'Moocher' idea unsupported by election results

As Republicans try to interpret what happened on Election Day, a dubious explanation is getting a lot of attention.

It holds that Republicans lost because the country has reached an unfortunate tipping point where people who pay no income taxes and/or receive government benefits now outnumber productive taxpayers.

Those people, sometimes called the "moochers" or even "parasites" in conservative circles, voted to protect and enlarge their government handouts by electing Barack Obama.

In Maine, the respected Republican Phil Harriman recently wrote in the Bangor Daily News that, "America and Maine have fundamentally transformed into a culture where government is the heart and soul of what voters want and need."

There's even been a book written on the subject: "A Nation of Moochers," which came out in January.

This is a convenient theory for Republicans: We are right, it's the rest of the country that's gone rotten. Convenient, yes, but entirely unsupported by the facts.

Political scientists and economists have long marveled at the tendency of both rich and poor citizens to vote against their own economic self-interest. This has happened in election after election as people more often vote their hearts and beliefs rather than their wallets and investments.

You can see it clearly on the state and national level.

Romney got some of his strongest support in three of Maine's poorest counties, Washington and Somerset, while actually winning in Piscataquis County.

While it seems cruel to say it, these would definitely qualify as moocher counties according to the theory. They have low family incomes, high poverty rates (between 16 and 19 percent) and receive large slices of government transfer payments as a proportion of income (between 29 and 36 percent).

Yet they gave Romney strong support.

It must be said, of course, that a big chunk of transfer payments go to "moochers" like people on federal pensions, military pensions and Social Security, people who might be very surprised to know some people think they are mooching.

If there are two clear-cut "producer" counties in the state, they are York and Cumberland counties.

They have high family incomes, low poverty rates (about 10 percent) and receive the smallest share of government transfer payments (about 14 and 16 percent respectively).

Yet these "producers" supported Obama over Romney 62 percent to 35 percent in York County and 62 to 34 in Cumberland.

If people were voting for their economic self-interest, the results should have been reversed.

On a national scale, Maine would be a "moocher" state. We receive more from the federal government than we pay in federal taxes, and we did favor Obama over Romney.

So, in Maine, maybe Obama did win based on the moocher turnout. But nationally the evidence to the contrary is even more compelling.

The Economist magazine recently rated the states based upon whether they are "black" or "red" on federal revenue.

In other words, by which states pay the most federal taxes compared to what they receive from the federal government.

The top "producer" states in order were: Delaware, Minnesota, New Jersey, Illinois, Connecticut, New York, Ohio and Michigan, all of which went to Obama and all of which paid way more in federal taxes than they received back in federal transfers and spending.

The biggest moocher states: Mississippi, West Virginia, Montana, Alabama and North Dakota all supported Romney.

It simply doesn't make economic sense. Why would very poor states vote for the party associated with cutting the government assistance they depend upon so heavily?

Unless, as we said before, other issues were more important to them, like cultural and religious values.

There is little doubt that people in this country are more dependent on government benefits than they were 100 years ago.

There is also no doubt that taking some of those benefits away from people — whether they be old people, poor people, middle-class homeowners or millionaires — will be difficult and painful.

But we have dug ourselves a massive fiscal hole and that's what is required.

We remain convinced that Americans are willing to sacrifice for the common good IF they believe the burden will be fairly distributed.

True leadership would be Republicans and Democrats developing a gradual austerity plan AND convincing the American people it is in their best interest.

Over the next six months we will see whether we have elected courageous leaders or the usual special-interest hacks.


The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.

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MARK GRAVEL's picture

I’ll put money on the table,

I’ll put money on the table, you’ll find better correlation between how people voted and whether they believe in individualism or collectivism.

Betty Davies's picture

Individualism vs collectivism

If by individualism you mean--

**a delusional belief that any one person is capable of being and doing everything that must be done (finding a well-paying job and keeping it despite layoffs that enrich only the CEO and stockholders; never developing a severe illness or being seriously injured--thus not needing health insurance and never being bankrupted by medical bills; never growing old & thus no need for Social Security or Medicare; never having a child or grandchild with a genetic disorder, thus no need for MaineCare or SSI; scraping the ice off the road in front of his home and the heck with the rest of the roads; never needing help from police or fire dept; able to afford college without blinking an eye, etc. etc.)

If by collectivism you mean--

**a willingness, as Americans, to work together for the common good...

Then perhaps you're right.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

One more comment. The problem

One more comment. The problem is that my definition of common good is different from yours. It is the common good not to have incurred this much national debt.

Collectivism works only if all players are on the same page. We are diverse people with diverse values. You will ever get everyone on the same page.

In my opinion, the best solution is to minimize the central government and let State and local governments define what is best. That environment provides the best chance to pursue your own form of happiness – individualism or collectivism.

Anyhow, people like you who value collectivism are free to associate with like-minded people and live collectively; I do not see any need to force the entire nation to live that way. That is unless you need other people’s money to finance your vision. That is the only reason I can think of why you think the nation needs to fall in line.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

1. Every time we have this

1. Every time we have this discussion, your present a false dichotomy argument – cradle to grave entailments or nothing. Most people believes there should be a basic safety net. That does not mean it provides a comfortable living nor does it mean it is a form of wealth redistribution, which is what this president is selling. Lastly, someone who is physically able to work is compelled to work.

2. In a nutshell, individualism means:
a. Free to make choices good ones and bad ones without government interference or support for those who make bad choices. An example of a bad choice would be to drop out of high school, be foolish enough to think you can raise a family on a high school education (some can, but statistically these people struggle.).
b. Keep most of my earnings without the government vilifying me if or when I’m successful. Just because I earn more than someone else does not mean I have teats like a milking cow. I did trade time and effort for those earnings, they did not come for free.
c. If I choice to assist others using my money, it is to whom I decide, not the government.

Just because someone has wealth does not mean others have a right to it.

I do agree with a comment you made a day or two ago in that the government should reshuffle its current spending priorities. That is far better than more taxes dumped in the rabbit hole. That said, our government has backed itself into a corner with so much debt, it is near impossible to solve without server spending cuts. I did not cause this problem, so I want no part of the solution. It is no longer my problem – good luck.

Betty Davies's picture

By your reckoning...

No one who is not intelligent enough to complete high school should expect to find a job--ever--AND there should be no services available to help them. Since there will very likely be no jobs and no services for them, they must resign themselves to childlessness.

The same applies to high school graduates, again by your reckoning, since you see no chance of decent jobs for most of them.

It seems you believe that no one who has a steady job should be permitted to have children. Do you endorse involuntary sterilization? Or perhaps you'd settle for semi-voluntary sterilization--no high school diploma by, say, age 20, and it's goodbye reproductive organs.

But I suspect you'd simply be happy for them to have children, while despising them for doing so, and enjoy the prospect of the children being hungry and homeless. (the sins of the fathers and mothers having been not to attend college).

This leaves the little problem of what to do with the offspring of people who had children while gainfully employed, but were laid off by some huge entity that destroys companies for fun and profit and have been unable to find another job. Perhaps forced adoption into a wealthy family?

I recall Jonathon Swift had a "Modest Proposal" for situations such as these. It had to do with cooking and eating the children of the poor. But for them to be palatable, they'd first have to be well-nourished. Drat--you might have to permit social services long enough to prepare them for consumption...

MARK GRAVEL's picture

“The same applies to high

“The same applies to high school graduates, again by your reckoning, since you see no chance of decent jobs for most of them.”

I did not say there is no chance. During this recession, labor statistics showed unemployment for college educated was 4.3% compared to a 10-11% unemployment rate for non-college educated. Not impossible, but harder.

The relationship between work and child bearing materialized from your imagination, not my comments. Earth to Betty, Earth to Betty!

Steve  Dosh's picture

'Moocher' idea unsupported by election results

Rex, 12.11.15 15:00 hst ?
Minnie the moocher , huh ? Kinda' like the kettle calling the po black sometimes up they'ya huh ? Nice anaysis ?
Your incumbent Hon Gov. is the type of hack you refer to in , " Over the next six months we will see whether we have elected courageous leaders or the usual special-interest hacks. " b t w - This is g r e a t newspaper . Hackney = taxi driver , too . What's gonna' happen with the British guy they just hired at the NYT ® ?
h t h :) /s Steve

 's picture

I guess...

...I don't understand how getting some of the money back I paid into Social Security for 53 years is mooching. Now that I think about it, the government raided Social Security funds for it's own purposes. Isn't that mooching?

 's picture

I guess...

...I don't understand how getting some of the money back I paid into Social Security for 53 years is mooching.


Cutting spending

I think everybody wants the government to cut spending. Starting with the poor,however, is not a particularly good idea. There are plenty of other places to cut. Take the Patraeas scandal. He put together a public relations department to make his policies look good and finance his girlfriend at a cost of $86 million in tax dollars. We could probably cut there. Jill Kelly's brother- in- law worked for the corporation that was given over $800 million to reconstruct Iraq and reconstructed nothing. Corruption and no-bid contracts for military contractors might be another place, starting with Bechtel, KBR and Halliburton. And how about competitive bidding for Medicare services including prescriptions instead of buying from the high priced ones to help their political insurance cronies. How about taking a real look at the political pork that congress finances every year with our tax dollars. Having done all that then we could look at making the safety net more efficient and cost effective. I vote we don't start with FEMA.

Zack Lenhert's picture

Didn't Mitt promise a 20% tax

Didn't Mitt promise a 20% tax cut? Increased defense spending? Give permission to drill federal oil land to private companies?

These are all promised "gifts" to his voting block.

Pot, meet kettle.

Zack Lenhert's picture

Didn't Mitt promise a 20% tax

Didn't Mitt promise a 20% tax cut? Increased defense spending? Give permission to drill federal oil land to private companies?

These are all promised "gifts" to his voting block.

Pot, meet kettle.

Zack Lenhert's picture

sorry for double post. Is it

sorry for double post. Is it possible to delete or edit comments?

 's picture

Wrong again

Romney and the Republican elite need the "moochers" excuse because they are the moochers. Its projection. We saw it during the campaign daily. The Republicans claim to be the party of small government, low taxes, and individual liberty; but from 2001 to 2009 they expanded the Federal Government more than in any administration in history including creating the largest Federal agency of all time (outside the military establishment) and wildly increasing its budget with borrowed money and a vast expansion of Federal Debt; did keep taxes too low; and passed the most serious attacks on individual liberty since the Alien and Sedition Acts more than 200 years ago. One out of three is a national disaster. Those people who vote for them want to see the Federal Government's expanded and individual liberty reduced by forcing the country to follow their narrow religious and cultural views. They need the power of a strong Federal Government to impose their anti-democratic views on the rest of us who still believe in the Constitution. The want government support for business. Government support and help in exporting jobs. Government support in oppressing women.
As the election results show; we don't want them.

Norman Mitchell's picture

Backward reporting

Why would very poor states vote for the party associated with cutting the government assistance they depend upon so heavily? You cant see the forest for the trees the places where the economy is not yet destroyed by big government still support big government !! The paces destroyed by big government dont support i t ! Some understand that they want a better life and government handout dont give that to them teach a man to fish hand ups not hand outs not everyone is Lazy ! On other hand the well to do, do-gooders that dont get it want to give the man some fish so you see people people were voting for their economic self-interest ! The do-gooders get to feel good they have plenty so they dont understand how crushing this president has been on the working Man the one with the calluses on his hands and the pain in his back ! What peole should realize is the truth Ben Franklin had it right and I quote “I am for doing good to the poor, but...I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. I observed...that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer.” This is still true today ! and no one is for taking benefits away from those who are deserving Mitt was talking not talking about them look at what he really said not what you would have us believe he said ! Oh and the poor are not poorer people in this country are more dependent on government benefits than they were 100 years ago. yet people made a dollar a day 100 years ago and Cornelius Vanderbilt 178.4 billion, John D. Rockefeller 663.4 billion, Andrew Carnegie 297.8 billion , Henry Ford 188.1 billion. Bill gates a mere 56 billion Adjusted for inflation

Betty Davies's picture

The Republican dream for the hard-working man...

Republican leaders look ahead with glee to the day that "the working Man the one with the calluses on his hands and the pain in his back" can have his retirement age pushed back to 70. God forbid he should get "dependent on government benefits" like the Social Security he's paid into decade after weary decade.

I see NO provision for "not taking benefits away from those who are deserving." The 70-year-old CEO sitting at his desk playing with other people's money (the risk all theirs, the gain all his) and the 70-year-old laborer with chronic pain would BOTH enjoy freedom from Social Security benefits. Same goes for people with real vs fake disabilities. NO provision for sorting them out. Just cut services and benefits for everyone.

 's picture


I very much dislike this editorial' My husband and I are both on social security. Together we worked a combined seventy five to eighty years and paid taxes all that time to our goverment. We paid our share and then some.We worked our butts off to make a living for our family. we are definately not moochers. As to the presidental race the best man for the job won. Now that the democrats are in control the president can do what the republications wouldn't let him for the last four years.This newspaper is so republican its not funny. I for one is getting sick of all this properganda about the democrats. Suck it up........ The republications lost because they are greedy and Mitt Romney is a JERK. Put on your big girl panties and stop crying. Now for my final thought on Moochers. Just remember you will somday be on Social Security and you will become one of the so called MOOCHERS.

JUDY MEYER's picture

Mrs. Burnham: We agree that

Mrs. Burnham: We agree that retired workers are not moochers. The editorial notes the post-election Republican message regarding the so-called moocher theory may be convenient, but it's simply not true. In fact, the red/blue states positively disprove the moocher theory (which is not our theory). We also pointed out that many of the people in the Republicans' so-called moocher class are retired workers, such as yourself, living on earned Social Security benefits, which does not a moocher make. So, if I read your message correctly, we're of the same mind in that regard.
SJ Editorial Board

 's picture


I apoligize to you. I guess that I should read start reading these articles twice like Santa Claus checks his good and bad list.lol. This past election has made me suspicious of everyone. So sorry.


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