With so many Republicans frantically distancing themselves from Mitt Romney over those notorious remarks about the “47 percent” of Americans he views as tax-exempt moochers, there is at least one right-wing pundit proudly claiming responsibility for what Romney said.
Complaints from the right about “lucky duckies” too poor to pay taxes are nothing new, of course. Yet although he may have to share the credit with his pal Paul Ryan, strong circumstantial evidence supports the boasting of Charles J. Sykes.
And if Sykes is right, then the excuses offered by Romney and Ryan about “inelegant” and “inarticulate” phrasing over the past few days are laughable.
A Milwaukee talk radio host and senior fellow at the right-wing Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, Charlie Sykes is also an author whose most recent book, published last winter by St. Martin’s Press, is titled A Nation of Moochers: America’s Addiction to Getting Something For Nothing.
Only hours after Mother Jones released the video of Romney trashing the Obama-supporting, self-pitying “victims” who don’t pay income taxes yet expect food, housing, health care and “you-name-it” from government, a post popped up on the Facebook page for A Nation of Moochers hinting that the book must have inspired his deep thoughts:
Romney suggests that it might be a problem that dependency is growing while the # of taxpayers shrinks. Who knew?
Was Mitt Romney suggesting that we are becoming a Nation of Moochers? And where would he ever gotten such an idea? Hmmmm….Wherever could [he] have gotten such notions? Maybe Paul Ryan is sharing his reading list.
Promotional flackery aside, Sykes can certainly make a strong circumstantial case. Handed the Sykes book, Romney would not have had to read beyond the first few pages to absorb the theme he expounded in Boca Raton. Toward the very beginning of Chapter One appears the following passage:
Even as more people become dependent on government, fewer were paying their share of the tab. By tax day in 2010, nearly half of U.S. households paid no federal income taxes. After years of cuts, credits, and outright rebates, 47 percent of households had no net liability at all.
Note how Sykes seamlessly melds two very distinct groups –those who receive some kind of benefit or assistance from government, and those who pay no federal income tax – precisely as Romney did, quite wrongly.
No wonder Sykes thinks Romney is channeling his ideas.
The obvious connection between Romney and Sykes would be Ryan. The book features a blurb from none other than the Janesville Congressman (which Sykes reposted on his book’s Facebook page this week):
Have I mentioned lately what Paul Ryan said about A Nation of Moochers?
Charlie Sykes’ A Nation of Moochers provides a much-needed wakeup call for a nation approaching two perilous tipping points: a moral one and a fiscal one. With our country facing unprecedented challenges and stark political choices, principled leaders will benefit from Sykes’ clear vision, keen insight and intellect. If we’re serious about getting our nation back on track, then we would be wise to follow the lessons laid out in A Nation of Moochers.” – Paul Ryan, Member of Congress
As a Representative from Wisconsin, Ryan has frequently appeared on Sykes’ radio show and at public events with him over the years, including a “Charlie Sykes Insight” conference last March – not long before Romney showed up for two days of pre-primary events in Ryan’s home state. Indeed, among those events was a March 22 appearance on Sykes’ radio program, during which Romney endorsed Ryan’s original budget and his privatization schemes for Medicare and Social Security. Would Sykes let a guest who was about to secure the Republican presidential nomination leave without a copy of his new book?
Sykes is a standard-issue right-wing radio huckster, dispensing the wisdom of the Wall Street Journal editorial page, the Heritage Foundation, and Fox News. He is also — like so many of his fellow ideological extremists — an imperfect exemplar of the values he preaches, as the Brew City Brawler blog explained while celebrating the publication of A Nation of Moochers:
This goes back to the late 1970s, when Sykes had just ended his first marriage. From Milwaukee Magazine‘s July 2000 profile of Charlie Sykes:
Divorce records show that custody of the couple’s 2 1/2 year old daughter went to the mother. Chris Sykes was working as a dental assistant, bringing home $120 every two weeks. Charlie made a biweekly salary of $404. When they divorced, Charlie was ordered to pay monthly child support payments of $303.
Sykes at times had difficulty making payments. Several times, he slipped into arrears; for three months in early 1980, his ex-wife went on AFDC [Aid To Families With Dependent Children, popularly known as “welfare.”] Sykes eventually made payments directly to his former wife, according to court documents. He gained legal custody of his daughter when she was 17.
Now how does Sykes define a moocher?…
Someone who expects others to pay to clean up their messes.
Someone who lays claim to something to which they are not rightfully due.
Someone who shifts the cost of their own irresponsibility onto others who have behaved responsibly; who, as a matter of choice, takes from or relies on the efforts and resources of others…
Let’s face it: Sykes — a child of Fox Point and upper middle class privilege, who had all sorts of educational and social capital that the “moochers” he demonizes every day can only dream of — was a moocher.
The trouble with Sykes — and with Romney, whose father and forebears benefited from public assistance, or Ryan, who got Social Security survivor benefits that he used to pay for college — is not just the repellent hypocrisy. It’s the callousness toward fellow Americans — the people they castigate as “moochers” — who need the same kind of help their own families once received.
Hat tip to Wayne Barrett