I found myself asking earlier this week exactly who Mitt Romney is including in that 47 percent of Americans he says aren’t paying any income taxes and are expecting the government to take care of them.
Is he including, for instance, the General Electric Corp., which routinely finds a way to weasel out of paying any taxes yet basks in a ton of government services that help support it, and all-too-much of the rest of corporate America, which likes to complain about high taxes but seldom pays any?
Or does he include our own Wisconsin Congressman Tom Petri, who figured out a way to write off a bad investment to free himself of paying any state income taxes for four years? Or any of the other multimillionaires who creatively avoid taxes the middle class cannot?
It’s always interesting to watch these anti-government politicians decry the less fortunate among us for becoming “dependent” on government, while taking every opportunity to milk government for all it’s worth — even if it means causing some pain for the little guy. How many families on food stamps, for example, could be helped if highly profitable GE paid even just a small percentage of taxes?
But the hypocrisy of the wealthy in this country has no bounds. It was only four years ago in Wisconsin, for instance, that the governor and Legislature transferred some $200 million out of the state’s bloated patient compensation fund and into the state’s general fund to help balance the books as the economy started to tank.
A hue and cry arose demanding Gov. Jim Doyle’s head. Scott Walker and other Republicans used it as campaign fodder. How dare the Legislature take money away from a fund that is there to shield doctors’ mistakes? they asked. Never mind that there was sufficient funding to cover malpractice claims for years and years to come.
It was a different story earlier this year, though, when the federal government announced that Wisconsin was to get $140 million as its share of the $250 billion national settlement with banks and other mortgage lenders over foreclosure and servicing abuses of the past few years. The money was to be used to provide financial relief to the thousands of Wisconsin homeowners who were essentially bilked by the big lenders.
But before that money could go to the victims, many of them among the 47 percent that Romney likes to belittle, Walker decided to skim $26 million to help cover the gap in his own budget caused by tax breaks he decided to award corporations.
Guess what? There was no hue and cry from the Walker clones in the Legislature over this transfer of funds.
That money was intended for the beleaguered little guy. And we all know that’s far less important than protecting every last penny that’s earmarked to let careless doctors off the hook.