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Republican Virtus

Mitt Romney’s division of the US electorate into “contributors” and “takers” is ironic because it is far from clear what taxes Mitt himself has been paying and what tax breaks he has received. The underlying Romney message is that those who fit his definition of takers exploit the system and are essentially deadbeats. How else do you explain “I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”?  Per the GOP groupthink, “takers” are also quite likely regarded as so improvident as to not have jobs that include healthcare or 401-Ks.

There are many taxes that moderate income earners pay disproportionately: social security, Medicare, personal property, sales, usage, and excise on goods like gasoline. More than two-thirds of Americans own their homes and real estate taxes are in many states like New Jersey at punitive levels. So nearly everyone but those in the underground economy pays taxes.

But I would also like to suggest that if Mitt and company want to restore republican (small r) rigor they might adopt the citizenship standards of ancient Greece and Rome.  Only property owners had the full franchise. In Rome, the voters were organized in tribes and the more property one had the more one’s vote meant as the tribes voted in sequence from the richest to the poorest and once a majority was reached the voting stopped. It is unlikely that the numerous Roman urban poor, the headcount, ever actually got to vote.

And the other aspect of using property as the measure of the rights and responsibilities of citizenship which really is appealing in the context of Mitt Romney is military service, particularly as Mitt has branded himself as a foreign policy hawk. The Greek and Roman front line soldiers who were fully armored had to buy their own very expensive panoplies and were therefore drawn from the wealthiest classes. It was believed that those who had the greatest stake in the survival of the state would be highly motivated to lead the fight to defend it. They also could not run away in all that armor. Adhering to the ancient model should mean that Mitt’s five sons would find themselves in the front lines in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, not running around doing their patriotic duty by helping with Dad’s campaign. And it also means that Mitt himself would have gone to Vietnam rather than on a Mormon mission to Paris.

about the author

Phil Giraldi is a former CIA Case Officer and Army Intelligence Officer who spent twenty years overseas in Europe and the Middle East working terrorism cases. He holds a BA with honors from the University of Chicago and an MA and PhD in Modern History from the University of London. In addition to TAC, where he has been a contributing editor for nine years, he writes regularly for Antiwar.com. He is currently Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest and resides with his wife of 32 years in Virginia horse country close to his daughters and grandchildren. He has begun talking far too much to his English bulldog Dudley of late, thinks of himself as a gourmet cook, and will not drink Chardonnay under any circumstances. He does not tweet, and avoids all social media.

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