In response to Mitt Romney's remarks about the poor yesterday, Senator Jim DeMint told Roll Call's David Drucker that Romney needs to change his message:
“He needs to address it,” DeMint told Roll Call. “Because I know he does care about the poor. But I think he was trying to make a case that they’re taken care of. But, in fact, I would say I’m worried about the poor because many are trapped in dependency, they need a good job; they don’t need to be on social welfare programs. I think he needs to turn that around because — the middle class is key, and we have to focus on that. And, really, the problem with the middle class is not successful people, it’s politicians — but the key to making our country successful it to get everyone on that economic ladder.
“I think all of this is a teachable moment for America,” DeMint continued. “I think Bain Capital was, and I think he finally turned that around and showed some confidence in his success, and we need to do that here. We do worry about the poor when they’re trapped in government dependency programs and the education system’s not producing the skills [and] character for them to succeed, and I think it is an important thing for him to backtrack on that. I don’t think anyone thinks he doesn’t care about the poor, but I think he’s trying to say they’re taken care of right now with these programs. Those are the programs that are hurting, not just the poor, but our country. We need to address it at every level.”
Via GOP12, Charles Krauthammer explained last night on Special Report why Romney's remarks were so bad:
"This is bad .... It's not just that it strengthens the stereotypes Romney as the patrician who's only aware of the poor as people who clean the streets and wash his car.
The real problem here is that it shows he doesn't have a fluency with conservative ideas. Conservatives are not the ones who either engage in the war of the classes or the division of America into classes.
Obama and the Democrats will win that kind of argument every day. The moral case for conservative economics is that our policies are going to help everybody, including the poor.
.... The idea that somehow we consign the poor to the safety net or we patch it and dependency is a liberal idea. It's not our idea.
And Romney is a guy who came late to his new ideology, and he still can't speak it very well."
Over at Commentary, Peter Wehner delivers a stinging rebuke:
Romney’s answer is also a tip off that he’s simply unfamiliar with the intellectual/policy work done by conservatives over the years whose explicit purpose has been to help the poor, including reforms in welfare, crime, and education. (Many of those reforms have been terrifically successful.)
But it goes even deeper than that. Some of us believe a society should be judged in large part by how it treats the poor, the defenseless, and the disadvantaged. “I know that the Lord secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy,” David writes in the Psalms. “The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern,” according to Proverbs. “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of mine, even the least of them, you did it to me,” Jesus said in Matthew.
Now precisely how these concerns translate into government policy is a complicated matter — but some of us became conservatives in some measure because we believed liberalism had failed the underclass and conservatism had something important to offer. So to have the likely Republican nominee say “I’m not concerned about the very poor” reveals a mindset that is disquieting.