By Chris Ladd
A political gift can come in an awkward package. The left’s efforts to frame Romney’s remarks this week about “the very poor” are likely to have an unintended consequence for Democrats. They are hardening the impression that the left is hopelessly disconnected from middle class concerns. Call it a gaffe, call it an error, but if the Democrats succeed in their misguided effort to define Romney by that statement, Obama is more likely to lose this election.
Here’s what Romney actually said:
“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, 95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling and I’ll continue to take that message across the nation.”
Everything you need to know about the 2012 election is in that paragraph. Romney got it right.
The economic issue of our era is the damage done to middle and working class families by the financial disaster of the past decade. The housing crisis has destroyed the most potent method of capital accumulation available to ordinary people. The transition out of industrial era capitalism to a more dynamic information-based economy has stalled, leaving millions of workers in limbo. A culture of debt at all levels of our society is choking off opportunities for investment and fostering stagnation.
Meanwhile in the midst of the worst crisis since the Great Depression our safety net for the very poor is so strong that we have had to redefine hunger. We no longer count the number of people who starve to death, because that number is zero. We no longer count the number of people who suffer from malnutrition because that is so rare. The hunger statistic we follow now is called “food insecurity.”
As Romney correctly pointed out, the very poor have state and federal assistance available to help with housing and food. They can receive direct financial payments. They get healthcare provided by the government through Medicaid (more than 50m people in 2010). Democrats deserve credit for building this safety net and Romney in his statement makes clear his commitment to keep it working. The outcome of this election will not affect the support system for the poorest Americans.
What Romney has accomplished with this “gaffe” is to expose the blinding effects of left’s fascination with poverty. While Democrats kvetch over The Very Poor and far too many Republicans hyperventilate about abortion and gays, the rest of the world is building better schools, freer commerce, and new ways to compete. We need to shift our focus to stay ahead.
Romney gets that that a fresh program of government aid is not what struggling Americans are most concerned about. They want opportunities to earn their own way up the economic ladder through productive work.
The Democrats are welcome to make this election about the very poor if they want. There’s no greater program of aid they could offer to America’s needy Republicans.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Chris Ladd is a Texan who is now living in the Chicago area. He has served for several years as a Republican Precinct Committeeman in DuPage County, IL, and was active in state and local Republican campaigns in Texas for many years.
Also check out: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chris-ladd