The media has been loving Mitt Romney’s May remarks that 47 percent of the population is dependent on government and see themselves as “victims.”
Even my colleague Denis Storey’s latest blog—one that clearly angered readers—called for a dead election. Obama’s already won, Storey says—and it’s mostly Mitt Romney who’s helped him. It’s the kind of assertion that’s been echoed in every other major network and media outlet—and it’s the kind of hype that generally excites only other media outlets.
But I’m not convinced.
Gaffe? Barely. The end? Hardly.
Sure, the 47 percent gaffe—as we’ll call it—showed what we can call compassionless conservatism from Romney. But his main point is true: Entitlement transfers—like much of our country’s spending—are out of control and unsustainable. According to the American Enterprise Institute, about half of Americans receive some sort of government benefit. (Comparatively, in 1980, about 30 percent did.) We’re practically bankrupting the system.
These are statistics that are indeed accurate, but taboo to talk about. But these are things that need to be talked about. So let’s talk.
The mainstream media report that Romney’s remarks are the final nail in the coffin for an out-of-touch contender. But let’s keep in mind that the mainstream media love fatalism—especially on the Republican side. They choose soundbites. They pick sides. They are just as bad as politicians when it comes to coloring the facts. And honestly, it’s hard for me to get too worked up about the latest “gaffe” when I come across the ever-growing list of ridiculous headlines: Romney offends the British during the Olympics! Romney makes his face orange!
Funny how Obama’s comment just last week about the most important lesson he learned during his first term—that “you can’t change Washington from the inside”—barely got any attention. Same goes for him telling business owners that they “didn’t build that.” He instead makes headlines by racking in the campaign cash and hanging out with Beyonce and Jay-Z.
The point is, Romney’s not the only one to make some “gaffes”—real or imagined—and the real mistakes coming (or not coming, in this case) from Washington are much more damaging than any verbal ones during a rally or at a small fundraising dinner.
The economy’s in shambles. The middle class is bled dry. Our unemployment rate is unacceptable. Incomes keep falling, while rents and mortgages, gas prices and health care costs consistently shoot up. Obama’s efforts—such as a stimulus package that didn’t go nearly far enough—have been ineffective. We are in peril.
Instead of calling this a gaffe—America’s favorite word association with Romney—it’s a chance for the candidate to turn this into a clear message. As displayed in his USA Today op-ed, Romney is turning the slipup into a rally cry and a solution: Personal responsibility and hard work trump government dependency any day. To fix our struggling economy, we need to revert back to those traditional principles. The current system of entitlements and government dependency clearly is not working.
The election isn't over, and those who admit to “throwing in the towel” over media hype are doing our country an injustice. There are still debates to hear. There are still weeks left to go. Stupid things for both parties to say. More jobs reports to come out. And there sure as hell need to be some changes.
Clearly, Romney’s no Reagan. At least up to this point, his communication skills have been fair, at best. But that’s not going to change my opinion on who's the best man for the job. And it’s not going to change most others’, either. A new Gallup poll shows what difference the 47 percent remark has made on voters—and it’s not a big one. It’s been one collective shoulder shrug.
With gas prices and the unemployment rate rising, it will take a lot more than an ineloquent statement to call this game over.
I know President Clinton has been hitting the campaign trail hard for Obama—and Democrats are loving it.
So it’s only appropriate to quote him on what should really decide the election in a mere few weeks: It’s the economy, stupid.