Mitt Romney caused some trouble for himself this week when he told a national television audience, “I’m not concerned about the very poor.” He added there’s already a “safety net” for those struggling most, so he’ll focus his attention elsewhere.
Yesterday in Nevada, the Republican frontrunner walked it back, telling a reporter, “When you do I don’t know how many thousands of interviews, now and then you may get it wrong, and I misspoke.”
Expressions of regret are always welcome, but in this case, Romney had it right the first time – he didn’t misspeak on Wednesday morning; he engaged in accidental candor.
For one thing, Romney’s original comments were not the first time he’d expressed this sentiment. For another, Paul Krugman explained today that Romney’s agenda helps prove just how unconcerned about the very poor he really is.
[W]e do need to strengthen our safety net. Mr. Romney, however, wants to make the safety net weaker instead.
Specifically, the candidate has endorsed Representative Paul Ryan’s plan for drastic cuts in federal spending – with almost two-thirds of the proposed spending cuts coming at the expense of low-income Americans. To the extent that Mr. Romney has differentiated his position from the Ryan plan, it is in the direction of even harsher cuts for the poor; his Medicaid proposal appears to involve a 40 percent reduction in financing compared with current law.
So Mr. Romney’s position seems to be that we need not worry about the poor thanks to programs that he insists, falsely, don’t actually help the needy, and which he intends, in any case, to destroy.
As a political matter, it makes sense that Romney would walk back his remarks – multi-millionaire candidates who got rich firing people generally don’t win by running on a I-don’t-care-about-the-poor platform.
But as a policy matter, it’s too late. Romney accidentally told the truth, disgusting both the left and the right simultaneously. His claims about “misspeaking” aren’t persuasive, and won’t make this problem go away.