Obama, I do not consider myself liberal, but nor do I think helping my fellow citizens improve their standard of living is the same as encouraging their weaknesses.

    • I define “to depend on someone” as “to rely on that someone to do for you what you should be able to do for yourself, and that is not one of the core functions of the State.”

      And what are the core functions of the State? Police, military, and courts of law. As I have said repeatedly.

      The excises you mention are not things that most people would notice. Now this might be another reason to say, as I did, that Mitt Romney gave up too easily. It would in this case require him to reveal what the government hides. Beyond that, maybe you’re saying that he miscalculated the dependency proportion, and that proportion is less than his estimate.

      But a dependent is a negative. He or she is the equivalent of a “cost center” in cost accounting for a company or other organization. Liberals welcome the “cost centers” so that they can lay a guilt trip on the other citizens, the “profit centers” (or the “operating surplus” centers. “Profit” is an obscenity to them.) Conservatives want to turn existing “cost centers” into “profit centers.” That includes making them profitable—to themselves first, and the government second.

      • “I define ‘to depend on someone’ as ‘to rely on that someone to do for you what you should be able to do for yourself, and that is not one of the core functions of the State.”

        That’s a remarkably elaborate definition of a very common word. There are levels of the kind of dependency I think you’re talking about, anyway – most of them are designed to assist the less fortunate, not to placate the lazy. If they don’t always succeed, well, not every bomb our military drops lands on enemy combatants.

        “And what are the core functions of the State? Police, military, and courts of law. As I have said repeatedly.”

        The State also keeps poison chemicals out of your drinking water, a greater danger than any foreign army.

        “The excises you mention are not things that most people would notice.”

        ‘Gee, I thought the shirt was 29.99, not 30.34. I wonder where the rest came from. No time to worry about it.’ Though I’m sure when you say ‘notice’ you mean ‘care about’ – not the attitude I’ve heard from … every person I’ve ever talked to who earns an income.

        “Liberals welcome the “cost centers” so that they can lay a guilt trip on the other citizens, the “profit centers” (or the “operating surplus” centers. “Profit” is an obscenity to them.)”

        I’m not a liberal, and I welcome the idea that Government money goes toward health care, welfare for young mothers, inner-city social programs, and other support for “dependents.” What does that say about your generalization?

        • Actually, you keep poison chemicals out of your drinking water. By choosing where you drink and where you don’t drink. If you can’t test the water yourself (and I don’t suggest that everyone can), you pay someone to test it for you. (Or the water company pays someone to certify their water.) That somebody does not have to be the government. It could be Underwriters’ Laboratories.

          You almost get what I mean by “people don’t notice an excise.” Your illustration of the shirt that costs more than $29.99 proves my point. If they don’t mind the tax, then an offer to reduce that tax, or to make you better able to pay it by letting you keep more of your money on the front end, has less of an appeal.

          Finally, when government serves the specific (not the general, but the specific) welfare of some at the expense of others, that is a liberal idea. And those who run the program, typically want more clients. More clients mean more power. Power to say, “You can’t cut me; look at all these people dependent on me.”

  • “Actually, you keep poison chemicals out of your drinking water. By choosing where you drink and where you don’t drink. If you can’t test the water yourself (and I don’t suggest that everyone can), you pay someone to test it for you.”

    I do not choose where I drink and don’t drink; I drink from whichever municipal water supply I happen to find myself above when I am thirsty. If I know, through testing or experience, that the water in my hometown is safe to drink and I travel 200 miles away, I have the right as an American citizen to assume the water there is also safe and not have to take up hours of my day finding out. The only possible way to be sure of that is to rely on a single, GOVERNING entity to regulate all standards within its borders. Where does your suggestion stop? I should test the air I breathe, the bridges I walk on, the roof stability of the buildings I enter? Assuring the right to safety of citizens within its own autonomy is, as far as I’m concerned, a core function of the state above those you mentioned in importance. I could give a damn about being robbed and shot or bombed by terrorists when I’m afraid the subway getting me to work is going to collapse on my head – a far more likely danger in a society completely dominated by private interests.

    “Finally, when government serves the specific (not the general, but the specific) welfare of some at the expense of others, that is a liberal idea.”

    Never mind what ‘welfare’ is being expended from you because, say, an inner-city school got a sports program. I guess they should learn to build basketball nets and vulcanize rubber themselves instead of asking the tax-payer to help!

    Anyways, that a human idea. Societies were formed with the intention of allowing weaker individuals to survive and contribute within their means.

    • You really have to start thinking out of the box. No one is forcing you to drink the water out of your tap, or even to live in any particular town. (Actually, if the town is telling you that you may not dig your own well, you have to ask yourself how much interference with your property rights you’re going to tolerate.)

      The first societies, sadly, were communistic. Read the article again. Communism may (I doubt it, actually) help men cope with poverty. What it really does is drag everybody down. And it can never help men get out of that poverty.

      You have the right as an American citizen not to have the government to interfere with you. Part of that is not asking the government to interfere with anyone else.

      Where does the Constitution say anything about a “right” to any given water supply, whether anyone else is available, and willing, to provide it or not?

      The Constitution guarantees opportunity, not results.

      • “No one is forcing you to drink the water out of your tap, or even to live in any particular town.”

        Well, I can’t drink nothing but Pepsi cola every day, so if anyone is forcing me to drink the water out of my tap it’s God almighty, who made untainted water a requirement for every living human. And again, where I live permanently has no bearing – like everyone else I travel on a semi-regular basis between towns and states. If America, as a single entity, has no single body regulating the safety of that essential life source against the interests of private enterprises who may see it as a point of deposit for chemical pollutants I have no guarantee the town of a family member or friend I may visit is safe either. So essentially are you saying ‘If you’re worried about not getting infected from drinking water don’t live in America’? That’s an absolutely nonsensical suggestion. Go visit a third world country and check out the beauty of an environmentally unregulated paradise.

        “What (communism) really does is drag everybody down. And it can never help men get out of that poverty.”

        Exactly. It’s a bad idea. But we’re not talking about a classless, moneyless society, we’re talking about one in which citizens of a particular class are asked to contribute a certain amount of money to keep the less fortunate (not the LAZY) from slipping into a state of extreme, unchangeable poverty. This helps the collective obviously, and the individual by reducing crime rates, lowering substance abuse, reducing domestic violence, etc.

        “You have the right as an American citizen not to have the government to interfere with you.”

        Wow, okay I totally do not have the right to not have the government interfere with me. The government must assure I pay taxes IF my income puts me into a certain class, assures I do not commit crimes against the state as a whole, that I maintain a consistent and accurate legal identity, etc. If anyone chooses to violate these things the government can and will interfere all they want.

        “Where does the Constitution say anything about a “right” to any given water supply, whether anyone else is available, and willing, to provide it or not?”

        If you don’t believe American citizens, let alone all people, have the right to a clean water supply than you’re either being willfully obtuse or possess a staggeringly cold view of human life.

        “The Constitution guarantees opportunity, not results.”

        So what happens when those opportunities are blocked by massive private interest and corporate influence? When an entity has enough influence to create a monopoly, enough money to legally block, say, a small business from making anything close to a competing product? Then business ceases to be an opportunity and becomes a practically impossible hypothetical.

        • As I said before: you must learn to think outside the box, as I have done. And what I think is that, over the past 100-plus years, the government of the United States has steadily encroached upon the liberties that any person is born with. The Progressive movement was aptly-named: slow, insidious “progress” toward a command economy.

          I’ll take you at your word that a command economy is what you do not want. But I give you my word of honor that a command economy is where Progressivism leads.

          “Influence” matters only when the government presumes to take a stake in something that exceeds its core functions. In fact, the Big Names with Pull (Russian nomenklatura) are far more influential, in the worst sense of that word, than any joint-stock corporation, or group, ever could be. What evils you lay upon joint-stock corporations result only when their managements buy their way into the clique of Big Names with Pull. If the government stuck to policing, military, and courts of law, you wouldn’t have any Big Names with Pull, because they wouldn’t have any pull. (And as for judicial bribery, that’s why legislatures have the power of impeachment and trial, to remove any judge that takes bribes.)

          • “But I give you my word of honor that a command economy is where Progressivism leads.”

            And right-wing policies lead to fascism, and conservative Christianity leads to theocracy. The slippery-slope argument can be applied to any political movement, idea or philosophy while ignoring the benefits. We can extract positive ideas from liberalism, conservatism, religion and secularism – the danger of any political theory, right or left wing, is unblinking commitment – exactly the kind of thinking you demonstrate on this website. “Thinking outside the box” means exactly that, and conservatism is as much a box as anything else.

            “The Big Names with Pull (Russian nomenklatura) are far more influential, in the worst sense of that word, than any joint-stock corporation, or group, ever could be.”

            Again, true perhaps, but we don’t live in a communist society and nothing proposed by the ruling Democratic party makes me, a conservative by default, think we’re ever going to. What they have proposed is a society in which a small percentage of the wealthy can not continue to manipulate the system to suit themselves, and to assure the poor are cared for and assured the “opportunities” you promote.

            “If the government stuck to policing, military, and courts of law, you wouldn’t have any Big Names with Pull, because they wouldn’t have any pull.”

            I wasn’t talking about Big Names and Pull or the dangers of them, so I don’t know where that came from. I’m talking about a regulation of environmental protection – what I consider one of three or four core functions of government – so that my family doesn’t get poisoned regardless. Me being allowed to present a lawsuit in a court of law after-the-fact isn’t totally satisfying if my children are dead in the first place.

          • New evidence revealed within the last twenty-four hours, added to the evidence that Dinesh D’Souza presented in his book and motion-picture project, clearly shows that Barack Hussein Obama is now, and has ever been, a communist.

          • “Barack Hussein Obama is now, and has ever been, a communist.”

            Then he’s hiding it very well. His massive bungs to incompetent capitalists are a particular stroke of obfuscatory genius,

          • Patience, patience. Another article is coming, with fresh evidence.

            What you call “capitalists” are merely his cronies. They have a form of capitalism but have no clue to its real power. Instead they rely on the power of government.

    • “Government Motors” did worse for itself, and its investors: it made a Faustian bargain. They sold their private soul to the government devil, and now the devil is here to collect. Just the other day, GM executives offered to buy back the government’s stake. The government rudely informed them that the stake was not for sale. Hence Government Motors will remain Government Motors, by order of the government.

      Half the banks made that same Faustian bargain. The other half are probably the same sort of crony as are the managers of Solyndra, Inc., LightSquared, and others too numerous to name at the moment.

      • ““Government Motors” did worse for itself, and its investors: it made a Faustian bargain.”

        GM ran itself into the ground because it spent decades producing inefficient cars with obsolete technology and a poor standard of finish. I’d like to show you the quality difference between American GM products and those of its former European subsidiaries; an Opel Senator, for example. The simple fact is that American cars just aren’t very good. Now, how many pension funds invest in GM shares?

        “Half the banks made that same Faustian bargain.”

        They didn’t have a lot of choice; again, incompetence had wrecked them. The trouble is that if they’re allowed to fumble themselves out of business then they take the pension funds and college savings of millions of Americans with them. The governmnet can allow that to happen, of course, but then it’s going to have to raise taxes to fund a welfare state far in excess of anything Europe has ever seen.

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