Friday, February 03, 2012

Less Concern Than Dagger

Liberals were aghast.    Conservatives were appalled.

Or perhaps liberals were appalled and conservatives were aghast when Mitt Romney stated to CNN anchorperson Soledad O'Brien

And, by the way, 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 percent of Americans who right now are struggling.

In either case, on Thursday night Mitt Romney told Nevada reporter Jon Ralston (who becomes famous every four years about this time)

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.  

Mission accomplished.       Romney saying only "I got it wrong,"  a moment earlier had told Ralston

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.

Shorter Romney:    "I worded it wrong, politically, this time."       Nevertheless Romney, though frightened of the phrase "middle class," has done what Republicans, recognizing that their policies have been undermining the middle class, have been reluctant to do:   utter the phrase "middle income."        So if the leading GOP presidential candidate is devoted to strengthening the middle class- even while neglecting the lower class- it is a major advance in the cause of pluralism and economic equality.

He isn't, of course.     And the social safety net he notes "cares for the poor" applies to the middle class, also.       In December, Romney touted the Paul Ryan Destroy Medicare Plan, claiming it "sets the right tone," and promising to sign it as President.      

Months earlier, Paul  Krugman had noted 

Take, for example, the statement that the Ryan plan would end Medicare as we know it. This may have Republicans screaming “Mediscare!” but it’s the absolute truth: The plan would replace our current system, in which the government pays major health costs, with a voucher system, in which seniors would, in effect, be handed a coupon and told to go find private coverage.

The new program might still be called Medicare — hey, we could replace government coverage of major expenses with an allowance of two free aspirins a day, and still call it “Medicare” — but it wouldn’t be the same program. And if the cost estimates of the Congressional Budget Office are at all right, the inadequate size of the vouchers — which by 2030 would cover only about a third of seniors’ health costs — would leave many if not most older Americans unable to afford essential care.  

Representative Ryan proposed to cut the top individual tax rate from 35% to 25% while keeping overall tax revenues the same.      That can be accomplished only by raising taxes on the middle and working classes.        According to this table from Citizens for Tax Justice, if the Ryan plan were law and in effect in 2011, the tax rate for each income group but the top 10% of the population would rise have risen, at an average of 4.6%, while dropping for the top 10%.    

Romney promises to repeal "Obamacare" and with it, the expansion of health care to approximately 30 million Americans, through expansion of Medicaid and subsidies to people who need them.     He also applauds right-to-work laws and other efforts at undermining unions.  A President Romney would need to support the social safety net; as we have seen the past few decades, as union membership and power decline, the middle class declines with it.       The chart below, from the Center for American Progress, displays vividly the close correlation between the decline of union membership and the middle class' share of national income.

While Romney apparently envisions presiding over the dissolution of the middle class, he is blissfully unaware of current conditions in the U.S.A.      It's hard to imagine the middle class making up 90-95%  of the population when the latest statistics indicate 15.1% of Americans living below the poverty level.  

Still, Mitt Romney's admitted lack of concern (hardly surprising) for the poor is insignificant next to his advocacy of policies which would add appreciably to their number.

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