Mitt Romney Praises Safety Net He Wants To Shred

A blog about business and economics.
Feb. 1 2012 10:34 AM

Mitt Romney Praises Safety Net He Wants To Shred

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The fact that Mitt Romney isn't concerned with the fate of poor people is hardly shocking news, but his stated explanation for why he's indifferent to the most intense economic suffering in the country is interesting.

“I’m not concerned with the very poor. We have a safety net there,” Romney told CNN. “If it needs repair, I’ll fix it.”

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There's a certain logic to that position. Except that if you read Romney's policy agenda what he appears to think about the social safety net for the poor is that it should be drastically curtailed. He proposes the following five points:

  • Immediately cut nonsecurity discretionary spending by 5 percent.
  • Reform and restructure Medicaid as block grant to states.
  • Align wages and benefits of government workers with market rates.
  • Reduce federal workforce by 10 percent via attrition.
  • Undertake fundamental restructuring of government programs and services.

In other words he wants to cut the safety net, cut the health care part of the safety net, muck around with the federal workforce, and then cut the non-health care part of the safety net. To further clarify, he states that he "will immediately move to cut spending and cap it at 20 percent of GDP" while increasing defense spending. Which is to say he wants to cut social safety net spending. What's more "as spending comes under control, he will pursue further cuts that would allow caps to be set even lower so as to guarantee future fiscal stability," thus cutting social safety net spending even further.

There's nothing remarkable about this, really, since I don't think most Americans assume that cutting spending on poor people is what Republicans are all about. But it's extremely strange for Romney to be running on agenda of sharp cuts to the social safety net while citing the safety net's existence as a key reason to be indifferent to the plight of the poor. It's quite true that we have a safety net for poor people right now, but we won't have one for long if Romney's budget ideas are implemented.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

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