Makers vs. takers

by on September 19, 2012 at 9:48 am in Current Affairs, Economics, Political Science, Uncategorized | Permalink

The correct point is not about slotting particular individuals into one category or the other.  Rather, on a given policy issue what is the relevant political influence of — on that issue — the makers vs. the takers?  Very often the takers are the classic better-mobilized concentrated interest groups, a’la Mancur Olson.  Consider farm policy and patents as examples but the list is long.

Many commentators are framing the matter in terms of raising or lowering the relative status of aid recipients.  So it’s the aspiring student, the virtuous retiree, and the brave veteran, rather than the irresponsible bums.  That’s a distraction (albeit a legitimate correction), as the real question is whether the political equilibrium is shifting toward takers.  That’s takers as roles in particular political struggles, not individuals with “taker” stamped on their foreheads.

Various forms of crony capitalism arguably are on the rise.  Is the political influence of the issue-specific takers, relative to the issue-specific makers, a growing problem in American politics?   What does the evidence actually suggest?

It seems Romney got a lot wrong in his remarks, but I haven’t seen many of the commentators move the ball to even that simple place on the field.

fnook September 19, 2012 at 9:58 am

Blah blah blah. Makers v. Takers framing is b.s. from the get go if you ask me, and it’s hardly the real question. Plus, it’s hard to “move the ball” when faced with statements that are as incoherent and contentious as those Romney made.

Professor of English September 19, 2012 at 12:18 pm

Your initial thesis statement ably captured what followed.

lemmy caution September 19, 2012 at 1:01 pm

Right. Romney was the one who called all of the 47% “takers”. He is the one with the nuance problem.

Farm policy and patent policy may be bad ideas but they don’t fit into the “takers” vs “givers” framework. Farmers grow food. Patentees come up with new ideas.

john September 19, 2012 at 3:04 pm

The thing that most republicans do not seem to understand is that Romney is not behind cause he is Romney. He is behind in the polls cause the more folks understand what Ryan and him plan on doing, the more they do not like it.

That is why Romney does not want to get into any specifics.

It is very simple.

A good example is Romney’s white paper on education and his freedom agenda and plans to gut grad school support. Yup, you are free to be on your own. How in the earth does he plan on supporting the long term nation security need for highly educated and skill workers if his plan guts graduate school support? Simple put, he can’t.

John Skookum September 20, 2012 at 1:24 am

“Highly educated and skill (sic) workers” and “grad school graduates” are two sets whose intersection seems to be growing smaller by the year. If Romney can do something about tax dollars going to fund toilet-paper degrees in interdisciplinary racial grievance studies and the like, I’m all for it.

James Hare September 21, 2012 at 9:26 am

And who, exactly, will be determining which degrees are “toilet-paper degrees?” You?

john personna September 19, 2012 at 8:12 pm

I’m not sure it is a good idea to “help” a bad argument, as in makers vs takers. It might be better to scrap it and begin again. I mean, Romney’s key error seems to be that there is this group pf takers out there, and that it isn’t a more complicated problem with many people making and taking at the same time. Considering farm policy and patents, I don’t see any pure actors either way.

zbicyclist September 19, 2012 at 10:01 am

The irony is that many in Romney’s audience were in that audience because their income / their company’s income depends on government policies — the health care industry being just one example.

I’m sure there are a few big contributors who do it out of some sense of high principle, just as there are a few people who read Playboy for the articles.

PJ September 19, 2012 at 11:58 am

+1 Well said!!

foosionpol September 19, 2012 at 10:03 am

Dean Baker frequently writes that the pre-tax redistributions and distortions, such as patent protections, a higher exchange rate, too big to fail subsidies, etc., dwarf tax and redistribution policy in impact. The pre-tax policies do a tremendous amount to redistribute to the 1%, while other government policies do a minimal amount to move in the other direction.

Focus on tax policy misses this entirely.

RZ0 September 19, 2012 at 10:04 am

Actually, I think a lot of commentators did work to reframe the argument as makers vs. takers. Romney suggested that 47% of Americans pay no income tax and that they constitute a parasitic subculture that votes uniformly for Obama.

Commentators have pointed out that:
1) Most Americans pay many other federal taxes.
2) The overall tax burden is relatively flat, when all state, federal and local taxes are accounted for.
3) Many people who pay no income tax are not especially parasitic – senior citizens (who paid taxes over a lifetime, and to a large degree self-funded their Social Security benefit) and veterans, to name a couple.
4) Many people who fail to pay taxes in one year did pay them before or after. Circumstances like a layoff let them off the hook for federal income tax.
5) The percentage of people who didn’t pay federal income tax spiked up 10 percentage points in 2009, largely because of the weak economy.

I think some confusion arises because the commentators didn’t use the ‘makers vs. takers’ terminology. But I think all five points address the idea.

GiT September 19, 2012 at 10:32 am

Also, something like 40% of “the 47%” probably vote Romney.

Jared September 19, 2012 at 11:12 am

I’ve seen numbers that say that Obama has a 15 point lead with voters that make less than 36,000, but I can’t find it at the moment. http://www.ropercenter.uconn.edu/elections/how_groups_voted/voted_08.html#.UFnf0lG2nME. Against McCain, Obama won every slice of the population that made less than the median.

Romney’s real whopper was that welfare recipients constitute a powerful voting block that moves thoughtlessly. They skew democratic, but certainly not monolithically. They mostly don’t vote either.

Brian Donohue September 19, 2012 at 11:25 am

#2 is a disingenuous fudge. Taxes in America (if you can unglue your attention from the top 0.1% capital gains crowd, who I’m prepared to throw on the bonfire anyway) are quite a bit more progressive than Europe (with its reliance on payroll and VAT taxes.)

Doc Merlin September 19, 2012 at 12:01 pm

Brian is correct.
The US is far more progressive than Europe. And now, its economic freedom score is lower than most of Scandinavia according to the Fraiser institute.

Bill Stepp September 19, 2012 at 12:52 pm

And now even socialist Sweden is cutting its corporate income tax.

libert September 22, 2012 at 4:39 pm

The US tax code is more progressive than Europe’s, but its government spending it more regressive than Europe’s. That is simply an artifact of the fact that in the US, we administer the welfare state through the tax code, whereas in Europe they do it with direct spending programs like the NHS.

Boonton September 19, 2012 at 12:32 pm

In regard to #3, consider that something like 2/3 of that 47% do not pay income tax because they are raising kids and get the Earned Income Tax Credit. Since kids today are tomorrow’s taxpayers and makers one could view this as a positive social investment…

Brandon Berg September 19, 2012 at 4:14 pm

Income is fairly strongly heritable. People with incomes low enough to benefit from the EITC will tend to have children with similarly low incomes. So no, they mostly aren’t raising future taxpayers.

doug September 19, 2012 at 5:41 pm

And that’s why we have EITC, Headstart, SNAP etc. to try to break that cycle, since it is so difficult to do it without that help.

John Skookum September 20, 2012 at 1:27 am

Well, then you must have some empirical proof that such things in fact do help break the dependency cycle, rather than being useless at best or more likely to suck them into the cycle at worst. Don’t you?

Boonton September 20, 2012 at 6:10 am

Income is fairly strongly heritable.

No it’s not. http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2008/07/the_income_heri.html

Despite being called ‘strongly heritable’ it’s correlation is still only 0.40 meaning that the majority of variation in lifetime income is not correlated with your parents income. Also remember 2/3 of the 47% who do not pay income taxes do so *because* of the EITC. This means when they are not raising kids they pay income taxes which makes them net income earners.

Michael September 19, 2012 at 10:05 am

While “one person” doesn’t constitute “many commentators,” Matthew Yglesias makes essentially the same point in a post that beat yours by 13 minutes (Did you two chat?).

http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2012/09/19/who_s_really_dependent_on_government_everyone_not_just_people_who_get_social_security_or_welfare_.html

He uses copyright law and sugar subsidies as his examples, but it’s the same general argument.

Andrew' September 19, 2012 at 10:21 am

EVERYONE is dependent on government and his example is Microsoft, outside of Coke arguably the most unique business EVER?

Yggy fail.

Andrew' September 19, 2012 at 10:24 am

btw, besides being incorrect logically he’s probably not even correct factually. You could copy MSFT and still not undercut them just like you could probably copy Coke EXACTLY and not displace them. So, he’s wrong. This doesnt’ have anything to do with copyright, although the existence of copyright does allow government to claim credit for such a business moat.

Jon Rodney September 19, 2012 at 10:29 am

Sorry, but I call BS. If someone started distributing software identical to windows for half the price, they would take a big chunk out of MSFT market share. Software is not like soda.

Andrew' September 19, 2012 at 10:47 am

I suspect you are wrong and software may be exactly like soft drinks. Google docs is free. It’s not about market share, either. The question is how much does copyright account for this market situation, and I’d say almost zero. There is plenty of anti-copying efforts. You can already pirate anything. How much of the success of anti-pirating is from the government? Again I’d speculate almost zero. MSFT does it mostly for themselves through security, price discrimination, etc.

Even if you are right and MSFT ‘didn’t build that’ they are still the worst example in the world. I don’t have any copyrights comparable to MSFT, so how does Matt come up with his breathless “everyone is dependent…” I never asked for corporate welfare either, for those keeping records.

Next, comparing theft protection (even if you assume it works) to welfare is a pretty big stretch. People aren’t dependent on government to stop thieves and murderers, it’s just more efficient and more just to not have to be vigilantes.

Jared September 19, 2012 at 10:48 am

There are a couple of Linux distros that would say otherwise.

Andrew' September 19, 2012 at 10:59 am

Take another couple examples:
The Grateful Dead copied themselves mercilessly and this added to their success rather than undermining it.
And could anyone copy U2 and ‘steal their market share’? The notion is ridiculous on its face.
And yet, one could still claim they are protected by copyright, but they’d be mostly wrong.
So, how would Windows, XL, and Word be similar or different? Maybe MSFT has these priced perfectly to avoid losing to competitors or copiers.
Worst example ever to make a bad point. There is a fundamental difference between someone dependent on a redistribution and someone who just wants government to do its fundamental job so that we all don’t have to be like U2, Coke, or MSFT. Just keep my car from getting stolen…oops, they didn’t, then they charged me to get it out of impound. Romney is a world-class dip, but his attackers are just helping him.

derek September 19, 2012 at 10:59 am

Microsoft was very successful at giving away their software and driving out competition from the marketplace, then tightening up on use control once they had a monopoly. They seemed to have a more rational understanding of copyright and it’s value than most IP cheerleaders. IP is worthless unless someone wants to pay for it, and Microsoft managed things so that lots of people paid for it.

Andrew' September 19, 2012 at 11:06 am

Why don’t we just have a chuckle over what kind of douche someone would have to be to say “47.26923% of people are clinging to their guns and religion…I mean…mooching” and move on?

A good politician would have said 10 or 15%. A dumbass makes me wonder if he’s talking about me. That’s the story here.

Doc Merlin September 19, 2012 at 12:03 pm

Actually, people do. There are open source versions of office that are nearly identical, but it hasn’t really dented Office’s sales.

Michael g September 19, 2012 at 12:51 pm
Ken September 19, 2012 at 2:38 pm

andrew’

There’s another story there when one compares the “guns an religion” speech with the “47%” speech: Saletan makes the case (also on slate) : http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/frame_game/2012/09/romney_s_47_percent_vs_obama_s_cling_to_guns_or_religion_which_gaffe_is_worse_.html

Point being if on listens to the Obama speech, he’s trying to explain how his constituency can persuade ppl who might vote against him to change sides. Romney says what every non rich person suspects rich folk say in private. Less well-off ppl are parasites. As for your assertion that a good politician would say 10-15%. You’re advocating something that the numbers don’t bear out. Contorting the truth.

foosion September 19, 2012 at 10:54 am

Look at the patent wars going in the mobile phone industry.

Look at the tremendous above market prices pharama commands compared to generic

Andrew' September 19, 2012 at 11:01 am

Right, these prove that EVERYONE benefits the same…oh wait…

derek September 19, 2012 at 11:06 am

Look at how much it actually costs the government to administer these things, from application to court costs. Look how much companies who depend on these protections pay in taxes, fees etc., and how much on top of that do they pay to protect their IP, in legal fees, patent research and handling, etc.

I would think that they are makers, not takers. Exceptions exist of course.

Really the question comes down to are you a cost center or a revenue center for the government. Net. There will be quite a few in any society who are cost centers, but if that number gets too big, we see something like the current economy as a result. And if you don’t think this is THE issue of our time, you aren’t paying attention.

Michael Foody September 19, 2012 at 11:27 am

Derek, only a fraction of the costs of protecting IP are borne by the government in the form of court costs you describe. The real costs are incurred by consumers who are paying more for drugs than they otherwise would and consumers who go without drugs because they cannot afford them.

Andrew' September 19, 2012 at 11:35 am

We tolerate Bill Gates getting rich because we assume copyright and patent improves consumer utility. Actually, we don’t even care, but we certainly don’t do it expressly to make Bill Gates rich. That would be silly. We would tolerate welfare if it made people independent contributors. In fact, we’d be happy. It is whether it has the exact opposite effect that Romney is talking about. Let’s try not to get the point completely bass ackwards no matter how much we want to beat Romney. He’s doing fine beating himself. In fact it is remarkable how well he keeps doing. People must be really sore at Obama.

MD September 19, 2012 at 1:35 pm

A’ – Many people have been on various welfare-type government programs and went on to become “independent contributors” or whatever the fuck you want to call it.

dead serious September 19, 2012 at 2:23 pm

http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/tue-september-18-2012/the-millionaire-gaffemaker

4:30 in is a clip wherein Romney’s own mother describes what a teat-sucking parasite his father was earlier on in life.

Look, I’m not enamored of welfare programs – I would favor temporary financial assistance with a pledge of future loan repayment.

Regardless, to hear a stuffed shirt like Romney, a smarmy country club jerk-off born with a silver spoon up his ass denigrating half the country – and not even understanding what demographic comprises that 47% of presumed welfare queens he’s shitting all over – is beyond the pale.

Especially when the bulk of his personal fortune was derived from value-subtract (the exact opposite of “value-add”) endeavors.

Benny Lava September 19, 2012 at 7:17 pm

Well this is just silly nonsense. If I started a company that copied Coca-Cola’s formula exactly and sold it in identical bottles labeled Coca-Cola for 15% less I would put the Coca-Cola company out of business very quickly.

Grow up people.

Anon September 19, 2012 at 10:08 am

This is not a helpful post. You’re describing crony capitalism as a case of some makers (in the sense of actually making things), being takers (in your sense of lobbying for special favors). This is only going to confuse people.

The whole framing of “makers vs takers” is silly, anyway. Please don’t add to the confusion by trying to redefine the terms in entirely unintuitive ways.

Jared September 19, 2012 at 11:00 am

“This is not a helpful post. You’re describing crony capitalism as a case of some makers (in the sense of actually making things), being takers (in your sense of lobbying for special favors). This is only going to confuse people.”

Isn’t that exactly Romney’s frame though? There is set of Americans that are productive and earn healthy incomes, and then there is a set that through being a powerful voting block is lavished in favors. Romney’s takers work as well.

The more I reread Tyler, the more I agree. Romney got a lot factually wrong (ie that welfare recipients vote in any number). Still, the ‘productive v. favored by gov’t’ dichotomy is an important one. It’s probably the most potent political ideal at the moment. The base on the right believes in Romney’s take on it, and the base on the left believes in a productive main street v. a taker wall street.

A lot of Americans think in terms of makers v. takers. It would be better to rationalize and get some facts straight on where the lines are drawn from issue to issue.

JWatts September 19, 2012 at 3:08 pm

“The more I reread Tyler, the more I agree. Romney got a lot factually wrong (ie that welfare recipients vote in any number). Still, the ‘productive v. favored by gov’t’ dichotomy is an important one. It’s probably the most potent political ideal at the moment. The base on the right believes in Romney’s take on it, and the base on the left believes in a productive main street v. a taker wall street. ”

+1, I agree, there is a general consensus of a cultural war between takers and makers. The grouping of who counts as a maker vs who counts as a taker is where the argument lies.

Wasn’t Occupy Wall Street all about the 99% Makers vs the 1% Takers? That grouping is no better than Romney’s grouping. Both capture the concept, but disagree on who belongs in each group.

KLO September 19, 2012 at 10:18 am

What matters? Is it the number of people who rely on government entitlements or is it the amount that they take? The moral fiber of the country may be more affected if lots of people are on the take than if only a few are, regardless of the dollar figures involved. On the other hand, lots of people can rent-seek in search of the rare large prize. My sense is that Republicans admire large rent-seekers more than low-level entitlement takers, because the rent-seekers have to work and compete to get their ill-gotten gains. See e.g. Lance Armstrong.

Jon Rodney September 19, 2012 at 10:25 am

I think the real problem with Romney’s remarks is that he takes the legitimate problem TC describes (crony capitalism), and tries to make it about income taxes / welfare dependency. Others may disagree, but to me providing basic services to elderly, disabled, or low-income americans is not about cronyism and also not about making/taking. Romney just parrots a commonly rhetorical device to attack the safety net. Many people from both sides of the aisle will agree cronyism is a bad thing but disagree that tax relief for the poor is a bad thing. Until conservatives stop conflating the two, it will be difficult to reach a consensus on any kind of tax reform that requires taking on special interests.

GiT September 19, 2012 at 10:34 am

I don’t see how this “reframing” makes much sense. Romney was referring to a very specific division (47/53, non-income tax payers vs income tax payers). Any framing of the problem seems like it should focus on that central binary, not introduce some binary related to inequality which you’d prefer to talk about.

Roxy September 19, 2012 at 11:57 am

+1. Tyler chides everyone else for not collectively analyzing some tangentially related topic that he’d rather focus on, “crony capitalism” or whatever. Maybe if we could read Tyler’s mind we too could “move the ball.”

Roxy September 19, 2012 at 12:13 pm
JIm September 19, 2012 at 10:35 am

The bigger problem, it seems to me, is the tendency for campaign rhetoric to shift toward toward an “us vs. them” mentality, which did not begin with Romney, or this election cycle, for that matter. The depiction of the “1%” or “2%” as parasitic or plutocratic is an incredibly damaging, as well as empirically wrong, line of thinking (almost 50% of federal revenues come from individual taxes, about 40% of which are paid by the 1% (who account for roughly 20% of income)). Another 35% come from payroll taxes, which are linked to specific payouts and do not “level the tax burden” because the ROI on payroll taxes is very progressive (it’s huge for the bottom quintile, and negative for the top quintile of earners). Meanwhile, the small-business owners who actually create jobs (which are the ones that matter for economic growth) generally pall into the 2% as flow-through taxpayers. Romney’s push-back was clumsy, but the real problem here is that the maintenance and expansion of payouts to the middle class (health care, mortgage interest, subsidized college loans, etc.) can’t be paid for entirely by increases on the 1%, and the drag on the economy from the current and expected level of taxation is substantial. But everyone becomes a “taker” for their little piece of the pie, and little by little we adopt an “I got mine” attitude until the pyramid is upside down.

Darren M. September 19, 2012 at 3:21 pm

And an upside down pyramid is not terribly stable.

Sherman Dorn September 19, 2012 at 10:44 am

A new irregular verb!

“I make; you’re receiving an implicit subsidy; they’re doing nothing but rent-seeking.”

Alex' September 19, 2012 at 3:11 pm

I laughed.

derek September 19, 2012 at 10:50 am

What is the cost per individual of government, and at what income level does that individual pay for it?

Right now the US citizenry is getting 1/3 approximately more government than they are paying for.

I think we are seeing the glimmers of an actual reality here. The reaction from the left is similar to what we see happen when (name prophet here) is called a pedophile. Romer and others have made the point that countries don’t see growth when their debt levels get to a high level, and maybe, just maybe this is one reason. Everyone in the economy, from the guy who quits looking for work and gets on disability, to the company that sees it’s path to prosperity by feeding on the flow of cash from the government. A zero sum game.

If you were a rational being, would you not, for example, try really hard to place yourself where you can get a little piece of the $45 billion that the Fed is using to buy mortgage bonds?

Anyone who cares about those who can’t look after themselves better look around and see who suffers the most in these circumstances. The money does run out.

8 September 19, 2012 at 11:30 am

Bingo. All of America is a taker. The government is borrowing 40% of every dollar it spends. Americans are spending 108% of GDP.

Andrew' September 19, 2012 at 11:31 am

It’s a bit like saying prison inmates are getting way more government than they are paying for.

Brian Donohue September 19, 2012 at 11:45 am

Call me a rational expectationist, but I’m budgeting $200,000 in net worth to pay for “accrued taxes” to Uncle Sam and another $50,000 to cover Illinois pensions (assuming they can stop the bleeding.) Friedman explained it all to me as “the taxes we call deficits”. And I’m happy to increase these reserves, rather than write checks today, as long as the government can borrow at these ridiculous rates.

These numbers are “per capita family of four”, based on $16 trillion in federal debt and $150 billion in unfunded pension and healthcare for Illinois public sector workers.

Of course, I’m not so naive to suppose these taxes will be paid “per capita”, any more than current taxes are. So, maybe the price is double for me. OTOH, maybe we don’t have to be as responsible as the WWII generation and pay down ALL the debt, just get it to a sustainable level, provided we leave the country richer than we found it.

If it looks like the bill will be bigger than this, I’ll consider Sayonara Illinois, and, maybe, USA, with a clean conscience.

The point is: I’m not richer than i think I am. How about you?

- A responsible taxpayer

Andrew' September 19, 2012 at 11:56 am

You are just going to bounce and leave behind all the great things that debt has given you?

Well, more for me!

MH September 19, 2012 at 12:23 pm

“Everyone in the economy, from the guy who quits looking for work and gets on disability.”
———–

Maybe you can enlighten me, but; how does one just “get on disability”? I was under the impression that you needed to be, you know; disabled. In addition you had to be able to prove you were disabled in order to qualify for any benefits.

Brian Donohue September 19, 2012 at 1:04 pm

In that case, what is the explanation for skyrocketing disability claims over the past 20 years?

Andrew' September 19, 2012 at 1:18 pm

“I was under the impression that you needed to be, you know; disabled. ”

Hahahaha. Sucker.

MH September 19, 2012 at 2:35 pm

I can’t speak to rise in disability claims over the past 20 years. Although I would like to see some numbers for an unbiased source. However I would expect to see a dramatic increase in disability claims over the past 11 years. After all we’ve been fighting two ground wars most of that time. Even now after we’ve ended the war in Iraq soldiers in Afghanistan are still getting shot up on a weekly basis.

Obviously if large numbers of people are committing fraud then we need to clamp down on that. But I doubt that is the whole story. Also while I’ll admit that I’m not intimately familiar with the application process to collect disability; I doubt that someone can just stroll down to their local welfare office, and collect a disability check every month without subjecting themselves to a significant amount of scrutiny during the application process

JWatts September 19, 2012 at 3:23 pm

“However I would expect to see a dramatic increase in disability claims over the past 11 years. After all we’ve been fighting two ground wars most of that time.”

The total number of veterans of both Iraq and Afghanistan is only around 1.6 million. There were well over 2 million disability claims last year alone. So increased military disabilities couldn’t possibly be more than 5% of the total increase in claims. And that ignores the fact that the VA handles a lot of the cost of disabilities directly.

j r September 19, 2012 at 3:56 pm

Watch TV during the day or late at night. You’ll see lots of law firms advertising that they can help you collect disability. There’s also lots of doctors that will help those lawyers make those disability claims. It ain’t exactly outright fraud, but let’s just say that there’s lots of things that the average person can get themselves diagnosed with.

Jan September 19, 2012 at 11:24 pm

It is getting exceedingly difficult to get on disability–only 35% of applications result in being granted SSDI now. The medical officers reviewing cases are under a lot of pressure to deny applications. Even in clear cut cases, people often have to apply multiple times and wait many months or years while not working any job at all (b/c if you did that it would of course mean you’re not disabled). It seems to me that if one had any ability to work and make a paycheck, rather than wait untold number of years for the disability app to clear, that they would rather take the job, especially considering how low the disability payments are.

Also, there are various reasons the number of disabled is going up, but just one is the aging population. Older workers are more likely to incur accidents and other physical ailments that prevent them from working.

jmo September 19, 2012 at 4:00 pm

what is the explanation for skyrocketing disability claims over the past 20 years?

Aging population, increasing obesity, rising rates of diabetes, etc. would certainly be a large component.

Brian Donohue September 19, 2012 at 5:51 pm

Later, Homer is reading through a book called “Am I Disabled?

Homer: “Carpal tunnel syndrome”…no.
“Lumber lung”…no.
“Juggler’s despair”…no.
“Achy breaky pelvis”…no. Oh, I’m never going to be disabled!
I’m sick of being so healthy.
Hey, wait…hyper-obesity! “If you weigh more than 300 pounds,
you qualify as disabled.”

Jan September 19, 2012 at 11:13 pm

The comparison you make in your third paragraph is plain offensive.

Remember that some very wealthy, very efficient countries do quite well with many more government programs than we have and which directly benefit a larger proportion of their population that the programs here in the U.S. It works, and the money doesn’t run out, because those societies are willing to pay for it. And not just the top 1% of earners in those countries.

KenF September 19, 2012 at 11:11 am

Romney’s remarks do not deserve “commentary.” All they deserve is repudiation. The amazing part is that he probably doesn’t even believe the obscenely stupid things he said.

Andrew' September 19, 2012 at 11:33 am

Exactly. He is dead wrong. It is not 47%. It is probably something like the 3rd and 19th ventiles.

Brian Donohue September 19, 2012 at 11:14 am

Goldwater said as much in 1964, in the teeth of liberal hegemony. Everyone gasped.

Reagan said as much in 1980, amidst crumbling liberal hegemony. Many gasped.

Romney’s remark reflects the elevation of alternatives to the liberal worldview in the process of supplanting the liberal worldview. Some gasped.

So much for rhetoric/ideology. Meanwhile, at ground level, the liberal welfare state rumbles on, and Clinton’s “the era of big government is over” is but a faint echo.

Millian September 19, 2012 at 11:53 am

Way more than 53% of people voted for Reagan, though. It’s the “I need to win 95% of thinking people” implication that is really repugnant.

NAME REDACTED September 19, 2012 at 12:05 pm

If you have ever campaigned in a local bond or tax election…. this is roughly how it works. You have all the firemen, teachers, cops, city employees, PTA on one side, and everyone else on the other side. Because turnout will be around 1% (if you are lucky) its very, very hard to fight the tax/bond increases.

Brian Donohue September 19, 2012 at 12:24 pm

Romney has a knack for saying clumsily what Reagan said well. He looks dead in the water anyway.

The aggravating point, which Friedman made decades ago but continues after the Reagan-Clinton lull, is the growing gap between the intellectual debate, which has moved steadily rightward, and policy.

Annoy_ken September 19, 2012 at 2:47 pm

BD. Funny stuff. If there’s a definite drift to the right I’d say the metaphor of a fulcrum works best. Small portion has moved ever rightward and some leftists have developed more moderate views. Still means that the Rightward shift is poorly balanced as the crazoids are now Right wing hippies with Tri-corner hats! Whoopee!!!

Boonton September 19, 2012 at 2:48 pm

Naaa, the problem isn’t that Romney is just being Reagan but lacking in the public speaking skills. The problem is that Romney has contempt for the public, which Reagan didn’t.

The bulk of the ’47%’ are people who are benefitting from policies that Reagan embraced. Consider just the Earned Income Tax Credit whic causes maybe about 2/3 of the 47% to have no net income taxes due. This was a policy ushered in by Reagan as an explicitly anti-poverty program that supported work and family. It is, in fact, an execution of Milton Friedman’s ‘negative income tax’ idea. Somewhere between then and now the GOP lost that concept and let the Democrats take it over.

Romney is trying to represent something that never worked for the Republicans, the elitist Ayn Randian view that divides the world between takers and makers and assumes an Atlas Shrugged battle between them as a given. Republicans actually believe themselves to be an elite class of highly intelligent people who have to be in charge in order for the world to work yet they must tolerate living in a world full of stupid barbarians who must be conned into supporting their policies through deceptions, simplifications and any other trick that works. The ultimate irony is just how pathetic their actual attempts to run things have turned out.

The relevant thing to consider is not just the contempt Romney exhibits but the inability to even understand the argument he is attempting to confront. It’s not just that ‘takers’ happen to have fallen on hard times hence can’t pay income taxes. His argument is that they consider themselves victims who are entitled to mooch off of others. Yet this is completely at odds with the worldview of the Democratic Party which views the safety net as a partnership. You get a low interest subsidized loan to go to college but for the purpose of getting a good job that will allow you to make a better life for you and others ….not because ‘the man’ kept you down and now you’re entitled to free college. You’re not ‘entitled’ to health care but have a responsibility to buy health insurance which is coupled with help to make it reasonably affordable for you. Even consider the EITC which Democrats have always depicted using Bill Clinton’s formulation (if you work 40 hours a week, ‘play by the rules’ and are raising kids you won’t be in poverty). Romney’s argument, like Eastwood’s dottering peformance arguing with an imaginary character, is one that became more less moot twenty years ago.

Darren M. September 19, 2012 at 3:27 pm

Republicans actually believe themselves to be an elite class of highly intelligent people who have to be in charge in order for the world to work yet they must tolerate living in a world full of stupid barbarians who must be conned into supporting their policies through deceptions, simplifications and any other trick that works.

Wrong party.

Jan September 19, 2012 at 11:31 pm

“Republicans actually believe themselves to be an elite class of highly intelligent people who have to be in charge in order for the world to work yet they must tolerate living in a world full of stupid barbarians who must be conned into supporting their policies through deceptions, simplifications and any other trick that works.”

I think he just forgot to clarify he meant specifically Republican politicians, not Republican voters.

mulp September 19, 2012 at 12:41 pm

If America has moved to the right and elected small government conservatives, why has the economic policies moved so much more rapidly to the left and to decline than during the near half century of leftist government, which to be honest followed a half century of Republican leftist big government policies (with an interim two decades of attempts to move to the right)?

Lincoln was not a small government conservative – in private practice he advocated for big government economic development crony capitalism, and as president signed a flurry of big government laws promoting economic development by picking the winners. Railroads were picked as winners over ships and horses. Government run education and industrial research were promoted. Land redistribution from the original landowners to individuals picked by government to get virtually free land, with military enforcing these land transfers. And the biggest government regulator was setup by Republicans: ICC – Interstate Commerce Commission to dictate railroad service which spread to dictate terms of half the economy.

Hey, all the emotional words selected to denigrate the will of the voters and divide We the People into virtuous and evil classes can be applied to every American age. If small government and local control were the basis of government in America, there would be no United States of America. The USA is the product of big government from before its creation.

Andrew' September 19, 2012 at 1:22 pm

Lincoln is a great man. And by “Lincoln” I mean Daniel Day Lewis.

Rich Berger September 19, 2012 at 1:30 pm

I always enjoy your wacky history lessons.

collin September 19, 2012 at 11:20 am

I think the makers vs takers seems a little a distraction but as Jon Stewart said the Romney sounds like cartoon boss (flash Monti Burns). This is what most workers thinks is the attitude of all CEOs that all our workers don’t know good they have it working for my company. (Read his comments like Dave Henderson of how great it is the Chinese factories can fit 12 girls to a dormroom.) While it is acceptable at a workplace where somebody is getting a paycheck, it certainly sounds bad to voters considering how much Romney wants to increase military spending and let Bibi decide our foreign policy. Ron Paul lost his gamble that his primary success would help him get a speaking position at the convention and real input to the Republican platform. (Rand is not Ron and the gold standard comment will be forgotten.)

Bill Harshaw September 19, 2012 at 12:16 pm

I’d offer the influence of the crop insurance industry (companies and especially agents) on farm policy and, possibly, the influence of insurance agents on healthcare policy–witness the pending amendment of the 80/20 rule on maximum administrative costs. There’s also the influence of the real estate industry (realtors) on the deduction for mortgage interest. And finally the influence of the auto dealers in partially beating back the closure of dealerships under the auto bailout.

The common factor in these examples: people who are widely distributed across the country and who have the money and the knowledge on how to organize and lobby.

mulp September 19, 2012 at 1:06 pm

The USA is the creation of takers, because no one made America, but instead took it from the peoples who first occupied it.

And the primary reason for all the people flocking to the Americas was to take, not make.

When has their been a bigger land redistributionist policy than American take the land of others by force and redistribute it to winners picked by government that in the Americas? Who more actively pursued a taker policy than President Jackson? President Lincoln?

And the Romney campaign has attacked Obama for not ensuing the oil companies were taking more oil from the land of the people, but instead let the market process require oil companies buy the oil from private landowners.

Conservatives seem unusually devoted to taking, and opposed to making. Rather than make energy production capital, conservatives oppose makers and extol the virtues of the takers who extract capital and burn it. No oil company makes the oil – they take it. No coal company makes the coal – they take it. And after they are done taking, they want to move on and leave wasteland behind. New Orleans was far inland protected by wetland marsh, but the takers carved up the wetland to do their taking, and the saltwater incursions they caused, took away the wetland leaving open ocean, moving it closer to New Orleans.

Even on the roads and bridges, the bias of the past few decades has moved from making robust transportation infrastructure for the future to taking the existing infrastructure of past makers, who paid for what they made with higher taxes, for granted, letting it decay from use and age.

txslr September 19, 2012 at 1:24 pm

Not that anyone will care, righteous indignation being so fun and everything, but it’s not actually clear what Romney said. Right after the inflammatory comment that has so many people in a state of high dudgeon, the recording goes dead and picks up again some minutes later with Romney speaking on a different topic. Mother Jones failed to note this fact initially, but have now admitted that there is a gap. Their justification is that (as far as they know) the recording device somehow quit working at that magic moment.

Who knows? Maybe during that gap he said something REALLY bad! Let’s just pretend he did and let the flogging continue.

Popeye September 19, 2012 at 9:54 pm

That’s why Romney stood by his comments in his initial press conference response.

Jan September 19, 2012 at 11:36 pm

If he had said something reasonably intelligent or defensible in the dead spot, the campaign would have clarified what that was. They didn’t.

txslr September 20, 2012 at 12:38 am

No. As always, it is more complicated than that. First, Romney said he does not remember what he said, exactly. Too bad there is no recording of it, huh? Then he said that he stands by the words that were reported because he MEANT something other than the interpretation being provided by the snarling dogs of the press and liberal blogosphere. Perhaps light could have been shone on that claim by, I don’t know; THE REST OF HIS ANSWER?

This is no more than Obama’s people demanded when he said “you didn’t build that”.

If you really don’t want to know what Romney meant or what he believes, by all means carry on with the public humiliation. It looks like fun. For your own sake, however, don’t pretend you are doing anything more profound than rooting for your team against all comers. Making Romney into a cartoon character is not advancing the ball.

dead serious September 20, 2012 at 8:57 am

He already is a cartoon character. Some jokes write themselves.

The outrage about that video isn’t that Romney thinks those things – it’s pretty obvious that he has a palpable distaste for those below his social standing – it’s that he’d say them in a semi-public forum.

He is about as unpolished a speaker as I’ve ever seen from a politician, he is tactless, and he lacks common sense. He’s a smarter, but less likeable version of GWB.

txslr September 20, 2012 at 2:29 pm

Ah-hah! So there is no need to think, as long as you can emote! Now I understand.

You are making my point. There is no need to make a good faith attempt to understand what he might have said or meant to say or what he believes or wants to do. You don’t like his affect, so any smack down will do.

And how is this any different from those who say that it is obvious that Obama has a palpable distaste for ordinary Americans – for those below his social standing who cling to God and guns? Do they have an obligation to think? An obligation of which you, somehow, have been absolved?

Lord September 19, 2012 at 1:54 pm

It is far more a tale of groups that enjoy living in their own self deluded reality, believing what they want to believe, hearing what they want to hear, smug and self serving, having someone else to blame for any trouble and failing to face any responsibility themselves. It is about the truly self entitled who believe taxes are for the little people and redistribution and theft from themselves.

Annoy_ken September 19, 2012 at 2:57 pm

HAHAHAHA!!!! LMAO… Sermon on the Mount PT2. Praise the Lord! He’s sees through the veil of complexity and gets right to the heart of reality. I think YOU should run our country. Seriously, I’d vote for you Lord.

LarryM September 19, 2012 at 1:54 pm

Tyler, this seems to be a pattern with you, and I think your mood affiliation is showing:

(1) Person on the right makes an error filled statement on some issue, typically partisan colored.
(2) People on the left respond, pointing out the errors and (often) bad faith argumentation involved.
(3) Tyler teases out a legitimate issue underneath the errors and bad faith of the right leaning person, and wonders why the people responding don’t grapple with that.

There are plenty of obvious reasons why they don’t, the most obvious of which is that, even for those who relish good faith, rational, polite debate with people who hold different ideologies. Comments like Romney’s are a poor starting point for such a conversation.

Of course in this particular case, the really infuriating issue, which just adds another level of reluctance for people to take his comments seriously, is the extent to which the goverment programs most problematic from a makers verus takers perpective (at least in terms of the problem that you identify) are programs that benfit Romney’s base, and that he therefore wouldn’t think of challenging. And really, if you DO want to make a serious “makers versu takers” argument based upon his comments, THAT is the point that is worth making – that Romney’s campaign, more than anything, is proof positive that programs with concentrated benficiaries can be problematic.

Bill September 19, 2012 at 2:34 pm

A slight rewrite of the English Nursery Rhyme Written

On the Occaision of A Politician’s Trip Out to Sea

Rub-a-dub-dub,
Three men in a tub,

And who do you think they be?

The taker, the maker,
The punditry-maker,
All put out to sea.

Rub-a-dub-dub,
Three men in a tub,

uffy September 19, 2012 at 3:01 pm

Job growth has overwhelmingly favored the service sector recently and productivity gains in healthcare and education, especially, do not seem to favor automation nor can they be effectively outsourced to lower cost locations. Same goes for many other service sector occupations to lesser but still significant degree. Further, an aging population necessarily involves fewer people per capita participating in the labor market. There has also been a marked increase in security-related expenditure that seems to fall squarely in the “taker” category. It seems highly doubtful that there would be any demand for increased “making” of many categories of product at this time given global economic conditions and already massive oversupply of industrial capacity.

As to rent seeking itself I doubt we are seeing any more than other countries or some trend at odds with international norms. It seems that as society and technology progress humans require ever more convoluted arrangements to keep this whole thing functioning and there are bound to be less and less “required” activities as a percent of total.

And for taxation, it might not hurt to have Americans with household incomes of $28k pay some regular income tax, but at the end of the day there just isn’t that much money there because obviously these people are poor.

Floccina September 19, 2012 at 4:02 pm

You could add licensed people to your list but, the biggest problem along this line is that the AARP group are intransigent. Some simple changes could reduce the deficit and the tax burden. I.e pay all SS recipients the same amount and let medicare squeeze providers more and be more aggressive in refusing to pay for procedures that do not produce significant improvement in the health of people over 65 years old. Of course many if not most AARPers vote Republican.

Ranjit Suresh September 19, 2012 at 6:26 pm

When people say things like this: let’s have Medicare squeeze providers and refuse to pay for procedures that merely say extend life by a few months… do they stop to consider what impact policies like this would have on medical innovation? Do they care?

Do they take the position of Robert Reich that we do in fact want less medical progress?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IT7Y0TOBuG4

will September 19, 2012 at 7:36 pm

What’s the big deal?We get less innovation aimed at old people. People express their desires elsewhere and prices attract more activity there.

Jan September 19, 2012 at 11:39 pm

If it is good innovation, it will be paid for. There is a lot of “innovation” out there that garners very high payments for little clinical benefit.

Boonton September 19, 2012 at 7:55 pm

Various forms of crony capitalism arguably are on the rise. Is the political influence of the issue-specific takers, relative to the issue-specific makers, a growing problem in American politics? What does the evidence actually suggest?

Tyler’s take on the issue is probably not going to get a lot of play because it’s rather counter-intuitive. ‘Takers’ under this definition are less about people not paying income tax or getting student aid as consumers. So Apple’s recent patent victory can be seen as a victory for ‘makers’ (IP owners) at the expense of ‘takers’ (consumers).

It’s not clear to me though that ‘takers’ are all aligned in their interests (Apple’s competitors clearly didn’t feel the ruling was very helpful to them….) and one could argue that even ‘takers’ aren’t all that upset.

Likewise in debating the Presidential election it doesn’t seem like Keynesian stimulus is much of a ‘taker v taker’ issue. Essentially demand side policies raise the power of takers by boosting the ability to consume. But since they don’t take anything from makers, they also seem to raise maker power too. Certainly payroll taxes being a few hundred dollars less is a benefit to Apple and iTunes as well as to actual people on the payroll.

prior_approval September 20, 2012 at 3:59 am

‘the real question is whether the political equilibrium is shifting toward takers. That’s takers as roles in particular political struggles, not individuals with “taker” stamped on their foreheads.’
Damn kids – make nothing but a mess of our fiscal rectitude by demanding to be fed and sheltered, and being able to find some politicians actually find that a reasonable goal.

Ritwik September 20, 2012 at 4:32 am

There isn’t a single field passing through the coordinates of the ball. There are infinitely many fields. There was a broad consensus, Romney included, on what field Romney wanted to play in. So people played in that field. That is not the field you want to play in. Sure. But to criticise them for not incorporating Olsonian special interest logic is to insist that all debates must have your interpretation. That there is only one field. Clearly, everyone (I’m guessing you included) will disagree.

Bill September 20, 2012 at 8:24 am

I wonder why Tyler didn’t include in the taker’s category those who argue for, and receive, special tax treatment: like the 15% rate you get for carried interest? Bain and others lobby strongly to retain it.

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