So, there’s been a dust up over Mitt Romney’s “I’m not concerned about the very poor” comments on CNN. A lot of the blogosphere is mindlessly blasting this quote sans context, and the TV news even worse, so Team Romney isn’t wrong to protest how this has been “taken out of context.” Cable news has been bad. So bad: stopping short of breaking it down into a few syllables and grunts between prescription drug advertisements.
But, to be honest, Romney’s answer is even worse when examined in its full context and nuance.
Here’s Mitt Romney’s “I’m not concerned about the very poor, I’m not concerned about the very rich, I’m campaigning for Americans in the middle” the relevant part of his interview with Soledad O’Brien, with all the context and nuance he gave CNN:
ROMNEY: You know, just let people get to know you better. The nice thing about what happened here in Florida is I got a chance to go across the state, meet with people. They heard what I am concerned about. They understand how I will be able to make things better.
I think people want someone who not just throws an incendiary bomb from time to time but someone who actually knows how it takes to improve their life, get home values rising again, to get jobs again in this country, and to make sure when soldiers come home they have a job waiting for them. And make sure people who are retired don’t have to worry about what’s going to happen at the end of the week.
This is a time people are worried. They’re frightened. They want someone who they have confidence in. And I believe I will be able to instill that confidence in the American people. And, by the way, I’m in this race because I care about Americans. I’m not concerned about the very poor. 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 the America, the 90, 95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling and I’ll continue to take that message across the nation.
O’BRIEN: All right. So I know I said last question, but I’ve got to ask you. You just said I’m not concerned about the very poor because they have a safety net. And I think there are lots of very poor Americans who are struggling who would say that sounds odd. Can you explain that?
ROMNEY: Well, you had to finish the sentence, Soledad. I said I’m not concerned about the very poor that have the safety net, but if it has holes in it, I will repair them.
O’BRIEN: Got it. OK.
ROMNEY: The – the challenge right now – we will hear from the Democrat Party the plight of the poor, and – and there’s no question, it’s not good being poor and we have a safety net to help those that are very poor.
But my campaign is focused on middle income Americans. My campaign – you
can choose where to focus. You can focus on the rich. That’s not my focus. You can focus on the very poor. That’s not my focus.
My focus is on middle income Americans, retirees living on social security, people who cannot find work, folks who have kids that are getting ready to go to college. That – these are the people who’ve been most badly hurt during the Obama years.
We have a very ample safety net, and we can talk about whether it needs to be strengthened or whether there are holes in it. But we have food stamps, we have
Medicaid, we have housing vouchers, we have programs to help the poor. But the middle income Americans, they’re the folks that are really struggling right now, and they need someone that can help get this economy going for them.
O’BRIEN: All right. Mitt Romney, congratulations to you on your big victory last night. Thanks for talking with us. appreciate it.
For me, the “not concerned about the very poor” comment is one of the least disturbing parts of his answer here.
First, it’s what he said immediately following that: “We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I’ll fix it.” That anyone who has been a leader in government can still essentially wonder aloud IF the safety net needs repair astonishes me. After all the tragic deaths (like the 12-year-old boy who died for lack of a dentist to simply pull a tooth) and horrible suffering that’s been well-documented and displayed, how can anyone not know our safety net needs a major shoring up if not—my position—a total rethinking and restructuring?
To quote from a 2007 blog post I wrote:
For those with severe disabilities dependent on Medicaid, the Republican cuts from 1995-2007 have had horrible consequences. I’ve had to fight like hell to survive. In 1996 in Alabama, Medicaid started gutting EPSDT (the federally-mandated program providing nursing care for those in need) and sending out termination notices to families in the mail. Then in 1999-2001 we had more aggressive cuts. They changed the rules so it’s only a temporary program to train caregivers to stay with their child 24/7, and they keep repeating that it is not the government’s role to “babysit” your child at all (even if your child is on life support and routinely coding). And now it is 2007 and Alabama barely funds it at all. We’ve almost been rolled back into the 1970s level.
I’ve had friends die. I’m sick of tolerating this evil like it is a valid policy position. It is in no way valid nor deserving of our deference and patience. It is nothing but immoral…
I have seen too much suffering and death because of inadequate supports and invisible safety nets and I am frakking traumatized that people are still pushing this destructive right-wing mythology that if we chip away at government funding even further, that this will magically increase services. It has been tried for years and has failed every time.
Excerpted from my post Vigorously Insisting On A More Perfect Union: Fighting Cuts, Demanding Universal Health Care | Nick’s Crusade
This “Demanding Universal Health Care” post was published by the Greenhaven Press imprint of Gale Publishing in the 2008 edition of Opposing Viewpoints: Health Care, if anyone is interested.
I think Romney needs to hear these stories, hear the details of how our lives are effected by the swiss cheese safety net.
Some of my other blog posts may prove instructive:
Feds Fiddling While State Medicaid Programs BURN | Nick’s Crusade (a critique of how ObamaCare will impact Medicaid, amid a report of budget cuts in the South leaving people with disabilities in their own waste)
Government-Sponsored Ablism and Segregation Tears Families Apart | Nick’s Crusade (an essay against state-sponsored institutionalization, segregation, and oppression)
Medicaid: Why It’s Broken and How To Fix It | Nick’s Crusade (highlights the broken parts of Medicaid, including funding disparities, poverty mandates and the ultra-expensive and antiquated practice of unnecessarily institutionalizing people, and lays out some solutions)
I plan to drop Willard “Mitt” Romney a note, you could do the same. Let him know what problems in “safety net” programs need his help, concisely and politely. Appeal to his “Mr. Fix-it” rhetoric. I don’t know if anyone will be able to connect and begin a constructive dialogue with Team Romney, but if even one person did, it would have a wonderful impact.
Mitt Romney for President
P.O. Box 149756
Boston, MA 02114-9756
More thoughts on Mitt Romney’s “very ample safety net” comments in Mitt Romney: Can You Help Us, Mr. Fix It? (Part 2)…