On Wednesday morning, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney sat down for one of his first in depth interviews after winning Florida’s Republican presidential primary just a few hours before. In it, he told CNN anchor Soledad O’Brien the following:
“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 percent, 95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling…there’s no question it’s not good being poor…My focus is on middle-income Americans….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.”
Many, including former House speaker Newt Gingrich’s groupies in the right-wing commentariat’s keyboard commando battalion, have criticized Romney viciously for his remarks. Gingrich himself said later in the day that Romney failed to capture the spirit of the Founding Fathers, who essentially created America with the poverty-stricken in mind. Considering that the Founding Fathers were men holding immense capital in either the financial or social senses, I have no clue as to how Gingrich came to this conclusion. Outbursts like this are why I long ago decided that trying to make sense of his diatribes is akin to herding a pack of roaming cats; it simply cannot be done.
In any case, after having looked at Romney’s statements on a reasonable basis, it becomes difficult to disagree with him. In order to reinvigorate this country’s perpetually tanking economy, the middle class must come first. As it is this subset of the population which represents gross macro-level productivity and the upward mobility derived from that, why on earth should the federal government focus its attention elsewhere? Presently, the extreme upper class barely pays any income taxes thanks to scheming attorneys, strategically placed loopholes, and offshore banking. The extreme lower class, meanwhile, rarely makes any contributions to Uncle Sam because of convenient tax credits and many of its members making money through less than legal means. In the end, who pays for these very wealthy and very poor freeloaders? The middle class.
Only an ideologue or a dreamer could make an argument for eliminating the social safety net of which Romney speaks. Indeed, it is absolutely necessary as those who have turned temporary public assistance into a permanent career choice tend to be prone to rioting and violence. If anyone honestly believes that demonstrations from Miami to Seattle the likes of which have never been seen will not form should welfare benefits be scaled back drastically, then he or she needs to stop gazing at the stars and take a look at the facts on the ground. If any beneficial change is to come the way of America’s lower class, most of whose members are victims of generational poverty, then it will have to be brought about incrementally. This reality, ironically, is lost on a great number of Gingrich’s hardcore supporters who want severe cuts to everything at this precise moment regardless of the consequences. Even stranger is that, as a plethora of election results, polling data, and reporters’ observations have shown, many of them are not too far removed from poverty themselves.
After the rhetoric of Romney’s pathological enemies has been brushed aside, it should become blatantly apparent that what he was saying to O’Brien is absolutely correct as far as returning prosperity to the United States is concerned. While his words have been and will be taken out of context by those on the left and far-right alike, the former governor’s overreaching message is a sound one. Hopefully, he and his campaign staff will be able to clarify it and hone in on a message of bringing relief to that broad swath of America most in need. If his ad machine in Nevada is nearly as good as it was in Florida, then this is all but assured.