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Mitt Romney’s Claim on Redistribution Gets a Pants on Fire

| September 21, 2012

Mitt Romney in new Hampshire. (Aaron Webb)

Mitt Romney got a Pants on Fire slap from Politifact for his claim on Sept. 19 that “redistribution” has “never been a characteristic of America.” It very much has: it’s been built into the nation’s progressive tax code since the beginning of the 20th century.

First, Romney’s full quote in its proper context: “I know there are some who believe that if you simply take from some and give to others then we’ll all be better off. It’s known as redistribution. It’s never been a characteristic of America. There’s a tape that came out just a couple of days ago where the president said yes he believes in redistribution. I don’t. I believe the way to lift people and help people have higher incomes is not to take from some and give to others but to create wealth for all.”

After checking with historians and economists, Politifact found that “Most agreed that Romney was ignoring the fundamental structure of the nation’s progressive tax system, which has been redistributing wealth for a century, as well as a host of other policies, some of which predate the nation’s founding.”

Politifact continues: “A progressive tax system is one that takes a larger share of the income of high-income earners than it does from low-income individuals. Since this revenue is spent on government programs — which benefit people other than just the taxpayer whose income is taken — a progressive tax system is essentially by definition redistributive. Indeed, the U.S. system, at least if you look at the official rates, has been far more redistributive in the past than it is now, with a top federal income tax rate of 35 percent.”

The top tax rate through the two terms of the Eisenhower administration was 90 percent. Kennedy cut ti to 70, where it stayed through Nixon’s terms, Ford’s two years, and Carter’s four, before Reagan cut it to 28 percent, but that rate didn’t kick in until 1988, conveniently the last of Reagan’s eight years. It was 50 percent for most of his presidency. “And once this money comes into the federal treasury, it’s quickly redistributed,” Politifact writes. “As we have noted previously, some states send more money to the federal treasury than they get back, while some states receive more money than they put in.”

Conclusion: “Romney said that ‘redistribution” has “never been a characteristic of America.’ Reasonable people can disagree about the wisdom of it, but redistribution has been a basic principle of the U.S. tax system and many federal programs, including some such as veterans benefits that have long attracted support from Republicans. Pants on Fire!” The full analysis here.

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18 Responses for “Mitt Romney’s Claim on Redistribution Gets a Pants on Fire”

  1. fred8131 says:

    And who pays when the rich pay? Try; the consumer, us peeons!

  2. Tweedy bird says:

    [Warning: Once again, the comment below is a thinly veiled lie we’re not going to let pass without flagging, and we are going to publish it as another example of the inventions and deceptions that certain people, usually right-wingers, commit rampantly and shamelessly, as if no one is no one is going to fact0-check them. No wonder they find Romney appealing. The commenter below claims that searching under “redistribution” and “never been a characteristic of America” in a hundred search engines only turned up references to Politifact’s piece on Romney. Pants on Fire False. The commenter calibrated the quote to Politifact’s phrase. Even so: running those search strings through Google’s news search provides 123 results, a few of which link to Politifact’s piece, but most of which report on Romney’s attempt to turn a couple of news cycles his way with that 1998 tape of Obama talking about redistribution–and making that claim, as he did in Atlanta, that America has never been about redistribution. Run the search under “Romney” and “redistribution,” and more than 50,000 results show up. Folks, before you post your fancies here in attempts to discredit evidence, be ready to defend your fancies with evidence. Otherwise, please don’t waste our and our readers’ time. That’s what stinks.–FL]

    Funny how I ran over 100 search engines looking for this quote “Romney said that ‘redistribution” has “never been a characteristic of America.’ but it only shows up on politifact. Only one return for the whole internet. That stinks a little if ya ask me.

  3. JL says:

    Wow, is that true? It went from 90% to 50% until Reagan hacked it to 28%? Well no wonder our economy is doing so much worse than in previous generations. And if we leave it to Romney, the wealthy will pay a measly 14% like he does. Another reason I will not vote Republican this election. Obama may not be the best President, but we COULD be worse off. And I believe we would be with Romney. But people need to realize that our Congress helped in making the last 4 years what they were. All the bickering, nothing got done. Can we put some people in office who will make a decision already?

    • Magnolia says:

      Romney gives another 14% to charity, voluntarily. Take a long look at the charitable contributions of politicians and you might be surprised.

      Suggest you go to Thomas. gov and look up Senate bills on jobs and then see what happened to them.

  4. Outsider says:

    JL, I’d be happy with a senate that could produce a budget for the first time in four years. The obvious reason they don’t is because they’re a bunch of coward Democratic politicians who don’t want to put their names on a product they want, but will soon destroy this economy.

    • Riley says:

      @outsider. Where have I been also these years? I was taught that there was also something called the House of Representatives. I did not know we had gotten rid of the House. We have not seen any good ideas coming out of the republican’t controlled house, so I would say we should vote out all the republican’ts. The republican’ts are destroying the economy by dragging their feet and kicking and screaming as if they were little cry babies.

  5. JL says:

    I must disagree with you – both sides are to blame. Neither side wanted to budge. Compromise is no longer in their vocabulary. Just this week the Republicans refused to pass a $1billion Jobs bill that would put veterans back to work as firemen, policemen, medics. Yes, we have to spend to get the economy going. That’s what we did back in Roosevelts day. So what do the Republicans plan to do to put all of the unemployed Vets back to work? I’m not far spending uncontrollably, but in this economy, we have to provide some stimulation. Both sides are to blame. And if you really think it is all one-sided, then that’s part of the problem. Instead of placing blame, how about if we just find a solution.

  6. Karma says:

    You are so correct with your congress commit, Congress was controlled by Democrats from 2007 (Jan) thru 2011(Jan) and the Senate has been controlled by the Democrats since 2009 (Jan). The first two years of this administration where bullet proof for the democrats and things only got worse. Democrats could have stopped the Bush tax cuts. Obama care and and the trillion dollar(after interest) Stimulus program are 100% democrat owned. If you wold like some more facts on how much better we are today than four years ago I have posted a link:

    • I'm Not Saying...I'm Just Saying says:

      Dorothea provides links from reputable news sources such as The Post and The Times. You, Karma, provide a blog link where ‘places of interest’ include ‘Right Wing News,’ ‘Redstate,’ Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and something called the Bible Atlas.

      Nope. No bias whatsoever in that ‘reputable news source.’

      • Magnolia says:

        Go to the Congressional website,, and look it up yourself. Reputable news sites? Didn’t know they existed anymore.

  7. Dorothea says:


    I don’t know why I keep spitting in the wind about who controlled Congress during Obama’s tenure, but I’ll try again. Although I’m beginning to think that right-wing FL commenters would rather believe the lie, than accept the truth and put the blame where it belongs, on the Republican Senators who have vowed to defeat Obama no matter what damage they do to the country.

    Recent case in point:

    Senate Republicans kill veterans’ jobs bill

    It takes 60 votes to pass a bill in the Senate, not a simple majority! I can’t even imagine that anyone, Republican, Democrat, or independent, would oppose this bill, but the Republicans did. They have been blocking bills all during Obama’s tenure. Look at this chart if you want further proof of Republican filibusters during this time.

    As for the country being better off now than four years ago, absolutely we are better off.

    Excerpted from the NYTimes:

    “… a local news crew asking the “better off” question in the convention center here, Ms. Cutter described the economic scene four years ago — the auto companies teetering near bankruptcy, bank failures — and said, “Does anyone want to go back to 2008? I don’t think so.”

  8. Lonewolf says:

    Romney had his pants burned off many years ago from all the lies

  9. Karma says:

    I would like to thank you for the Veteran Jobs bill story. After watching Mr Coburn speak on the Senate floor with his objections with the bill, you understand why they voted against it. There are currently 6 other bills for veterans at the current time. None of the current bills in place have been proven to be effective, yet we want to keep creating more.!

    . The part about the “Pay as go” law of 2010 was a eye opener, 67 waivers already in 2 years. What is Pay as you Go?

    With 42 cents of every dollar being borrowed maybe we should focus on the bigger issues.

  10. Karma says:

    @I’m Not Saying…I’m Just Saying says:

    Let me get this correct, I use the source of a United States Senator and you claim Mediamatters and Rachel Maddow are better sources. I am not sure Phoenix Online would even let you use those two for sources in a research paper.

  11. Dorothea says:


    I had actually watched Senator Coburn on the Morning Joe Show call the Veterans Job Bill “crap” which motivated me to research the bill more thoroughly. The following excerpt is from the Washington Times, and you don’t get a more right wing “legitimate” newspaper than the Washington Times:

    “The billion-dollar price tag spread out over the next five years was to be paid for by money recovered from tax-delinquent Medicare providers and forcing big tax deadbeats to pay up before receiving passports. Believe it or not, there is big money going after these guys.”

    and more:

    But spend money on our vets who return from tours of duty overseas to help them get jobs? Never. And since it was President Obama’s bright idea: Never. Ever. ”

    Because this bill is actually paid for, that would negate the rest of your points.

  12. Magnolia says:

    Dorothea, looks to me like it was killed because it was going to create bigger government. It was going to create more government to employ returning military. A billion dollars to add new government to employ returning vets.

    No thanks.

  13. Dorothea says:


    With returning Iraq and Afghanistan vets committing suicide at the rate of 18 a day I think they could use and deserve some help. The Republicans are so obsessed with doing the opposite of whatever bill Obama and the Democrats introduce that they have lost their humanity and any sense of decency.

    It disgusts me that Romney/Ryan plan to greatly increase military spending and Romney is hankering after yet another war with Iran, but the Republicans turn their backs on the veterans when and if they return home.

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