Paul Ryan didn’t directly address Mitt Romney’s comments that 47 percent of Americans are “dependent upon government” and see themselves as “victims” during his town hall in Dover, New Hampshire Tuesday afternoon. But the Republican vice presidential candidate did reiterate his claim that the “safety net” is “encouraging dependency” among the public:
RYAN: And so, this is what Mitt and I are talking about when we’re worried about more and more people becoming net dependent upon the government than upon themselves. Because by promoting more dependency, but not having jobs and economic growth, people miss their potential. We should not be measuring the progress of our social programs, of programs like food stamps based up on how many people receive them…. We don’t want a safety net that encourages more dependency because there is no economic growth behind it.
Later in the event, Ryan suggested that liberal philosophy considers people to be “victims of circumstances beyond their control” and argued that a Romney/Ryan administration would not see Americans “as some victim.”
Since Mother Jones published a video of Romney at a private fundraiser saying that nearly half of Americans are Obama voters who don’t pay taxes and believe that “the government has a responsibility to care for them,” the campaign has stood by the claims, despite their inaccuracy.
Most of the people who don’t pay federal income taxes still pay federal payroll tax, and state or local sales taxes, gas taxes, and excise taxes or benefit from tax credits for the working poor, the elderly, or students — tax credits that have received bipartisan support. Just 7 percent of the country is non-elderly and has no federal tax liability, and most of them make less than $20,000.
Republicans also argue that more Americans are receiving food stamps under Obama. Enrollment has increased since the Great Recession and the program has reduced the number of children living in extreme poverty by half. More than 3.9 million people were lifted out of poverty by food stamps in 2011.