Makers and Takers

Can’t resist chiming in on Mitt’s “47%” comment, as I was asked to do so by USNews and World Report:

I’m a freeloader/slurper from the public trough. But I’m also producing something—educated citizens and workers, and useful research—that taxpayers’ decisions in political markets have determined to be socially valuable.

Read the rest here.

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  1. Dre says:

    Your Daily Show interview on beauty alone has contributed many many laughs to a downtrodden society.

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  2. Tony says:

    I’m no defender of Romney, but I don’t think the maker v. taker view of the world classifies public employees as takers, but rather anyone on the receiving end of wealth transfers. Am I wrong?

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    • Q says:

      You would think so, but current Republican orthodoxy seems to draw the line wherever it suits their interests: unionized government employee = taker, military employee = maker, recipient of earned-income tax credit = taker, recipient of inheritance = maker.

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      • pawnman says:

        Although someone who receives an inheritance isn’t taking that money from me, while someone getting money from the federal government for being poor is.

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  3. dave says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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  4. Erin says:

    Your entire comparison of a public vs. a private employee lacks some important distinctions.

    “But I’m also producing something—educated citizens and workers, and useful research—that taxpayers’ decisions in political markets have determined to be socially valuable.”

    You are assuming that some taxpayers and politicians correctly determine social value for all. I’d suggest that the individual, and only the individual, can place a value on your services. As for research, it may or may not prove useful, but it’s rich for you to make the automatic assumption that it is.

    As for your comparison between yourself and the washroom attendant, you are missing an important factor: I can choose which hotel to patronize, thereby voting with my dollars on whether or not I find that service to be of value. Likewise I can tip the washroom attendant (or not) based on the same decision process. I cannot, however, separate my tax dollars and ensure they do not go to you if I don’t find your services to be of value.

    For you to claim that because politicians and education funding votes tend to go in your favor does not mean you automatically become a “maker” or provide services that are of automatic value.

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  5. Masaccio says:

    Romney’s 47% was a description of people who pay no federal income tax. Presumably Prof. Hamermesh is not actually among that group, making his characterization of himself as a “freeloader” his, and his alone, not Governor Romney’s. Straw men, like the straw house of the Three Little Pigs, are always the easiest to knock down.

    But *please* keep this blog about economics and not about Presidential politics.

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  6. 164 says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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  7. Brian says:

    I think you just made Mitt’s point. The problem is that the same people who are benefiting from the public trough are also, via the political market, the one’s determining the social value of what they are providing in return. Those are not independent determinations.

    Mitt’s point is that we’re close to or beyond a tipping point where a coalition of ‘net takers’ will vote for ever increasing levels of benefits for themselves at the expense of those who create products and services of true value.

    Southern Europe provides an example of what happens when a nation passes that tipping point. If there had been a Greek statesman leading a movement to curtail out-of-control benefits, would you have called him a ‘faker’?

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  8. tmeier says:

    Only a fool would assert there are no useful public employees, even public employees who clearly deliver value which a market would set greater than their cost. The problem is, not being a market, there is no mechanism to separate the public service wheat from the chaff. There is a lot of chaff.

    Still, I reserve my ire for public employees who not only don’t deliver valuable services but in order to protect their stipend actually inhibit productivity, they have negative value.

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