Coming off his big win in Florida last night, GOP front-runner Mitt Romney told CNN this morning that helping the poor is not his priority, suggesting that Democrats worry enough about the “plight of the poor” already:
ROMNEY: I’m not concerned with 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. [..]
HOST: You just said said, ‘I’m not concerned about the very poor because they have a safety net.’ But I think there are a lot of very poor Americans who are struggling who would say, that sounds odd. [...]
ROMNEY: The challenge right now — we will hear from the Democrat 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 campaign is focused is 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.
Later, Romney said, “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.”
Romney’s claim that the safety net is “very ample” suggests a lack of understanding . While safety net programs kept seven million Americans out of poverty in 2010, according to a study from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, government assistance fell far short of insulating all, or even most, poor Americans.
But his comment is especially tone deaf considering that Romney has proposed weakening many of these safety net programs. Under Romney’s proposed reductions in federal spending, it’s likely that Medicaid would be cut by $153 billion by 2016, the food stamp program would have to throw 10 million low-income people off the rolls, and a key program supporting poor children’s health would face cumulative cuts of $946 billion through 2021. As ThinkProgress’ Igor Volsky has said that Romney is living in a “dream world” when he claims his Medicaid cuts won’t hurt the poor.
And Romney’s tax plan suggests his focus is really on the wealthy, as it includes massive giveaways to upper-income earners and investors, while doing almost nothing for middle- and low-income Americans.