Tag Archives: the poor

Romney: ‘Not Concerned About the Very Poor’

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Well, these are certainly some odd values, aren’t they?

In an interview with CNN earlier today marking his Republican primary win in Florida, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney said he was “not concerned about the very poor,” and said the nation provided an “ample safety net” to those in that category.

“You can focus on the very poor, that’s not my focus,” Romney said.

Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney ain't none to worried 'bout 'dem po' folks. Says dey's gonna' be jes fine, yessuh. (Source: nmfbihop, from Flikr)

(By the way, Romney’s income over the past two years has come to more than $42 million.)

Rather, Romney said, he plans to focus on the middle class, which has been squeezed mightily in the last decade-and-a-half.

Just where do we think the once-proud denizens of the middle class have gone? Up the economic ladder? No, they’ve fallen further and further behind, with high unemployment and stagnant wages and an ever-growing cost of living taking larger and larger bites out of their plans for the future. Once-stable two income households are making hard decisions to get by with one.

Add this to the chorus of his concerns about getting a “pink slip,” even though he hails from a very wealthy family and is himself a millionaire several times over, and his defense of his work at Bane Capital, a venture capital firm that, along with acquiring and successfully reorganizing a number of firms, also liquidated quite a few others, leaving many unemployed. What is emerging is a portrait of a candidate who is far more Herbert Hoover/Warren Harding than Ronald Reagan.

I know a thing or two about the plight of the poor, having been poor for a considerable portion of my life. It isn’t easy. They turn off your electricity. Sometimes there’s not heat in the winter, and when there is, it’s turned up just high enough to keep the pipes from freezing. Sometimes, that’s not a concern, because the water’s been shut off. There are resources – heating assistance, assistance from utilities, etc. – that can be accessed, but these are very limited and I couldn’t begin to tell you how to access them or what the criteria are. Most of these have a cap – a number of people they can help at a given time. If you’re outside that limited number, you go cold.

America is experiencing very little growth except in one area: the poor. There is a vast and swelling population of dissatisfied Americans living in a land of milk and honey, a land of plenty, but barely getting by with precious little. It is aggravating to worry constantly about how you will feed yourself or your children, which bills you’ll pay from month to month and how you’ll keep yourself sheltered. A lot of people have known nothing but, and others are experiencing this for the first time. They were raised in the middle class, pursued their education, gained experience, and are now struggling mightily. They played the game according to the rules, and their parents’ promises were for naught. It is one thing to have been raised on the government’s tit (which is still not a good or comfortable life), but quite another to go hat-in-hand to ask for assistance for the very first time.

I remember my grandfather telling how his own father had to go into town one day for government assistance. My great-grandfather had been a successful man, a merchant who owned his own shop in Winston. When the Great Depression came and his customers could not afford their purchases, he let them buy things on credit, including food. When he could no longer pay his own bills because his customers were unable to pay theirs, he lost the store and had to turn to sharecropping.

My great-grandfather had one of the first, if not the first, automobiles in the county – a Ford Model T, which he used to haul merchandise from the rail station to his store. Penniless after losing the store, he could not even afford the gas to drive his car into town, and so walked from Winston into Douglasville to seek government assistance. They provided him with a sack of flour and a side of bacon, which he carried on his back and shoulders back down Bankhead Highway to feed his family. My grandfather told of how grateful they were for the food, but how ironic it was that, even though he was one of the few people to own a car, his father was not even able to use it because they were so poor.

Of course, Romney would not be very concerned about people like my grandfather. Hoover wasn’t, either. But my grandfather kept a framed portrait of FDR hanging in his living room, and often would point to it and say, “that man saved my life.”

“We will hear from the Democrat Party the plight of the poor, and there’s no question; it’s not good being poor. And we have a safety net to help those that are very poor,” Romney said. “We have a very ample safety net and we can talk about whether it needs to be strengthened or whether there are holes in it. But we have food stamps, we have Medicaid, we have housing vouchers, we have programs to help the poor. But the middle-income Americans, they’re the folks that are really struggling right now.”

You’re right, Gov. Romney. Middle class Americans are struggling. Because they’re poor.

London Riots: The Fires Will Spread

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London Riots

This building survived the Battle of Britain and German bombing raids in World War II. It did not survive the riots that London has endured the past three nights.

Riots in London have concluded their third consecutive night of looting and pillaging, and have now claimed their first fatality – a man who suffered a single gunshot wound as he sat in a parked car in Croydon, a neighborhood in south London.

Some Brits feel the riots have merited a national disaster, asking that the military be brought in under command of police forces to break up the crowds. Prime Minister David Cameron has ordered another 16,000 police officers to London to quell the riots, raising fears that the surge of police in London leaves other cities vulnerable – including Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool and Nottingham where riots spread for the first time last night. Civic-minded Londoners are organizing on Twitter, using the hash tag #riotcleanup to begin trying to make right what the rioters have devastated.

The root of the unrest has been tacitly blamed on cuts to social programs, but many Brits feel that this claim gives the rioters more credibility than they’re owed. The riots have been loosely organized through smartphones and social media by gangs of thugs who are taking advantage of the situation to loot their own neighborhoods and terrorize their neighbors.

But there is a kernel of truth to the assertion that there is a political undercurrent to these riots. Under the conservative government, social programs have been slashed to pave the way for austerity measures meant to keep the country out of burgeoning debt that has crippled other European Union nations like Greece, Italy and Portugal.

Social programs are the salve that pacifies the poor. They’re the thing that makes life in this country livable for hundreds of thousands of people by bridging the gap between their meager hand-to-mouth incomes and the high cost of housing, food, utilities and energy. These programs do not allow people to live comfortably, but they keep people from desperation. And there is nothing so dangerous as a desperate individual with nothing to live for and nothing to lose.

The negative press that these riots have received will be their undoing. Reports center more on the fact that the hooligans are looting shoe and clothing stores than the fact that the rioters have no shoes and little to wear. The cost of living has gone up considerably, but wages have remained stagnant, leaving more and more people to make do with less and less in a society that, only months ago, saw millions spent on the wedding of a descendent from bloodthirsty tyrants of medieval privilege as remnants of a form of government that long ago lost its legitimacy.

The thing that we on this side of the pond must be cognizant of is that these are not uniquely British problems. Here, a faction in our government is hellbent on cutting the programs that provide food, medicine and housing to a considerable segment of our population. While the United Kingdom has far more earned its reputation as a “nanny state,” we here continue to endure the harassment of our “welfare state.”

We know that our neighborhoods are segregated, and we know the social ills that face people who endure life in areas plagued with poverty. It’s impossible to catch a break when there are not breaks to be had. And the issues at the center of the riots in London – a lack of sufficient education, poor parenting, bleak economic prospects and now, the elimination and scaling back of what few programs existed that made life a little more bearable – are occurring in our neighborhoods as well.

Is this the government’s problem to solve? Perhaps not. But certainly, no one else is stepping forward with solutions, either. And the spark that began with protests and riots in Athens, and now London, might spread to Los Angeles, New York, Dallas … Atlanta.

Our nation’s poor are being reduced to kindling. And when the fires spread, mighty will be the conflagration.