Those who've been reading my posts for the past month know that I've been trying to stay out of the political fray. Politics and religion. Two topics on which I have very strong opinions that many in my family and circle(s) of friends disagree. That's why I don't bring them up. But today, a statement was made that is being argued and will be for a LONG time to come. Or, at least until the speaker figures out that he's made a complete idiot out of himself with it and goes away (my opinion).
I'm sure you've already heard, but today on CNN, Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney -- who just the night before won the Florida Primary -- said that he's not concerned about poor people. Well, not exactly. He said he's not concerned about the "very poor." Even that's under debate. Here's part of the transcript:
"By the way, 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. I'm not concerned about the very rich. They're doing just fine. I'm concerned about the very heart of America, the 90, 95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling. I'll continue to take that message across the nation."Okay...so let me sort of dissect this statement. He's not concerned about the "very poor" because they have a "safety net." He's not concerned about the "very rich" because they're "doing just fine." And he suggests that 90-95 percent of Americans are struggling right now. What I've not been able to determine from his statement is this -- when do the "poor" become "very poor" and the "very rich" become just "moderately comfortable" in his mind?
I've been "poor." I've been "very poor." I've been "very poor where you have to decide whether you and your child can eat or just him so you can pay your electric bill." I've been "very poor to the point where you apply for help but you're told you're not 'poor enough' for it even though you don't have two nickels to rub together." I grew up poorer than my family would like to admit, I'm sure. And, sadly, I know that with the state of the economy and the outlook for the future, my kids probably won't have much to inherit from me and their success will be completely dependent upon them and the choices they make. No huge nest egg waiting around for them like good-ol' Mitt had.
But, just to show that I'm not trying to make a soundbite into a rant, let's read the rest of the transcript from what was said next by Soledad O'Brien as she tried to let him reword his response:
O'Brien: "All right. I know I said 'last question,' but I've got to ask you: You just said, 'I'm not concerned about the very poor because they have a safety net.' And I think there are lots of very poor Americans who are struggling who would say, 'That sounds odd.' Can you explain that?"Whoa, whoa, whoa there! Let's back this train up and look at some of what he's said -- and let's do it from the perspective of someone who's been there. Me.
Romney: "Well, you had to finish the sentence, Soledad. I said I'm not concerned about the very poor that have a safety net, bit if it has holes in it, I will repair them. The challenge right now -- we will hear from the Democrat(ic) Party, 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. My campaign -- you can choose where to focus. You can focus on the rich, that's not my focus; you can focus on the very poor -- that's not my focus. My focus is on middle-income Americans, retirees living on Social Security, people who can't find work, folks that have kids that are getting ready to go to college.
"These are the people who have been most badly hurt during the Obama years. 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. But the middle-income Americans, they're the folks that are really struggling right now, and they need someone who can help get this economy going for them."
"My focus is on middle-income Americans, retirees living on Social Security, people who can't find work, folks that have kids that are getting ready to go to college." Well, Mitt, in my life I have family members who are retired and living on Social Security. They're always complaining about how it doesn't help make ends meet and how poor they are, so that doesn't sound like "middle-income" to me. Also, my friends who have been looking for work (many for very extended periods of time) would probably not categorize their familial budgets within the "middle-income" range since they don't have an income because they are looking for work! And those with kids in college -- if it weren't for Eldest Son's Paternal Grandfather who retired as a professor from the university Eldest Son is currently attending, he probably wouldn't be attending that college right now. Why, you ask? Because even though Husband works for the government and I work intermittently for the government (for now), we don't qualify to be "middle-income" and can't afford the tuition, even with Pell Grant assistance. That's why Youngest Son is already making plans to attend a college where he'll have to work his way through to pay the tuition because he knows by the time he graduates high school that anyone will be lucky if they can send their child to college.
"But we have food stamps, we have Medicaid, we have housing vouchers." I will agree that those programs do exist. I will agree that there are people using those programs at this time. I will also agree that there are many who would rather lose a limb than have to sign-up for those programs but would be homeless and starving without them. I've had to use food stamps. I'm not proud of it -- but I made sure that as soon as I didn't need them I got off of the program. When I was pregnant with Youngest Son, I was begged by a County Health official to sign-up for WIC (Women, Infants, and Children nutrition program) and food stamps -- not because I didn't make enough (I actually made too much) but because they needed the numbers to keep their program going because too many women refused to enroll for what they thought was "charity" instead of a program designed to help them through their pregnancy and to ensure their child had a good start in life.
Then came the time when Husband wasn't working and I was very ill. Neither of us had any income and our savings had been depleted drastically. We needed help but we didn't want to ask for it. However, we swallowed our pride and went to the government office to apply for food stamps so we could be sure there would be something to eat. They asked to see our prior year's taxes. The year before, I had worked for several months and made an average amount in salary. Husband wasn't working and was staying home to homeschool Youngest Son while also serving in the National Guard. After looking at our paperwork, we were told that even though we had absolutely no income at the time and our savings was severely depleted (read: gone), we did not qualify because I had worked the year before and all of that money should be available now. Forget that there are bills to pay between when I earned it and the moment I was sitting in that chair -- I had made money in the past and regardless of my inability to work due to severe illness, we weren't eligible for assistance. As a matter of fact, the lady "assisting" us asked why we were wasting her time. According to her and her little chart on her desk, we were "middle-income" enough.
Mitt seems to forget that the majority of the "middle-income" voters he's referring to are only a paycheck away from being "very poor" and are pretty furious right about now. He also forgets that the "very poor" vote just as much as the "very rich" do. Yes, believe it or not -- many of the "very poor" are bussed to polling centers by *gasp* Democratic candidates and their staffers, encouraged all the while to "Vote for Our Candidate" while being offered free coffee, donuts, or whatever it is that gets them on the bus. Many people agree with that practice and many others disagree with it. However, if you look in "very poor" areas of our largest cities, you'll find that a LOT of votes are cast! Meanwhile, in the "middle-income" areas, a lot of them who actually are "middle-income" or "moderately comfortable" aren't voting as much. Many are too busy trying to work long hours at one or more jobs and perhaps can't get time-off to go vote. Others are incredibly disenfranchised with the political system as a whole (wonder what caused that??) and don't care anymore. And the apathy they have regarding whether or not to vote spills out into their community and their children's beliefs on whether or not it's worth bothering to vote when there's something good on TV.
You'd think someone who touts how intelligent he is and how he's so good at creating (and taking away) jobs and knowing what the American public is thinking and how they'll vote would have figured that out.
I'd suggest that Mitt stay out of the "very poor" neighborhoods 'cause many of the "poor" would be more than willing to show how rich they really are -- in their values, their pride, and possibly with a good-ol' fashioned butt-kickin'!
What he needs is someone to whap him upside the back of his head every time he makes a stupid remark like that. He still isn't worth my vote, but at least he might be more interesting to watch.