During an interview last night with Nevada reporter Jon Ralston, Mitt Romney attempted to walk back his statement that he is “not concerned with the very poor.” “It was a mistake. I misspoke,” Romney said:
ROMNEY: It was a mistake. I misspoke. I’ve said something that is similar to that, but quite acceptable, for a long time. And you know, when you do I don’t know how many thousands of interviews, now and then you may get it wrong. And I misspoke. Plain and simple.
RALSTON: What did you mean to say?
ROMNEY: Well, what I said was that my focus, my primary focus, is on helping people get in the middle class and grow the middle class. That we have a safety net that cares for the poor, I want to keep that safety net strong and able. The wealthy are doing just fine. But we really need to focus on the middle income people in this country. And you know what, if people are going to go after me when I make a mistake — when I slip up on a word I say, even when I say I got it wrong, sorry, that’s not what I meant — you know that’s part of the political process and I understand that.
However, Romney’s claim that he misspoke flies in the face of the fact that he’s used similar language before to explain his lack of concern for the poor. “The people who need the help the most are not the poor, who have a safety net,” Romney explained during an Oct. 20 town hall at Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa. “The very poor have a safety net, they’re taken care of,” he said in an October debate.
According to the latest data, the percentage of Americans qualifying as “very poor” — meaning that they live in a household with an income of less than half the federal poverty rate — has hit a 35 year high, so they are decidedly not taken care of. And Romney’s economic plan wouldn’t make them any better off. In fact, Romney would raise taxes on 20 percent of households making between $10,000 and $20,000, because of his less generous tax credits.
Not only that, but his plan would cut critical safety net programs like food stamps and Medicaid, and limit the ability “to leverage federal resources to provide necessary social services to assist people in need.” As the Center for American Progress Action Fund’s Desmond Brown wrote, Romney’s plan “would provide $2.24 trillion in tax breaks to the superrich while cutting $2.17 trillion from critical health care services for poor and elderly Americans.”