Mitt Romney and Mother Jones: Whether Talking About the 47 Percent or the 99 Percent, the Fact is America is Divided


That crazy Mitt Romney, such a horrible man for what he said!  

What a despicable, horrific person for even mentioning that nearly half the country doesn’t pay federal income taxes and for recognizing the electoral truth that nearly half of the likely American electorate won’t even vote for him. If you’re on the right, you’re likely to be shaking your head right now in agreement. If you’re on the left, you’re likely to fume over the poor-hating elitist from Massachusetts. Either way, the conversation is missing the boat.

America’s political discourse needs to end the discussion of percentages, classifications, demographics, and every other way to treat someone by a figure which is not representative of who they are. This week saw the 1-year anniversary of the disturbingly destructive Occupy Wall Street movement. Their mantra is, and continues to be, “We are the 99%.” Electoral districts across the country are divided along racial lines to maximize the efficacy of racial blocs. Romney’s comments reflect a similar sentiment. Everywhere, our political discourse is focused on blocs of people with little to no focus on their individual characteristics, and it is resulting in bad policy.

This mindset comes from utilitarianism, or basically a philosophy of cost-benefit analysis. That analysis can come from many different perspectives. The TARP fund was established as a result of the belief that our country would be in worse shape if banks “too large to fail” did indeed fail. The GM bailout trashed the rule of law in bankruptcy proceedings, but it was thought that auto workers were more important than stock and bond holders. Obama’s rhetoric says that those with enough money can afford to pay more taxes so those without can get a leg up. This mindset is based in percentages. This philosophy is built upon the notion that so long as more people are “helped” than those that are “hurt” than we shall be doing right.

Mitt Romney is not wrong from an electoral perspective about what he said. He’s right, polls are consistently showing that Obama holds a statistically insignificant lead over Romney nationally, and battleground states across the country are even closer. Romney is right to say that a large majority of Americans feel victimized, and in large part Obama plays on this with his campaign rhetoric as well.  From an electoral perspective, he’s right to do so if he wants to get elected. In America’s two-party system, it is critical to put divergent blocs of people together within your coalition to win.

However, America has lost a philosophical foundation that used to guide our political discourse. This utilitarian perspective has created policies which hurt our livelihoods and abilities to compete in a free economy. Obamacare will make it more difficult to purchase the type and extent of health insurance you choose. TARP and GM bailouts have made it more difficult for better companies to identify the weaknesses in failed enterprises and launch their innovative ways of doing business better. Our ever increasing tax burden, especially on those with the capital to invest in job creating enterprises, is pushing America down the competitive scale. Our lives are becoming harder to live because our society is focused on the largest benefit for the largest number. Individuals who fall outside of that be damned.

Mitt Romney’s comments are not bothersome because they correctly identified the fact that too many people in this country are reliant upon government assistance and redistributive policies. It’s bothersome because he put a number out there: 10%, 50%, 99% ... it doesn’t matter. The philosophical base that these people have is what’s dangerous, and regardless if one person or one hundred million people hold that philosophy, we need to ensure our government institutions reject that philosophy. Our government is here to protect rights, individual rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.