The Common Good

The Ethical Opportunity of a Video

Date: September 19, 2012

The recently revealed video of Governor Mitt Romney at a fundraising event last May is changing the election conversation. I hope it does, but at an even deeper level than the responses so far. There is certainly politics here, some necessary factual corrections, and some very deep ironies. But underneath it all is a fundamental question of what our spiritual obligations to one another and, for me, what Jesus' ethic of how to treat our neighbors means for the common good.

Many are speaking to the political implications of Romney's comments, his response, and what electoral implications all this might have. As a religious leader of a non-profit faith-based organization, I will leave election talk to others.

Others are trying to clarify the facts of Romney's video which spoke of 47 percent of the American people who don't pay income tax and are dependent on the government. Many have pointed out that the people singled out do indeed pay other taxes (payroll, sales, and more). According to the Tax Policy Center, of those who pay no income tax, half do not because the income from their work is below the taxable minimum. Three-quarters of the remaining people are senior citizens or low-income working families with children who receive specific tax credits, such as the child tax credit or earned income tax credit. Children from low-income families do indeed receive health care from Medicaid and nutritional support including, "free" breakfast and lunches at school. Many have also pointed out that those receiving some government assistance include not only the elderly on Medicare, but also veterans who get help after coming home from fighting our wars and college students who need loans to go to school.