Mitt Romney, American candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, always seems to be trying hard to say the right thing to get elected and inadvertently saying what he really thinks. People will be talking for months about Mitt Romney’s many flubs, including his latest remarks about poor people in a CNN interview:
“I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there,” Romney told CNN. “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.” Host Soledad O’Brien pointed out that the very poor are probably struggling too. “The challenge right now — we will hear from the Democrat party the plight of the poor,” Romney responded, after repeating that he would fix any holes in the safety net. “And there’s no question it’s not good being poor and we have a safety net to help those that are very 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.”
via The Washington Post. This is shocking, isn’t it?
He’s concerned with the American middle class because they are struggling, but he’s not concerned with the poor because…aren’t they struggling too? Does their having a safety net mean they’re not struggling whereas the middle class is? He seems to be admitting in a backhanded sort of way that he has written poor people off as hopeless, and put them beyond the scope of government. Who can really believe that he wants to “fix” the safety net, when his policies propose cuts that would force massive cutbacks?
This is really not cool. Democrats know it’s not cool, and they also hope it’s bad politics in a post-Occupy election year. That may be true, though more Americans than they might think don’t care about the very poor either and don’t mind a politician who they can like because he who won’t give them a liberal guilt trip. But really Democrats too have sold the very poor out, if not always in policy then in messaging, aiming their sights squarely at the middle class and trying to avoid giving swing voters the impression that they are coddling welfare recipients.
I don’t think Americans actually want our politicians talk honestly about their real views of the poor, because they would rather not think about a subject that they can comfortably avoid. We want Republicans to talk about the importance of poor people lifting themselves up by their boot straps and Democrats to talk about the importance of the safety net, and maybe to give a little bit to charity, but that’s about it.
Americans want self-empowerment rhetoric from conservative and progressive alike, and what minimum safety net that can maintain the status quo without them having to take too much notice of the very poor. Where a more integral approach begins to look different is when it talks about the chief aim of ethics as protecting the health and well-being of all levels of the world’s Spiral of Life — in plain speech, ensuing that nobody gets left out of the opportunity for living healthfully and having their best chance at education and higher development.
We do this not simply because it’s a good thing, but because who we are is a We — a We that includes all beings, a We that exists in a world that denies this unity in a multitude of crazy, painful ways. Ultimately, We are concerned about the very poor because We are concerned about Us.