By Zaid Jilani
This week, video emerged of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney essentially telling donors that 47 percent of Americans are lazy and just want to be dependent upon the government. In Romney’s world, these are all Obama voters.
“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it,” Romney says in the video.
Romney’s words are rightly being condemned as offensive. But here’s the interesting part about his remarks: He talks about Americans who believe they are entitled to basic goods like health care and food. In Romney’s mind, this probably means the poor. But government actually spends a relatively small amount of its budget on assisting the poor, while it hands over an extraordinary amount of money to the already-rich.
Here are five ways Republicans like Romney use government to give even more money to the already-rich:
Supporting the oil subsidies: The newest line among Republicans is that they despise “crony capitalism.” But House Republicans have voted unanimously time and time again to give billions of dollars to the oil industry. Paul Ryan’s budget maintains $40 billion in subsidies for Big Oil over 10 years. The oil industry is giving approximately 10 times as much cash to Republicans this year as it is giving to Democrats.
Providing federal funding for rip-off for-profit colleges: The for-profit college industry has abused students and veterans, at the same time ripping off taxpayers, while getting $32 billion in federal aid every single year. The Obama administration moved to cut off funding to schools with the worst performance, but every single House Republican voted to block these reforms. The industry gives twice as much money to Republicans as Democrats (unfortunately many members of both parties serve the for-profit college agenda).
Protecting and subsidizing the drug industry: The big pharmaceutical companies have one of the best deals in the country. First, the government lavishly funds the industry’s research. It then artificially boosts prices by banning the re-importation of drugs from Canada, while at the same time barring Medicare from negotiating for drug prices. Most Republicans have supported this arrangement. Slightly more industry money goes to Republicans.
Boosting the insurance industry’s profits: Romney likes to peddle the misleading claim that Obama severely cut Medicare to finance the Affordable Care Act. But what Obama’s health care law actually does is cut back on private insurance subsidies through the Medicare Advantage program. What’s more, Romney and Ryan also want to hand the entire Medicare program to the health insurance industry, which would cost seniors an extra $60,000 for their health care. The insurance industry has given almost twice the dollars to Republicans this cycle.
Bailing out the big banks and then failing to regulate them: Although a number of congressional Republicans did not vote to bail out the banks, Mitt Romney heartily supported the bailout programs. And both Romney and almost all Republicans in Congress opposed the Dodd-Frank financial reform law and are working to repeal large sections of it in the future. The Big Banks have shifted their giving to the Republicans and have donated almost twice as much money ($81 million) to them compared to the Democrats.
Americans shouldn’t fall for the false dichotomy of one party wanting to use government to help people and the other wanting to rely only on the free market. As bold progressive candidate Elizabeth Warren said, “Republicans say they don’t believe in government. Sure they do. They believe in government to help themselves and their powerful friends.”
Zaid Jilani is an investigative blogger and campaigner for BoldProgressives.org