Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s comments in a leaked video about government dependency and the percentage of Americans who do not pay federal income tax has sparked a lot of debate in the past few days.
Romney mentioned that “47 percent” of Americans are “dependent upon government” and “pay no income tax.” While those dependent on government and those that don’t pay income tax and are not necessarily one, there is a lot of overlap. As recently as 2009, 47 percent of all tax filers paid no federal income taxes.
Heritage Foundation economist Alison Fraser raises a critical question:
So the individual income tax funds the bulk of operations of the federal government, including such core things as national defense, homeland security, and the judicial system. Shouldn’t all Americans have some stake, even if just a nominal one, in funding these government programs? Should nearly 50 percent of Americans really be exempt from funding the most basic constitutional functions of government—along with education, food stamps, energy, welfare, foreign aid, veterans’ benefits, housing, and so forth?
Furthermore, the 2012 Heritage Index of Dependence on Government found that 63.7 million Americans received either welfare benefits, Social Security, or support for higher education—an eight percent increase over the previous year. These same people were very likely to receive other federal benefits such as Medicare or food stamps. Continue Reading »