Belo Debate Topic (10/2): The makeup of the '47 percent'

Belo Debate Topic (10/2): The makeup of the '47 percent'

The Belo Debate between U.S. Senate candidates Ted Cruz and Paul Sadler is Oct. 2 at 7 p.m. (Credit: WFAA)

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by MATT GOODMAN

WFAA

Posted on October 2, 2012 at 6:35 PM

DALLAS – In May, about two weeks before Mitt Romney would clench the delegates needed to become the Republican presidential candidate, he spoke at a $50,000 per plate dinner fundraiser, which was recorded by an attendee. 

Liberal leaning magazine Mother Jones posted that footage, which included the remarks that the 47 percent of Americans who support President Barack Obama “pay no income tax” and are “dependent upon government.” 

But who exactly are the 47 percent? Especially in Texas, where 38.5 percent of residents who filed a return pay no federal income tax, according to figures from the Tax Foundation of the Internal Revenue Service. There is no state income tax in Texas. 

This percentage is a blanket, which also covers seniors and the poor. In 2001, as Bloomberg News and the Washington Post have reported, then-President George W. Bush began pushing a tax cut meant to boost reductions for the poorest Americans. 

But the federal government giving money to citizens is an issue that originated many years before that –– and it's trending upward. It has been for more than 50 years. 

Since 1960, the percentage of federal nondefense payments to individuals has nearly tripled. Back then, the government paid out 26.2 percent of its nondefense budget to individuals. In 2011, that number jumped to 65.1 percent, according to the White House's Office of Management and Budget report.

According to the Tax Foundation, nine of the 10 states with the highest amount of residents who don’t have enough income to file a federal tax return are in the South, states that typically vote Republican. In 2010, the most recent numbers available, Texas had the eighth highest percentage. 

According to numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, 24 percent of Texas households receive Social Security benefits; 14 percent receive retirement income; 5 percent receive Supplemental Security Income, or disability; and 14 percent receive aid in the form of food stamps.

Those are the 47 percent in Texas –– a base that both Senate candidates participating in the debate will likely need to target to win. 

Culled from third-party sources: 

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