02.Feb.2012 Romney criticized for his remark about the poor

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney told CNN's Soledad O'Brien on Wednesday morning that he was “not concerned about the very poor. Photo: AP.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney told CNN's Soledad O'Brien on Wednesday morning that he was not concerned about the very poor. Photo: AP.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has been criticized by Democrats and Republicans alike following an interview with CNN’s Soledad O’Brien on Wednesday morning. The former Massachusetts governor told the program’s host that he was “not concerned about the very poor”.

Although his comment will be seen by many as insensitive, Mr. Romney‘s statement should be interpreted in its full context. Indeed, he emphasized that the very poor had not been abandoned and that a multitude of social welfare programs benefited the less well off.

“I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there,” the former governor said, before giving several examples of government aid currently available for the lower classes. “[...] we have food stamps, we have Medicaid, we have housing vouchers, we have programs to help the poor,” he told CNN. He also added that, if the level of assistance available to this part of society was inadequate, he would endeavor to rectify it.

Instead, Mr. Romney said he worries about the middle-classes, many of whom are unemployed or live on Social Security. He believes they are the ones who are really finding it hard to keep their heads above water and who feel they have been abandoned by the Obama administration. “My focus is on middle-income Americans […] I’m concerned about the very heart of America, the 90 percent, 95 percent of Americans who, right now, are struggling,” he said.

Mr. Romney, who is worth an estimated $200-250 million, also emphasized that he was not worried about the top one percent of society. “I’m not concerned about the very rich, they’re doing just fine,”he told O’Brien.

Still, President Obama‘s campaign manager, Jim Messina, was quick to seize this golden opportunity to point out that the GOP candidate who last month won the New Hampshire and Florida primaries is out of touch with the poorest Americans. “So much for ‘we’re all in this together,’” he tweeted on Wednesday.

Yet, as Mr. Romney pointed out, he does care about the poor. He even told O’Brien that he was willing to strengthen the safety net if it contained obvious weaknesses. The question is: does he care sufficiently about this group to offer them a life that does not include a permanent dependence on the so-called safety net?

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