Legislative Lowdown: A good week for Mitt Romney

Brian Darling Liberty Government Affairs
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Only 53 percent pay federal income taxes

A leaked, edited video of a May 17 Mitt Romney fundraising speech provided a teaching moment for conservatives to point out that only 53 percent of Americans pay any federal income tax.

Right-leaning pundits were falling all over themselves to distance themselves from Romney’s comments. But they highlight two very important issues for the American people — a broken tax system and government dependency:

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 they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. … These are people who pay no income tax, 47 percent of Americans pay no income tax.

President Obama is polling at 47 percent in Rasmussen, Gallup and AP right now. Romney should be given some credit for predicting in May that there were 47 percent of the American people who would vote for a president who has imposed a failed economic plan that has led America to high unemployment, soaring gas prices and economic stagnation. On foreign policy, the Obama Doctrine is in flames in Pakistan, Egypt and Libya, while allies such as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can’t secure a meeting with the president.

According to the Tax Policy Center, in 2011, 46.4 percent of the American people didn’t pay any federal income tax. That number was 47 percent in 2009. Another interesting number that proves Romney’s thrust to be correct is that 49 percent of Americans live in a household where at least one member received a government benefit last year. This suggests that close to half of the American people are becoming dependent on government benefits and not paying federal income taxes. Romney’s argument, although “not elegantly stated,” was spot on.

The controversy suggests that President Obama and Mitt Romney have an excellent opportunity to take the lead on the idea of comprehensive tax reform — tax reform that will simplify the tax code in a revenue-neutral manner to provide fairness for all Americans.

Food stamp spending exploding

Just as America hits $16 trillion in national debt, the Congressional Research Service reports that more debt is in the offing. When President Obama suspended the work requirements for food stamps, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), as part of his failed stimulus plan, it led to a massive expansion of the program. Participants in the food stamp program between the ages of 18 to 49 without children and not disabled are considered “Able-bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWD).”

The ABAWD population went from 1.7 million participants in 2007 to 3.9 million in 2010. When the Obama stimulus provision was not re-enacted by Congress, the president issued work waivers to states. The gutting of welfare-to-work requirements helps to create dependency on government and guts a major provision in the Clinton-era Welfare Reform Act of 1996.

Sen. Jeff Sessions saving taxpayers money

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) raised a point of order this week against the Veterans Jobs Corps Act, S. 3457, because the bill spent $700 million more than the tax hikes in the bill generated. The vote was subject to a 60-vote threshold because it violates the Budget Act. A vote to continue debate on the bill sponsored by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) failed 58 to 40. Furthermore, this bill ended up containing a tax hike on corporations as a means to mask the true cost of this idea — which is in the billions.

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) had an alternative version of the bill, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) did not allow full consideration. This is an election year and liberals in the Senate want to preserve the talking point that conservatives hate veterans, rather than stay in session a few more days to work out an agreement on a consensus approach to the veterans job crisis.

Sen. Sessions argued on the Senate floor this week that “Senator Burr has offered legislation that would help solve the problem of unemployment among veterans, and his doesn’t violate the budget.” Yet, the Senate refused to have a full and fair debate on this alternative approach.

Cheers to Ryan McCoy

Sen. Mike Lee’s (R-Utah) legislative director, Ryan McCoy, is leaving Lee’s staff to go back into the private sector in Utah. McCoy was “the energy behind many of my legislative goals,” Sen. Lee said on the Senate floor this past week. Conservatives are going to miss McCoy, but he has served the conservative movement well during his time in D.C. Good luck, Ryan!

Brian Darling is Senior Fellow for Government Studies at The Heritage Foundation (heritage.org).