In an interview with Soledad O’Brien on CNN, Mitt Romney reiterated one of the highlights of his campaign. “I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs a repair, I’ll fix it. I’m not concerned about the very rich… I’m concerned about the heart of America, the 90 to 95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling.”
There are a few things about this statement that are sure to raise some [Democrat] eyebrows, the first of which being this popular conception of ‘safety nets’ for poor and low income families in the United States. The so-called ‘safety net’, of course, refers to welfare, food stamps, and so on. Who, I’d like to know, started the rumor that being poor is fabulous? Welfare doesn’t magically make poor families rich, nor does it negate the painful experience of being a low-income citizen in a country that makes wealth the axis of collective identity. Nor, for that matter, is it equally effective for all families. While some families do qualify for food stamps, others don’t- the government isn’t the Prince Charming Romney makes it out to be. Furthermore, it’s not as if low income families are in the minority these days- according to the U.S. Census report, almost half of Americans qualify as either poor or low-income. Half. It is this percentage, therefore, that seemingly makes up “the heart” of American, this percentage that is becoming more and more characteristic of Romney’s “America.” So rather than regarding ‘the very poor’ people of American as on the fringe of significance, Romney should get his facts straight.
Secondly, Romney makes the typical mistake of disregarding the radical ends of the financial spectrum when considering the woes of the “middle class.” If Romney wants to better the existence of middle class families, why ignore the goings-on within the “very rich” and “very poor”? Allow me to offer an analogy. Let’s say you’re riding your bike one day, and the chain breaks. You wouldn’t huddle in a corner, fruitlessly attempting to figure out how and why the chain in and of itself is now damaged. No-you would piece it back together knowing how the entire bicycle is supposed to work and why it failed to do so as a whole. Similarly, how the poor, middle, rich sectors function in this country have a lot to do with each other. I’m no economist, and I’m certainly no politician, but anything else doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.
My third (and last- for now) point is restate something that has already been said of Romney’s campaign. That he is “an out-of-touch elite” who is running for the presidency of a fantasy world, rather than the reality of what the America has become. It seems as though Romney is guilty of the same thing his spokesperson Andrea Saul once accused Obama of – that he “is detached from what is happening in the real world.”
In prioritizing the needs of certain American communities over others, Romney is implicitly suggesting that only certain people matter, problems that effect everyone aren’t problems at all and if they are they can be ‘fixed’ with the wave of a hand, and that the rich (top 20%), who really should be a point of concern in their owning approximately 85% of private American wealth, need not get involved.
Romney “isn’t concerned.” Perhaps he should be.