Romney’s empathy deficit

Mitt Romney made headlines today, in the wake of his victory in the Florida Republican primary, when he said, “I’m not concerned about the very poor.” As you might expect, it’s getting a great deal of play across various social media channels, where the “Romney’s an entitled son-of-a-bitch who doesn’t have the slightest interest in understanding what his fellow Americans are suffering through” narrative has been solidifying over the past several weeks, in part due to the incessant hammering of Newt Gingrich on the campaign trail. In Romney’s defense, the quote making the rounds today is taken somewhat out of context. What he actually said, is that he doesn’t worry about the poor, because we’ve got a safety net in place…. What he neglects to mention, however, is that, if elected President, he’s vowed to slash that safety net to ribbons.

The following clip, about the Romney economic plan, comes by way of the Tax Policy Center:

…The Romney plan would reduce federal tax revenues substantially. TPC estimates that on a static basis, the Romney plan would lower federal tax liability by $600 billion in calendar year 2015 compared with current law, roughly a 16 percent cut in total projected revenue…

In case it’s not clear, that means Romney intends to drastically cut the programs, like Social Security, Medicaid and Food Stamps, that comprise the social safety net.

But that’s apparently not enough for the lunatics who presently constitute the base of the Republican party. Rush Limbaugh spoke for them today, when he beat up on Romney for having the audacity to speak favorably about our nation’s safety net. (Limbaugh, of course, knows full well that Romney has no intention of preserving said safety net, but he attacked him anyway, for just giving the impression that he might.) In Limbaugh’s opinion, safety nets are bad for the poor. “The safety net,” said Limbaugh, “is contributing to the destruction of their humanity and their futures!”

Yes, nothing contributes to the destruction of one’s humanity, like a full stomach and access to health care.

Speaking of Romney, I think that Chris Matthews has it exactly right when he said the following yesterday.

“And by the way, when you spend your money — when you’re sheltering it overseas, when you’re hiding your money from the tax collector so that you can have an even fatter life, you know, you don’t really identify with the person out there that’s trying to scrabble along and make it in our society, who is a true patriot, left, right or center. Why are you hiding your money overseas if you are a patriot? It seems like you are part of the problem — in fact, you are one of the bad guys.”

update: Here, to back up my claim that Romney intends to roll back taxes on the wealthy even more that Bush did, is a clip from Ezra Klein:

…Romney intends to make the Bush tax cuts permanent. So he’s taking the tax cuts George W. Bush proposed as a way to pay down a surplus and making them permanent in a time of deficits. That doesn’t just leave him supporting the same upper-income tax cuts that Bush proposed. Because larger sacrifices will be required to pay for them now than in 2001, it leaves him supporting those tax cuts at a time when paying for them will require much more sacrifice on the part of low-income Americans.

And, on top of that, Romney layers on another set of tax cuts tilted towards high earners. The Tax Policy Center estimates that Romney’s tax plan will save earners in the top 1 percent $82,000 a year, but do very little for workers in the bottom half of the income distribution.

The Tax Policy Center also estimates that Romney’s plan will cost $180 billion over and above the Bush tax cuts in 2015. So we can conservatively estimate that his plan will cost more than $2 trillion over the next 10 years. Add in the full extension of the Bush tax cuts, and Romney is promising at least $6 trillion — and likely much more — in tax cuts…

update: OK, I tried my hand at creating a Romney-themed derivative of the Scumbag Steve meme. I hope you like it.

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  1. Thom Elliott
    Posted February 2, 2012 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    As a Mormon bishop and 1%er it isn’t surprising at all that he would not be concerned about “the very poor”, no one in our monsterous political “dialog” has one thing to say about that subject, because of the unspoken agreement that our brutal technological society demands losers. Of course they don’t want a safety net, they are avowed nihilists who will sink to any depth to cement their grotesque advantage. Our society demands slavery and grinding poverty so people like Romney (who I’ve heard is strangely personally quite generous) can live in unimaginable luxury, ensuring their yuppie larvae are as disconnected and violently classist as they, keeping the plutocratic technological deathworld turning.

  2. Demetrius
    Posted February 2, 2012 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    The truly sad things is that millions of people who are middle- and lower-middle class — along with many who are only a couple of paychecks away from being “very poor” themselves — will hear this statement, and see Romney as someone who is standing up for “them.”

  3. Edward
    Posted February 2, 2012 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    John Edwards had the audacity to talk of poverty, and, to some extent, it worked for him. He was able to get on a presidential ticket. We can argue whether he was genuine in his concern, but that’s beside the point. The important thing, I think, is that he ran a campaign on poverty, reminiscent of RFK’s run decades earlier, and had success with it. So, it can be done. Granted, it’s not a great strategy for attracting corporate sponsorship, but it’s not a message that the American people recoil from. He was a popular candidate.

  4. kjc
    Posted February 2, 2012 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    “The truly sad things is that millions of people who are middle- and lower-middle class — along with many who are only a couple of paychecks away from being “very poor” themselves — will hear this statement, and see Romney as someone who is standing up for “them.”


  5. Lynne
    Posted February 2, 2012 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    Let them eat cake!!!

  6. Meta
    Posted February 2, 2012 at 9:03 am | Permalink


    Senate Democrats formally unveiled legislation Wednesday to ensure that all millionaires would pay a minimum federal tax of 30 percent.

    The legislation comes as the relatively low tax rate for some high earners –like investor Warren Buffett and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney– takes center stage in both the policy and political arenas in Washington.

    This is shaping up to be one hell of an election year.

  7. Eel
    Posted February 2, 2012 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    I don’t agree with Gingrich on much, but he’s got it right when he says, ““We’re not going to beat Barack Obama with someone who owns Swiss bank accounts, Cayman Island accounts.”

  8. Watching Laughing.
    Posted February 2, 2012 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    Edward, John Edwards had a lot of really good ideas.
    He just turned out to think with his crotch, turn out to be a jackass.
    He was still on the side of the 99%.


  9. Mr. X
    Posted February 2, 2012 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    When ever I see Romney, the song The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll plays through my head.

  10. Mr. X
    Posted February 2, 2012 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    It would appear that, “a quarter of the money amassed by Romney’s campaign and an allied super PAC has come from just 41 people,” all of whom would benefit greatly by the tax policies he’s promising. Each, according to the Washington Post, has given more than $100,000.

  11. Undercurrent
    Posted February 2, 2012 at 11:26 pm | Permalink

    This will be long, but I’ll get there.

    It’s been rightly pointed out that an atheist can’t get elected to our highest office. We (as a whole) Americans still demand an affiliation to faith to garner the popular vote. Yet, I don’t think most of us really believe that every candidate really believes what they say they do. It was worried that JFK to be obliged to answer to the Pope. In hindsight, a lot of his endeavors weren’t sanctioned by Papal authority. As has been the case with many (most?) of our electables. So we shrug and think any faith claim is just an empty token.

    Some a-belief (a=non) lefty friends of mine are okay with Obama “claiming” to be a Christian because they don’t really believe he is, deep down. Others (righty tighty) don’t believe Obama’s a Christian because his stance doesn’t perfectly align with theirs. So there’s lots of folks, left and right, who doubt Obama’s faith. But, none doubt whether he would’ve been elected had he declared himself an atheist (even though some on both sides, for very different reasons, think he is).

    So, is it fair to say, we all have some shred of cynical doubt over our Presidential candidate’s faith claims? Who can say with a straight face that you voted (or would have) Reagan because he was more Christian than Carter? Who thinks Romney doesn’t have gay friends and really thinks he’ll have his own planet?

    I don’t. But I think our core beliefs, what we took in day to day as kids, shapes us. Christian and post-Christian and never was.

    One major contribution, lost frequently as it is now, of the Christian religion is the concept of grace. For times sake, I’ll defer to the admittedly Sunday School simplification: Mercy is not getting what you deserve (a whooping). Grace is getting what you don’t (a creamsicle).

    Mormonism is just another graceless religion. Highest heaven is bound to abstention. Salvation is earned. Every religion has a carefully segmented category for mercy.

    Christianity’s key differentiator has been grace. It’s losing (has lost) that again.

    I’m tempted to rally the Christian right against Romney on his views of the Trinity or Jesus being Satan’s brother. But those views are less defining of Christian faith than the singularly unique foundation of Grace.

    The (perhaps only for me) truth is that we Christians are prepped for Romney because we’ve already tossed Grace aside. Fundamentally, we’re already Mormon.

    We’re ready to elect a man who doesn’t affirm the Trinity because he promises lower taxes. We’re ready to toss the foundation of salvation into Gehenna.

    We might profit. But, without Grace, it will never be a Christian nation.

    I don’t care whether or not Obama or Romney believes every minutia of their alleged faith. I do care where they’re coming from. I want a candidate who has a concept of Grace.

    Religion should be an issue.

  12. Undercurrent
    Posted February 2, 2012 at 11:36 pm | Permalink

    Sorry, if it was lost, but Romney’s “I’m not worried because there is safety net for the poor that they don’t deserve and we shouldn’t have to pay for” comments are graceless, typical Mormonisms.

    People (rightly so) challenge Christianity all the time. As a person of faith, I’m fine with it. I’d just like to say that it’s okay to bring Mormonism into the discussion. As much as it seems like just another religion, it really will change things, policy wise.

  13. Meta
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    Robert Reich speaking out on Romney’s mistaken beliefs on poverty.

    January’s increase in hiring is good news, but it masks a bigger and more disturbing story – the continuing downward mobility of the American middle class.

    Most of the new jobs being created are in the lower-wage sectors of the economy – hospital orderlies and nursing aides, secretaries and temporary workers, retail and restaurant. Meanwhile, millions of Americans remain working only because they’ve agreed to cuts in wages and benefits. Others are settling for jobs that pay less than the jobs they’ve lost. Entry-level manufacturing jobs are paying half what entry-level manufacturing jobs paid six years ago.

    Other people are falling out of the middle class because they’ve lost their jobs, and many have also lost their homes. Almost one in three families with a mortgage is now underwater, holding their breath against imminent foreclosure.

    The percent of Americans in poverty is its highest in two decades, and more of us are impoverished than at any time in the last fifty years. A recent analysis of federal data by The New York Times showed the number of children receiving subsidized lunches rose to 21 million in the last school year, up from 18 million in 2006-2007. Nearly a dozen states experienced increases of 25 percent or more. Under federal rules, children from famlies with incomes up to 130 percent of the poverty line, $29,055 for a family of four, are eligible.

    Experts say the bad economy is the main factor driving the increase. According to an analysis of census data by the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University, 37 percent of young families with children were in poverty in 2010. It’s doubtful that rate has improved.

    Mitt Romney says he’s not concerned about the very poor because they have safety nets to protect them. He says he’s concerned about the middle class. Romney doesn’t seem to realize how much of the middle class is becoming poor.

    But Romney doesn’t like safety nets to begin with. He’s been accusing President Obama of inviting a culture of dependency. “Over the past three years Barack Obama has been replacing our merit-based society with an entitlement society,” he says over and over, arguing that our economic problems stem from a sharp rise in dependency. Get rid of these benefits and people will work harder.

    He and other Republicans point to government data showing that direct payments to individuals have shot up by almost $600 billion since 2009, a 32 percent increase. And 49 percent of Americans now live in homes where at least one person is collecting a federal benefit such as food stamps or unemployment insurance, up from 44 percent in 2008.

    But Romney and other Republicans have cause and effect backwards. The reason for the rise in benefits is Americans got clobbered in 2008 and many are still sinking. They and their families need whatever help they can get.

    The real scandal, as I’ve said before, is America’s safety nets are too small and shot through with holes. Only 40 percent of the unemployed qualify for unemployment benefits, for example, because they weren’t working full time or long enough on a single job before they were let go. The unemployment system doesn’t recognize how many Americans work part time on several jobs, and move from job to job.

    Romney’s budget proposals would shred safety nets even more. According to an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, his plan would throw 10 million low-income people off the benefit rolls for food stamps or cut benefits by thousands of dollars a year, or some combination. “These cuts would primarily affect very low-income families with children, seniors and people with disabilities,” the Center concludes.

    At the same time, Romney’s tax plan would boost the incomes of America’s most wealthy citizens, who are already taking home an almost unprecedented share of that nation’s total income. Romney wants to permanently extend George W. Bush’s tax cuts, reduce corporate income tax rates, and eliminate the estate tax. These tax cuts would increase the incomes of people earning more than a million dollars a year by an average of $295,874 annually, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.

    By reducing government revenues, Romney’s tax cuts would squeeze programs for the poor even further. Extending the Bush tax cuts will add $1.2 trillion to the nation’s budget deficit in just two years. That’s the same as the amount that’s supposed to be saved by automatic spending cuts scheduled to start next year – which, by the way, will hit the poor especially hard.

    Oh, I almost forgot. Romney and other Republicans also want to repeal Obama’s health care law, thereby leaving 30 million Americans without health insurance.

    The downward mobility of America’s middle class is the big news, but the GOP apparently hasn’t heard about it. Maybe it’s too hard to hear about from that far away – and Mitt Romney is certainly far away. His unearned income last year was more than $20 million. That’s about as much as the combined earnings of a thousand American families at or just above the poverty line.


  14. Knox
    Posted July 11, 2012 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    Yesterday, defending Romney’s non-payment of taxes, Senator Lindsey Graham said the following:

    “It’s really American to avoid paying taxes.”

    It’s amazing to me what these people see as patriotic.

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