WASHINGTON -- Mitt Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan, share a similarly dim view of a very large portion of Americans, according to previously unreported remarks by Ryan. Both believe that many of their fellow citizens are dependent on government and have no motivation to improve their lives -- but they disagree over the precise number.
Romney's estimate, famously, is 47 percent. For Ryan, it's 30 percent.
"Seventy percent of Americans want the American dream. They believe in the American idea. Only 30 percent want the welfare state," Ryan said. "Before too long, we could become a society where the net majority of Americans are takers, not makers." (It's not definitively clear whether Ryan said "the welfare state" or "their welfare state." HuffPost originally transcribed it as "their welfare state." Regardless, the comment was made in reference to people on government assistance.)
Ryan's comments were delivered as part of his keynote address at The American Spectator's 2011 Robert L. Bartley Gala Dinner, which the magazine posted online. A reader tipped HuffPost to Ryan's speech, given in November -- six months before Romney's videotaped remarks.
"There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what," Romney said at a fundraiser in May, first reported by The Huffington Post. "All right -- there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that, that they are victims, who believe that government has the responsibility to care for them. Who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing."
Romney's remark, which he called "inelegant," but hasn't retracted, has won him widespread condemnation. Conservative fans of Ryan, meanwhile, have worried that Romney's poor candidacy might reflect negatively on Ryan. But there is only 17 percentage points of distance between Ryan and Romney's assessment of the American people.
One difference between the two, at least, is that Ryan said he believes that half the people who get more from the government than they pay in would prefer not to be in that situation.
"Today, 70 percent of Americans get more benefits from the federal government in dollar value than they pay back in taxes," Ryan said. "So you could argue that we're already past that [moral] tipping point. The good news is survey after survey, poll after poll, still shows that we are a center-right 70-30 country. Seventy percent of Americans want the American dream. They believe in the American idea. Only 30 percent want their welfare state. What that tells us is at least half of those people who are currently in that category are there not of their wish or their will."
The other half, by implication, are there because they want to be. For Romney, there's nothing that can be done about those types of people. "My job is not to worry about those people," Romney said in the full clip of the fundraiser, obtained by Mother Jones. . "I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."
UPDATE: 7:18 p.m. -- Brendan Buck, Ryan's campaign spokesman, said Ryan's videotaped remark was, "Only 30 percent want the welfare state." Buck added in an email: “Paul Ryan’s message at this open forum -- just as it is every day on the campaign trail –- was one of upward mobility and opportunity for all Americans. The discussion was about the size of government and nothing more.”