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Despite his words, Romney's policies are terrible for the poor

Mitt Romney claims to be "concerned" about the poor, but his policy proposals would seriously damage the social safety net that helps the country's poor survive.

Jim Young/Reuters
U.S. Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney speaks at a campaign rally at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina, January 18, 2012. In speeches, Romney claims to be concerned about the poor, but his policies suggest otherwise, Rogers argues.

The Washington Post’s Ruth Marcus points out that if Mitt Romney really cares about the poor, he has a funny way of showing it–in this case, regarding his ideas for fiscal policy reforms:

“I’m concerned about the poor in this country,” Mitt Romney said the other day. “We have to make sure the safety net is strong and able to help those who can’t help themselves.”

I perked up at those words, because they were something of a departure from his usual stump speech and because they happened to come on a day when I had written about the dire implications of Romney’s proposals for the social safety net.

I don’t question his sincerity. The problem: This fine sentiment doesn’t square with his actual policies…

The impact of Romney’s approach on the safety net would go far beyond Medicaid. The brutal arithmetic of his stated plan to cap spending at 20 percent of gross domestic product — while, unlike Ryan, increasing defense funding — is that safety-net programs would have to be chopped significantly beyond where even Ryan would take them.

Romney’s tax plan would exacerbate the unfairness. He would continue the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and provide extra breaks that would primarily help the rich…

At the same time, Romney would do away with recent increases in the child tax credit and the earned-income tax credit — provisions that help low-income families…

This is one way to make the necessary tough choices regarding the federal budget:  if we choose to keep taxes low and defense spending high, the rest of the budget has to give.  There’s a lot to be said for a politician being clear about his priorities and spelling out the policies consistent with those priorities.  But as Ruth points out, the consequences must be spelled out, too:  you can’t cut spending on the poor that dramatically and expect that the poor will be better off.  To do so is either the result of delusional beliefs about extreme “trickle down” economics, or a grossly exaggerated view of how much truly “wasteful” government spending now exists–unless one’s definition of “waste” is simply “that which does not benefit me personally.”

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