Mother Jones has opened a broad debate about the role of government in our society.

In a clandestine tape recorded in May and obtained by the magazine, former Governor Mitt Romney (R-MA) remarked that 47 percent of taxpayers pay no federal income taxes. He notes, among other things, the increase in dependency on government in the country.

This is not a widely held secret: 47 percent of all tax filers paid no federal individual income taxes in 2009, and in 2011 that figure was 46 percent. This is all perfectly legitimate as taxpayers take advantage of various credits, deductions, exemptions, and the like. These filers are largely (but not exclusively) low-income Americans including seniors and students.

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