Mitt Romney attracted criticism Monday for videotaped comments about the high percentage of people who are dependent on government programs. But there are studies that suggest he might have a point.
Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute finds that fifty years ago, government transfers totaled $24 billion in current dollars. In 2010, the number was nearly 100 times as large.
“Even after adjusting for inflation and population growth,” writes Eberstadt, “entitlement transfers to individuals have grown 727% over the past half-century.”
An index of government dependency by the Heritage Foundation reports that nearly 50 percent of the country pays no federal income tax at all — a number that has grown dramatically, from 23.7 percent in 1962 to 49.5 percent in 2009.
Over 70 percent of government spending goes to what Heritage describes as “dependence programs.”
The study details how local churches and community-based charities once provided the majority of assistance to people in need. “Today, Social Security and other government programs provide much or all of the income to low-income and indigent households.”
“If the citizens’ representatives are elected by an increasing percentage of voters who pay no income tax, how long will it be before these representatives respond more to demands for yet more entitlements and subsidies from non-payers than to the pleas of taxpayers to exercise greater spending prudence?” Heritage co-authors William Beach and Patrick Tyrrell ask.
Using Congressional Budget Office numbers, the Tax Foundation finds that the tax code is increasingly progressive, yet fails to achieve its goals of narrowing income inequality.
“Effective income tax rates have gone negative for the bottom 40 percent of households and are approaching zero for the 20 percent of households considered the ‘middle class,’” the Tax Foundation concludes.
In a separate study, the Tax Foundation concludes that the bottom 50 percent of taxpayers paid an average federal income tax rate of 1.85 percent in 2009, while the top 50 percent of taxpayers paid a average of 12.5 percent, comprising nearly 98 percent of the total tax revenue.
Many observers nevertheless remain critical of Romney’s comments. “Romney, who criticizes President Obama for dividing the nation, divided the nation into two groups: the makers and the moochers,” New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote on Monday.
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