*Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said on Wednesday that as president, he will focus entirely on America’s middle class, and has no concern for the “very rich” or the “very poor.”
It’s the “very poor” part of his quote that immediately made headlines – less than 24 hours after his victory in the Florida GOP primary.
“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,” the Republican front-runner said this morning on CNN. “I’m not concerned about the very rich, they’re doing just fine. I’m concerned about the very heart of America, the 90 percent, 95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling.”
CNN’s Soledad O’Brien pressed him on his comments, adding that they may sound odd for Americans who are very poor.
“Well you had to finish the sentence, Soledad,” he replied. “I said ‘I’m not concerned about the very poor that have a safety net but if it has holes in it, I will repair them.’ The challenge right now — we will hear from the Democrat party on the plight of the poor. 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.”
“We have a very ample safety net,” said Romney. “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.”
Meanwhile, the “safety net” folk are also suffering during the economic recession. Medicaid, for example faces cuts as states attempt to balance budgets at a time when more people are using the program. GOP lawmakers have also eyed cuts in food stamps as food prices rise, even though more Americans are using the the program as a consequence of the economic recession.
Romney’s policies call for cutting federal spending and reconfiguring the social safety net, according to the Huffington Post. He calls for an immediate five-percent cut to non-discretionary spending, which would hit the safety net hard. He proposes turning Medicaid into a block grant program and undertaking a “fundamental restructuring of government programs and services.” He also calls for capping spending at 20 percent of GDP — a significant cut — and adds that he “will pursue further cuts” as spending comes “under control.”
Romney’s statement is part of a pattern of previously poorly phrased remarks that give his competitors fodder to call the former Bain Capital founder — who is worth between $190 million and $250 million — out of touch with the economic recession.
“Don’t try and stop the foreclosure process. Let it run its course and hit the bottom,” he said last October in Las Vegas, the hardest-hit metro area by the foreclosure crisis.
In January, Romney said, “I like being able to fire people who provide services to me” to explain why he favored competition among health insurers. “If someone doesn’t give me the good service I need, I want to say I am going to get somebody else to provide that service to me.”