"I'm not concerned about the very poor": Romney's view from the top

By Elizabeth Lefebvre| comments | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare
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The morning after a big win in the Florida primary, Mitt Romney is all over the headlines—but it’s not for his victory. Instead, it’s for remarks he made to CNN stating that he isn't concerned with the country's poor.

"I'm not concerned about the very poor." he said. "We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I'll fix it. I'm not concerned about the very rich. They're doing just fine. I'm concerned about the very heart of America, the 90-95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling."

Let’s break this down.

"I'm not concerned about the very poor.”  It’s jarring to hear such blatant disregard for an entire sector of the population, especially as Catholics are taught that every single person has an inherent human dignity and that we are to follow Jesus' example to care for the least of our society. It’s even more troubling to hear from a presidential candidate seeking to lead the entire country. Sure, the very poor don’t make up Romney’s biggest voting bloc. And yes, every politician panders to certain constituents and prioritizes certain policies, but shouldn’t someone seeking the presidency feel a responsibility to those who have nothing, as well as the rich funders of their campaign?

“We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I’ll fix it.”  Yes, it’s true that we have a safety net. However, most of Romney’s proposed “fixes” include slashing funding for vital programs. Slate today offers examples from Romney’s policy agenda to show how quickly the safety net would disappear if his policies were enacted. Diane Lim Rogers, blogging at The Christian Science Monitor, points out that Romney’s policies are terrible for the poor, saying, “You can’t cut spending on the poor that dramatically and expect that the poor will be better off.”

And just how reliable is that safety net for making sure that people’s needs are being met? Why not ask the thousands of children in Kansas who were just kicked off of food stamps? And, Catholic Charities president Larry Snyder, speaking after the State of the Union address, cited the need for "new methods and strategies for lifting more Americans onto a path of opportunity and self-sufficiency in a way that is economically sustainable for the nation, ensuring not just an 'America Built to Last', but an 'America Built to Last - For All."

“I'm not concerned about the very rich. They're doing just fine. I'm concerned about the very heart of America, the 90-95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling." Clearly the rich—Romney included—are doing just fine. But at whose expense? When tax breaks go to corporations instead of middle class workers, who benefits? Or when jobs are sent overseas to increase profit margins?

Additionally, perhaps Romney needs a refresher about the reality of poverty in America. The official poverty rate in 2010 was 15.1 percent. This number increases when you include people who are “asset poor,” or who, in the case of a job layoff or medical emergency, wouldn’t have enough money saved to cover basic expenses. The Chicago Tribune reported yesterday that across the nation, nearly 27% of households are are asset poor.

A huge amount of our population is at risk of become "very poor," those who need help the most. Let's hope that whoever wins the presidential election will exhibit care for the least of our society—or at least pretend to show some concern.