Who are the 47 percent?

“Forty-seven percent of Americans 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."

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney uttered these words behind closed doors during a Florida fundraiser last May.

These words reveal and hide a lot of America's problems. Public reaction seems not to be targeted at Romney himself, but toward the recent discovery that only half this country pays taxes.

But who are the 47 percent? Romney’s comments leave the impression that they are everyday people like you and me who get by with a sense of “entitlement” while we avoid “personal responsibility.”

Romney once said that “corporations are people,” but this principal wasn’t evoked when he described the 47 percent. Those included in the 47 percent are corporations at the highest tiers of society — those who pay less than 0 percent and further subsidize the government for resources.

Romney and his critics have oversimplified the 47 percent. It is far more complicated.

The Obama administration has been vigilant in making sure voters know who made Osama Bin Laden “dead” and General Motors Co. “alive.”  They frequently cite that GM is making record profits, but it is rather easy to make record profits when, for the first time in GM's history, they are paying 0 percent in taxes, according to Harvard study.

GM is alive indeed.

Let us look at another General:  General Electric Co. GE has a long history of taking advantage of loopholes, but it has in recent years enjoyed the benefits of paying next to nothing in taxes.

Moreover, loopholes allow them to siphon extra money from the government.  It makes me a little cynical that President Obama extols the virtues that everyone should pay their “fair share,” receive a “fair shake,” and “play by the same rules” when he continues to allow GE's CEO Jeff Immelt to sit on his jobs council without any consternation

It is also troubling that Romney did not take the time to point out corporations that are shirking tax responsibility.

He was also wrong to assume that just because a group of people are not paying taxes that there aren't at least some of them who would like to change that. While there are those who currently depend on the government, it doesn’t mean that that’s where they want to be all their lives.

Now that we have a better idea of who the 47 percent are, the next question is how they became the 47 percent.

How does a system enable a group of people and/or corporations into not paying taxes?

Whoever is in office must be prepared to answer this question.


Contact the columnist colton.gavin@asu.edu or follow the columnist at @coltongavin.


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