Lee Byberg, the Republican candidate in Minnesota’s 7th Congressional District, is embracing Republican Mitt Romney’s comments at a private fundraiser that 47 percent of Americans ‘believe they are victims’ and are entitled to help from the government that permeates their lives.
Romney’s remarks were recorded without his knowledge and were first reported by Mother Jones Magazine. At a hastily called news conference on Monday night, Romney didn’t back off the comments but said they were made “off the cuff” and weren’t “elegantly stated.” The comments were widely criticized by the Obama campaign, Democrats and several Republicans, among others.
But Byberg, who is challenging DFL Rep. Collin Peterson, announced his support for Romney’s comments.
“Romney was merely stating the obvious,” Byberg said in a statement. He added that he believed any criticism of Romney “missed the point.”
“The welfare state is not only unsustainable financially, but morally as well. A dependency culture undermines human dignity. Government aid should be limited to temporary support, and for those truly unable to care for themselves. By no stretch of the imagination is that 47 percent of the population,” Byberg said.
In a follow-up interview, Byberg said he was referring to people who are not paying federal income taxes and wasn’t referring to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid when defining the “welfare state.”
Byberg acknowledged that nearly two-thirds of households that don’t pay federal income taxes do pay payroll taxes, but he said that’s not the same.
“We have almost half of the population that is not paying federal income taxes. So we are depriving from them the opportunity to feel that they are part of what it takes to fund a nation,” Byberg said. “That is not a good thing.”
Byberg is hoping that his comments resonate with the western Minnesota congressional district. This is the second time he’s run against Peterson. He lost in 2010 by nearly 18 percentage points.