Burnard: Mitt Romney and contextWritten by Don Burnard | | firstname.lastname@example.org
In my last column we discussed the disconnect between the GOP presidential candidates and the trials and travails of the middle class, but mainly, Mitt Romney’s disconnect. Newt Gingrich, in second place and fading fast, gave a pandering speech in Florida where he pretty much promised that the moon could be our 51st state by the end of his second term. His disconnect seems to be with reality, and he would make a great president in Bizarro World perhaps, but here, not so much. Mitt’s disconnect, while not as colorful as Gingrich’s, is just as pronounced. Last week, apparently unable to keep from saying something to reassure us that he understands, he said that the very poor don’t really concern him, because of the social safety net, which if it’s broken he’ll fix. The very rich don’t concern him either because they’re doing fine. I’ll say! His main concern is for the Middle Americans, the 95 percent between. There are several problems with this, the first being the gross underestimation of the number of people who rely on that “safety net.” Poverty has increased more than at any time since the Great Depression. Today, more like 17 percent of the population is in need, not the paltry 4 percent that Mitt thinks. Like all politicians who say something stupid, he tried once again to say that his remarks were taken out of context. I can’t for the life of me figure how you can say something in front of God and 50 TV cameras and then say you were taken out of context. I could believe he may have thought, “Did I just say that out loud?”, but I don’t believe for a minute that he doesn’t really believe it. And in my opinion, Mitt doesn’t appear to believe in much of anything, judging from his constantly changing positions. When it comes to wealth, he is a true believer; when it comes to the extent of the problems of the 99 percent, not so much.
Paul Krugman noted in his Feb. 2 column several other statements that tend to lend credence to the fact that Mitt was speaking in context to his beliefs. Krugman points out that on Jan. 22, Romney claimed that the safety net was saddled with “massive overhead” and because of the cost of a huge bureaucracy, “very little of the money that’s actually needed by those that really need help, those that can’t care for themselves, actually reaches them.” Krugman says, “This claim, like much of what Mr. Romney says, was completely false: U.S. poverty programs have nothing like as much bureaucracy and overhead as, say, private health insurance companies. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has documented, between 90 percent and 99 percent of the dollars allocated to safety net programs do, in fact, reach the beneficiaries. But the dishonesty of his initial claim aside, how could a candidate declare that safety-net programs do no good and declare only 10 days later that those programs take such good care of the poor that he feels no concern for their welfare?”
This whole series of comments by Romney shows that he’s still trying to give all these glib answers to the serious problems we face, with little or no actual plans on how he’s going to do it. He’ll make up facts to make whatever point he thinks the audience du jour wants to hear. Unfortunately, he’s not alone in that regard either; so will the other candidates. Think how refreshing it would be if the GOP field would have a little rendezvous with reality, instead of twisting and making up facts and rewriting history to fit their talking points. Think of how nice it would be to be able to actually see some semblance of a plan for discussion instead of “I’ll fix it.” Even though the Kool-Aid drinkers are perfectly happy to believe anything any given candidate may say, where are the journalists from the mainstream media who should be asking “Hey, is that really true?” Instead, it seems as if mainstream journalists, and not just Fox News talking heads mind you, are perfectly willing to forgo due diligence and will print any outrageous statements made as if they are true. Perhaps this is one of the reasons for the decline of major newspapers across the country. They no longer do the job they were intended to do. The voting public deserves more than infotainment. There are a relative few columnists who still do a good job of informing us, like Krugman, and any number of Internet bloggers who still do the job that reporters used to do. Bill Moyers has returned to give concise analysis, and even John Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s version of entertainment gives us more useful information than the mainstream media. There should be many more questioning the people running to be the most powerful man in the world. We should demand it.