Opinion: Hey Mitt, why don't you shut up about entitlement?

By now, everyone and their mother, thanks to the guys fighting the good fight over at Mother Jones, has heard Mitt Romney’s comments on the so-called “47%” of Americans who are “dependent on government”, “believe they are victims” and “don’t pay income tax.”

Romney’s comments are typical of the popular Republican narrative being pushed lately: that America has become an entitlement society, and that more and more people are becoming “moochers” and not paying into the system.

But first, we need to clear up some serious misconceptions here. If we had 47% of Americans who fit the description of the Republican narrative, we as a country would be in dire straits, in danger of collapsing upon itself. But we’re not.

Romney is partially correct in saying that 47% (actually 46% according to The New York Times, but I’m not going to rip Romney by splitting hairs) of Americans don’t pay income tax. But he neglected to specify what kind of income tax isn’t being paid. The New York Times found that 46% (Again, I’m not going to rip Romney for being off by a percentage point) of Americans did not pay any federal income tax in 2011. Out of that number, over half—28%--of Americans work and pay payroll taxes. From there, out of the remaining 17% of Americans that do not pay either federal income or payroll tax, 10% are elderly, and thus collect Social Security benefits and receive Medicare.

A quick aside—I hate when Social Security and Medicare are called entitlements, and the Republicans are especially guilty of this to further their narrative. Social Security and Medicare are paid for by payroll taxes, and the benefits of those programs begin upon retirement from the workforce. A vast majority of retirees depend on these programs in order to live comfortably. People are not given these benefits via birthright, or by a handout, but through many decades of hard work, playing by the rules, and paying into the system. They earned this.

So if you are following the math, that means that only 7% of Americans do not work, and therefore do not pay either federal income tax or payroll tax. This is a far cry from the 47% that Romney claims to exist. And even then, Romney fails to account for the fact that a vast majority of the 47% pays property tax and state income tax, and virtually all Americans pay sales tax, which is inherently regressive.

It all boils down to the cold, hard truth: the poor and the middle class disproportionally pay a higher percentage of their total income in taxes than the wealthiest Americans.

All the while, Mitt Romney hides much of his assets in offshore bank accounts, takes advantage of numerous tax loopholes, and profited from the outsourcing of jobs overseas while the CEO of Bain Capital. All Romney has to do is stand in front of a mirror, look at the silver spoon in his mouth, and then he will see who the entitled one really is.

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