Day before yesterday, Mitt Romney made it very clear that he's "not concerned about the very poor." Actually, as news agencies made clear in the aftermath of the GOP candidate for President's relatively shocking statement, Romney has been saying this or something much like it for months.
I'm grateful to Mr. Romney for being so clear. But even more, I'm so thankful that at last someone brought the issue of poverty and extreme poverty into the national conversation. No one else has been talking about the poor much at all. Over the last two days that has changed. Thank goodness!
Romney said that the focus of his campaign was not the extremely poor or the extremely rich, but the 95% of Americans who are middle class.
Now there are a few glaring problems with his analysis.
First, he explained that the extremely poor had a "safety net" to provide for them. He even went so far as to promise that if he found the safety net in need of repair, he would fix it. I immediately wanted to call him up and invite him down to Texas because our "safety net" is in a world of hurt these days! Name the issue or need and Texas under performs terribly.
Food security and hunger.
Decent and affordable housing for our workforce and the homeless.
Loans/grants for higher education.
Mental health funding.
Dental services for the poor.
Child care and early childhood development.
The list could go on and on.
The wealth gap grows in our state and in our urban centers, but the net doesn't hold. Besides, we need a platform for folks to stand on and find traction and stability, not a net into which to fall helplessly.
So, come on out to Texas, Governor!
Second, there's the problem of the Governor's math: the 95% in the middle. With 1 in 5 Americans, 1 in 4 children, conservatively estimated, to be living in poverty, there is no 95% to be concerned about! The bottom 30-plus % of our fellow citizens live impoverished lives and things are not improving for them as their numbers swell. But, the Governor says he's not concerned about the poor. I guess not, he doesn't even know how many poor folks there are in the U. S. today. Not good for a President, I'd say.
Still, he brought the subject to the top of our minds. For that I remain grateful.
[Editorial note: This morning reports have the Governor saying that he "misspoke" when he said he "didn't care about the extremely poor." Wonder how that could ever happen?]
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Larry James' Urban Daily
A repository of ideas, resources, commentary and opinions concerning the issues facing low-income residents of the inner cities of the United States and how mainstream America largely forgets or, worse, ignores the day-to-day realities of urban life for the so-called "poor." Written and edited by the President & CEO of CitySquare. Please visit CitySquare.
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