Mitt Romney doesn’t like the way many Americans seem to want free stuff from the government:

By the way, I had the privilege of speaking today at the NAACP convention in Houston and I gave them the same speech I am giving you. I don’t give different speeches to different audiences alright. I gave them the same speech. When I mentioned I am going to get rid of Obamacare they weren’t happy, I didn’t get the same response. That’s ok, I want people to know what I stand for and if I don’t stand for what they want, go vote for someone else, that’s just fine. But I hope people understand this, your friends who like Obamacare, you remind them of this, if they want more stuff from government tell them to go vote for the other guy-more free stuff. But don’t forget nothing is really free. It has to paid for by people in the private sector.

Romney was accused of racism for this remark. But this isn’t right. As Jon Chait observes in a nice post, Romney criticizes other claimants, such as white college students, on similar grounds.

Of course the central hypocrisy remains. The core of the current GOP coalition are older white voters who are receiving large actuarial subsidies through Medicare and Social Security. And thus Romney has attacked President Obama for alleged cuts to Medicare. (GOP rhetoric is misleading on these issues, but that’s another story.) Romney himself receives lavish carried interest tax breaks and that $77,000 deduction for a dressage horse. Jon Stewart deliciously notes that this seems pretty free-stuffy, too.

Chait suggests that ” ‘Free stuff’ is just a way of describing government benefits for other people.” That’s true. But George Carlin beat him to it, with the most succinct analysis I have seen of this question:

[Cross-posted at The Reality-based Community]

Harold Pollack

Harold Pollack is the Helen Ross Professor at the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago.