Romney and the “Very Poor”

This morning on CNN, fresh off his win in Florida, Mitt Romney discussed where the focus of his campaign lies. He said,

“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% of Americans that are struggling.”

Soledad O’Brien incredulously asked Romney to explain why he wasn’t concerned about the very poor and Romney repeated that they fall within a safety net that provides food stamps, housing subsidies and Medicaid.

How big, exactly, is the safety net that the government provides? In a report last year, The Heritage Foundation explains:

Means-tested programs are limited to those at or below the poverty line. However, many welfare benefits go beyond this threshold to include persons who have incomes below 200 percent the poverty level, or about $44,000 per year for a family of four. Close to one-third of the U.S. population falls within this income range. A family of four at this income level would be eligible for approximately $28,000 worth of federal and state welfare benefits per year.

Compare this $28,000 to what the average middle class American receives from the government in comparable subsidies, $0. While he’s right that the government provides an enormous safety net for the poor (99.4% of whom own at least one television), the explanation he provides on welfare in this country leaves everyone to the left and right of his campaign on edge. To the left, it verifies the long held suspicion Republicans only care about people with money, callously disregarding the plight of the poor. This verification will be played over and over during a general election if Romney clinches the nomination. To the right, it verifies that Romney is as liberal as they fear, complacent with the welfare state as it currently stands.

Romney stated a truth about the welfare state that too often goes unsaid. The problem is he’s now glorified a system Americans find either insufficient or too far-reaching.