Dr. Richard C. Fording, chair of the UA political science department, states that he finds several key lessons in the debate over the “47 percent” statement former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney made on recently distributed video.
“This 47 percent Gov. Romney refers to consists of several distinct groups. The majority of that 47 percent are people who are working and paying payroll taxes. They also pay state and local taxes. The only tax they don’t pay is the federal income tax, because they qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit, which offers a tax rebate to poor, working adults with children. This tax rebate was started by a Republican president, Gerald Ford, and is viewed as a great success by liberals and conservatives alike because it helps to ‘make work pay’ and keep families off public assistance.
"The next largest group of the 47 percent is the elderly, who receive Social Security and Medicare benefits. This demographic group actually supports Romney, at least before his remarks were made public.
"Finally, there is a smaller group of individuals and families who are receiving public assistance right now because of the economic downturn. When the economy improves, this group will shrink, leaving only a tiny fraction of the population on welfare, primarily due to long-term or short-term disabilities and other work barriers that prevent them from being able to work full time.”
Fording is co-author of the book “Disciplining the Poor: Neoliberal Paternalism and the Persistent Power of Race” with Drs. Joe Soss and Sanford S. Schram, published by the University of Chicago Press.