Yesterday, Mitt Romney caused a stir when he made the following remarks about the poor during an interview with CNN:
“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 very heart of America, the 90-95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling.”
Following this comment, CNN anchor Soledad O’Brien prodded Romney to clarify his remarks.
“We will hear from the Democrat party, the plight of the poor…. You can focus on the very poor, that’s not my focus…. 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.”
The media, Democrats, and many Republicans are painting him as out-of-touch, while expressing their concern that he is apathetic to the plight of the poor. However, they are missing the point. The real outrage is not that he doesn't want to do more for the poor; it's that he thinks they are taken care of with the welfare state. Worse, he believes that the welfare state is, more or less, functioning properly. Fear not, ‘any minor glitches would be repaired by Mr. Fix It.
It is precisely this sentiment that makes Romney disqualified for the Republican nomination. Romney doesn't believe that the welfare system is fundamentally flawed; that the welfare state is the consummate enemy of the poor; that unlimited welfare is what perpetuates and exacerbates poverty. He thinks it is working relatively fine, albeit in need of some minor tweaks here and there.
As Senator DeMint noted, this could have been a teachable moment – a moment for Romney to shine. He could have gone on offense by explaining how it is these very welfare programs that have failed to deracinate poverty, even though they have been in place for decades. He could have shown how the only thing that is stimulated by these programs is the dependency of the program itself. $30 billion spent on food stamps gives rise to $60 billion, which now gives rise to $80 billion. He could have defended the inherent compassion of conservative free-market policies in weaning people off these programs and creating upward mobility.
As conservatives, we care deeply about the poor. Then again, we care for everyone equally. We don't recognize a class system – one that Romney has propagated incessantly throughout the campaign. It is that conviction that burns in the heart of every conservative who desires to fundamentally overhaul the welfare state and the cycle of dependency and poverty.
We care immensely about the millions of poor who are condemned to a life of failure because they are trapped in the public education system perpetuated by teachers’ unions and the Democrats. We cry out for those who cannot afford healthcare because the liberals have destroyed the free market. We empathize with those who can no longer afford food, gas, and utilities because liberals have artificially inflated the prices with government interventions. We sympathize with those who can’t find jobs that fit their skill set because liberal environmentalists have eliminated their jobs.
As conservatives, we are not happy to merely be efficient stewards of Medicaid, LIHEAP, Food Stamps, Unemployment, and TANF to deal with the aforementioned problems. We seek to solve those problems by offering an equal opportunity for everyone to earn a living with dignity; not by offering capricious politicians the opportunity to grow dependency, and by extension, their own power.
Only one who is insouciant towards the plight of the poor – whether Republican or Democrat – can feel content with the core structure of the current welfare/entitlement state. Such a person is satisfied with trite incremental tinkering of the system. Mitt Romney personifies that caricature. That is why his solution to poverty it to manage the welfare state…and raise the minimum wage requirement.
Is this the man we want as our spokesperson during an election over the economy?
Cross-posted from The Madison Project