As readers of this column and viewers of Fox News Channel may know, I have not hesitated to criticize Gov. Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign and the governor himself. I have argued that his message is muddled and his values are unknown beyond his ardent wish to improve economic conditions through the use of free market mechanisms rather than central economic planning, a position with which I agree entirely.
I have also maintained that his willingness to abandon, or not to accept, first principles has made these questions reasonable: If Romney is elected president, which Romney will show up for work on Jan. 20, 2013? Will it be the Romney who ran to the left of Ted Kennedy in 1994, the Romney who governed Massachusetts as Mario Cuomo governed New York, or the Romney who now claims to be a “severe” (his word) conservative? Will it be the Romney who spent the entire presidential primary season assuring conservative Republican primary voters that he’ll dismantle Obamacare on “Day One” (his phrase), or the Romney who told reporters last week that he approves of a limited federal role in managing health care? Or will it be the Romney who, when caught by the press saying something not intended for public consumption but demonstrably true, sticks to his guns?
A few months ago, at a private fundraiser, Romney spoke to supporters and contributors and observed that 47 percent of Americans do not pay any income tax, and thus his call for not raising taxes (though he wants to eliminate some familiar deductions, which is the functional equivalent of raising some folks’ taxes) will not resonate with the voters in that group. Then he went on to say that this is roughly the same 47 percent who are dependent upon the government for part or all of their subsistence; and to that subsistence of food, shelter, education and clothing, the feds have now added health care. Then he referred to those dependent upon the government as “victims” (his word). Then, among my leftish colleagues in the press, all hell broke loose.
The reason hell broke loose among most of the media is that Romney spoke a painful truth, and often a painful truth is difficult to accept. I have argued that FDR deliberately set out to create dependence upon the federal government -- and hence upon virtually all Democrats in Congress and Republicans afraid to resist them -- by establishing entitlement programs and inducing reliance upon them. FDR went so far as to lie to Americans when he stated that the federal government will “hold” (his word) your Social Security contributions for you until you retire, and then you’ll receive your nest egg of cash. We know he lied about this, because at the same time he was saying that the money deducted from your pay is yours, he dispatched Justice Department lawyers to argue in a constitutional challenge of Social Security before the Supreme Court that the money deducted from your pay is the government’s money, and the government can spend it as it wishes. The Supreme Court agreed with that argument.
Now comes Romney to say that this has gotten out of hand. The feds have deliberately created a class of persons -- 47 percent of people living in America today -- dependent upon them. The governor is right. Anyone lulled into a false sense of security is a victim, and any government that has deceived members of the public to get them there is dangerous. Thus, the revelation that the big-government types who have dominated the federal government for 100 years, who want voters dependent upon them so that they can count on their votes, and who have made those voters victims have stung the Obama campaign and its media supporters. Romney was correct to call the 47 percent who are dependent upon the government victims of the government’s deceptions and lust for power, and he is courageous to stick to his guns.
Dependency breeds a sense of complacency and entitlement and fosters a government that -- in order to stay in power -- will further that dependency. Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton agreed on little publicly, but they did agree that when the public treasury becomes a public trough and the voters recognize that, they will send to the government only those who promise them a bigger piece of the government pie.
Then, sooner or later, the government will run out of other people’s money. Romney understands that.
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Andrew P. Napolitano, a former judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, is the senior judicial analyst at Fox News Channel.