Romney and the Crisis of Class

Harrison Ebeling

The United States faces a crisis of class. The decline of the middle class, especially during the Great Recession, has led to greater disparity between rich and poor, with dire implications for the nation. As the saying goes, there are too many people in the wagon, and not enough people pushing. GOP nominee Mitt Romney’s unsightly and callous remarks regarding the 47% of Americans who do not pay income taxes have incited trite comments of class warfare, even provoking a New York Times editorial to characterize Romney as a “class warrior” who seeks to “protect the rich by turning the working poor and middle class into the enemy.” [1]

However, Romney’s comments should be dissected as more than offhand remarks dismissing the support and contributions of lower class Americans. His comments reflect one of the most important debates of 2012: how will America recreate its middle class — with the help of the government or by private sector job creation? Romney articulated his conservative viewpoint coarsely, but he certainly believes the private sector should, and can, revamp the economy without government interference.

Interestingly, Romney has stood behind his comments as “an honest reflection of his campaign’s message” [2]. Like it or not, Romney has a point. Clearly, America cannot recover from the Great Recession fully when 47% of the country pays no federal income taxes, while the richest 5% pay about 59% of the federal income tax [3]. The U.S. must find a way to reduce the monumental gap between the rich and the poor to reestablish a strong economy.

Critics may be quick to excoriate the richest Americans for earning too much of the overall income in America and preventing the redistribution of wealth. However, this is hardly a new issue. Take the 1950s for example, a time when America championed its burgeoning middle class. Even then, the richest 1% earned 31.2% of the national income [4]. In 2010, in the middle of the Great Recession, this percentage hit 34.5%, yet keep in mind the richest 1% earned 34.6% of national income in 2007 [4][5]. Very top tier wealth is nothing new in America, but the lack of a middle class is. All Americans can agree, despite their views on wealthy Americans, that the middle class is an integral part of the American economy that must thrive.

That is not to say that Romney should be excused for his remarks; his statements were demeaning toward average Americans who struggle every day to make a living. However, it is important to remember that Romney’s conservative approach to government and the economy relies upon less government interference in the lives of its citizens. Romney wants to distance himself from President Obama’s belief in government support and appeal to Americans who believe that the private sector, not the government, should be responsible for creating one’s living. His words were hurtful, but Romney is sticking to them. Now Americans can decide whether they believe in a similar conservative approach to government and the economy or not.






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