Political Animal


February 02, 2012 8:56 AM DeMint to Romney: Love the Poor By Shredding the Safety Net

By Ed Kilgore

Mitt Romney’s dilemma in reconciling his nomination and general election strategies has been nicely illustrated by the controversy he invited yesterday in telling Soledad O’Brien he was “not concerned about the very poor.” To most casual listeners, the remark seemed rather callous, particularly coming from a man of Romney’s vast wealth, who is seeking to lead a party devoted to the proposition that Americans must sacrifice to keep wealthy “job creators” from taking their capital and going home. Many Republicans thought it showed a characteristic clumsiness by a politician who doesn’t exactly have the common touch.

But Romney is also taking flak from conservatives who thought his comments about the “very poor”—and particularly his efforts to defend himself by pointing out that the “very poor” do benefit from “safety net” programs—showed too much interest in helping those most in need.

Here’s what Sen. Jim DeMint chose to say to Roll Call:

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 all of this is a teachable moment for America. 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.

A few years ago, remarks like this from DeMint would be laughed off by many as the ravings of a lonely crank, but nowadays, you could make the case he is the single most influential politician in the GOP, an excellent barometer of the conservative zeitgeist, and certainly someone Mitt Romney has to listen to closely. So every time he opens his mouth, he has to think about how his words will resonate with regular people, but also people like DeMint who think the country is far too generous to the very poor, and figures they mainly need the moral rigor of being left on their own.

Romney’s indeed in a chronic jam. It’s tough to be a serial flip-flopper under such cross-cutting pressures. When does he flip and when does he flop?

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • stormskies on February 02, 2012 9:11 AM:

    Once again John Stewart provides the actual reality of Bain Capital .. this is what Romney is about.


    Jon Stewart did what so few in our mainstream corporate media have been willing to do with Mitt Romney's so-called record on "job creation" and his time at Bain Capital and their leveraged buyouts of many of the companies they took over.

    Here's Stewart explaining the kind of business Romney practiced in, in a manner most of our Villagers in the mainstream media are apparently incapable of.

    STEWART: It's like putting ten percent down on a car, then using the value of that car to get another loan and repay yourself that ten percent and and maybe a little twenty percent... on top for your troubles and then walking away, leaving the car on the hook for the payments.

    But, for Bain Capital to borrow money from other people, knowing that those debts might never be repaid, while still profiting themselves, I don't know. I don't know how I feel about that business practice. Does it make anyone else uneasy?

    ROMNEY: I think it's simply immoral for us as a nation and as a generation, to keep spending more and more money, by borrowing money from other people knowing that those debts will never be repaid during our lifetimes.

    STEWART: I don't know who that ruggedly handsome guy is but I agree one hundred percent. So there you go and his pitch to Americans seems to be, elect me as your president. I have twenty five years of business experience doing something I believe this country should never ever do.

  • sufferingsuccatash on February 02, 2012 9:14 AM:

    The problem with South Carolina is that it is not really a state but a genetic testing ground for old Confederate gene pools. Politics is really a series of cross burnings, and political action comes in two forms getting government handouts for cronies and grifters and supporting the next war against foreign brown people.

  • sick-n-effn-tired. on February 02, 2012 9:18 AM:

    These fuckers won't be happy until people are begging and dying in the streets.
    Compassionate Christians such as DeMint would see this as a good thing.
    Smite the Poor!
    You didn't hear Jebus say that?

  • walt on February 02, 2012 9:23 AM:

    Shorter DeMint: why aren't the poor out picking cotton like in the good 'ol days?

    We're essentially debating whether we should abandon 1st-World nationhood because the poor are such an affront to the consciences of rich people. And it's not just the poor but really anyone who gets a comfortable life because of unions, minimum wage laws, entitlement programs and professional accreditation. The end result - the Randian nirvana, if you will - is one where only the most powerful and wealthiest prevail. Strip away all the racist subtext of Republican values, and what you have is one big "screw you. We're the winners!"

  • Equal Opportunity Cynic on February 02, 2012 9:25 AM:

    I think it is an important thing for him to backtrack on that....

    Oh man, how awesome would that be? Romney changes mind, announces he cares about the poor and wants to see them learn virtue through more extreme poverty.

    SC is an interesting test case for Romney's dog whistle, because it's a state with a lot of working class whites who've been hit hard by the economy. DeMint doesn't have to worry about reelection so he can spout the conservative party line.

  • chi res on February 02, 2012 9:26 AM:

    These fuckers won't be happy until people are begging and dying in the streets.

    My travels around chi-town tell me "these fuckers" must be very happy.

  • Danny on February 02, 2012 9:30 AM:

    What's happening now with Mittens isn't (only) about him being a bad politician. This is also movement conservatism running on empty. These days, their policy prescriptions are all about conforming to conservative dogma. The country moved on to another place, but conservatives failed to notice - they were misinterpreted the 2010 midterms to mean that the movement was still potent; that America was by divine mandate a center-right nation for eternity - while in reality, the midterms were all about people's disillusion over the level of hurt under the great recession.

    Now, the conservative establishment is trying to fire up the attack machine that has served them so well for thirty years. But this time there's poor traction. Instead there's backlash and infighting.

    What we're seeing is that movement conservatism trying to use their institutions and stock weaponry to force feed the public a bill of goods the public no longer believe in or want. The predictable long term outcome will be the end of Goldwater movement conservatism as a potent force in U.S. politics.

  • Josef K on February 02, 2012 9:33 AM:

    Daily Kos had a couple diaries up yesterday of brave souls who checked the fever swamp of redstate.com and the National Review to see their reactions to Romney's latest bottom burp. The wingers there were in a bit of a panic, the consensus being "He's toast!"

    I don't think Senator De Mint's contribution helped him any.

  • Skip on February 02, 2012 9:37 AM:

    the poor are dependent...yeah, that's why conservatives want to deregulate everything and cut funding and manpower for federal agency's enforcement and prosecution capabilities. If we were allowed to enforce all the current laws on the books and prosecute violators...conservative as well as liberal, rich as well as poor...this would go a hell of a long way in separating the people who take advantage of the system from those who actually need the services our government provides. That scares the hell out of conservatives.

    Conservatives continually want deregulation because of their own abuses of the system, and they don't want enforcement of laws because of their own violations, aka cutting EPA. Rather than fix the system, to do away with the system will work nicely for conservatives who'd no longer have to worry about those little violations getting in the way of business.

    We'd have effective social safety nets if the laws were allowed to work and if we didn't have one party who machines the system to fail in their favor. Assholes of the most ugly kind. Am I bitter? Yes, I am.

  • j on February 02, 2012 9:37 AM:

    The news this morning that Goldman Sachs is backing Romney should warm the heart of the OWS people and all who were hurt by the banks.

  • T2 on February 02, 2012 9:38 AM:

    Ed, your comment: "people like DeMint who think the country is far too generous to the very poor" is correct, however a more truthful statement would be "people like DeMint who think the country is far too generous to minorities".
    The GOP has a war going on against assisting minorities in the country. Every time you hear them use the term Food Stamps you are hearing a dog whistle for "giveaways to the blacks and mexicans".

  • theAmericanist on February 02, 2012 9:40 AM:

    Somebody should ask Paul Ryan if the government help that paid for his peanut butter sandwiches when he was a kid hurt America.

  • Joel on February 02, 2012 9:41 AM:

    Where, exactly, are the data showing that " . . . many [of America's poor] are trapped in dependency"? I'm not saying that there aren't a few such people, but "many?"

    I suppose the fact that many of the poor in this country are children means that many of the poor are "trapped in dependency," but pretty much all children are "trapped in dependency." That's why we call them "dependents." But other than this sophistry, where is actual, you know, evidence that "many" Americans are "trapped" by the social safety net?

  • Kathryn on February 02, 2012 9:45 AM:

    Because the poor are so trapped in dependency, poor schools, low paying jobs, DeMint is deeply concerned and wants to extricate them from that fate. HIs plan is to destroy that safety net, defund schools, ship jobs to China, Malaysia, wherever, defund planned parenthood, cut already low salaries, thus restoring freedom to the very poor. Then he plans to beef up local police force and security firms, invest in attractive fencing for those gated communities and you're good to go. The economy will get a needed boost from the privately run jails to house the newly freed poor.

  • Werewolf on February 02, 2012 9:48 AM:

    No, it actually is about wanting to hurt the poor. Racism is a tool to divide and conquer the poor. It was started when the Virginia planters started importing African slaves, and telling the white ex-indentured servants that it was the n*gg*rs' fault that they didn't have jobs. The rich have always pitted everyone else against each other-and the easiest way to do that is through exploiting tribalism.

  • Hedda Peraz on February 02, 2012 9:54 AM:

    Oh, pish tush! That safety net is more like a hammock- complete with pina coladas and air conditioning.
    These so-called "poor" need to go get a job!
    (my pool boy was sent back to Mexico, so there is an opening at my winter mansion)

  • RepublicanPointOfView on February 02, 2012 9:59 AM:

    Once again, Senator Demented is correct!!!

    Gawd Damned lazy parasites should go out and get themselves jobs with good pay & benefits & health care insurance! That or earn their money the old fashioned way - by inheritance of $$$$$$ & family position!

  • SadOldVet on February 02, 2012 10:03 AM:

    Once again Ed Kilgore needs correction...

    ...seeking to lead a party devoted to the proposition that Americans must sacrifice to keep wealthy "job creators" from taking their capital and going home.

    Should read...

    ...seeking to lead a party devoted to the proposition that working Americans must sacrifice to keep wealthy "job creators" from taking their capital to the Cayman Islands, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and Ireland.

  • RepublicanPointOfView on February 02, 2012 10:07 AM:

    effn-sick of sick-n-effn-tired

    We don't mind the peons and the poor dying in the streets (as long it is not inside our gated neighborhoods), but we damn sure do not want them begging in the streets!

  • steve on February 02, 2012 10:19 AM:

    What's the problem. Todays' WP does not think that Mitt's statements yesterday were a big deal. Only minor references to them in stories. Just sound and fury.

  • jonas on February 02, 2012 10:24 AM:

    Getting a job instead of being on welfare! Of course! It's so simple. Why didn't they think of that? I'm sure they're grateful to Senator DeMint for this helpful tip.

  • jonas on February 02, 2012 10:43 AM:

    I've often wished there could be a "Survivor"-like reality program for conservatives that was able to magically do the following: take a self-righteous blowhard like Gingrich or DeMint or Romney and do the following:

    1. Turn them Black or Brown
    2. Give them a prison record
    3. Give them a resume listing a few, spotty minimum-wage jobs prior to prison conviction
    4. Erase all educational experience in their brains past the fourth grade.
    5. Give them a serious, but non-visible disability, like fibromyalgia or severe dyslexia, or PTSD.
    6. Lock their bank accounts, take their credit cards and leave them with $100 cash. That's it.
    7. Leave them on a street corner in a small Southern town and tell them: you have one week to do the following: buy some interview clothes, find a job, get a place to live, and live the American Dream. Go for it!!

    After a few days, the show could spring "surprise twists" on them as contestant challenges, like leaving them with two small children to care for in addition to trying to find a job. Or arrange to have all their cash stolen. Every day, if possible, they should have a cop should hassle them for vagrancy or some stupid thing and threaten to send them back to jail.

    Now that would be entertainment! We could call the show "American Bootstraps".

  • rfb on February 02, 2012 11:32 AM:

    Senator DeWitt has a perfectly logical and consistent view. He fundamentally associates wealth with virtue. Those that lack wealth must suffer from some character or other defect. Aiding the poor only encourages undesirable traits. The primary purpose of government is to facilitate the accumulation and preservation of wealth. Perhaps he also discourages private aid to the poor like church soup kitchens, homeless shelters, toy for tots, etc. Presumably these efforts only encourage idleness and other immoral behaviors.

  • Joe Friday on February 02, 2012 11:55 AM:

    And now Boehner wants to stop helping anybody with an underwater mortgage. He says that we should let the housing market hit bottom and clear out. With more than 25% of mortgage-holders currently underwater, that's Boehner to a big chunk of Americans: DROP DEAD.

  • MuddyLee on February 02, 2012 12:06 PM:

    rfb has it right about DeMint and other conservatives like him. What I can't understand is how the so-called Christian Right buys into this kind of thinking. My reading of the New Testament (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) leads me to believe we should be wary of the rich, do more to help the poor, and pay our taxes without complaining - Republicans to me seem to be a lot like the Pharisees that Jesus often criticized. But hey, maybe there is stuff in the Book of Mormon that contradicts the teachings of Jesus....or maybe DeMint has Ayn Rand confused with St Paul.

  • Keith on February 02, 2012 12:11 PM:

    I am willing to pitch in some money to help make @Jonas' show a reality.
    I think the show works even with just #3, #6, and #7; which could be done.

    My only requirement is that any "fix" they offer after they get released must be systemic rather than to one or two individuals. "Undercover Bosses" would be a much better show if those guys did something meaningful for all of their employees rather than to just the two or three we saw in the episode.

  • T-Rex on February 02, 2012 1:53 PM:

    Nothing reduces dependency like death from starvation or preventable illness.

  • schtick on February 02, 2012 2:40 PM:

    The reason that people get trapped in welfare is not because they are lazy or getting rich off the system like so many try to imply, it's because the system is not set up for the temporary assistance it is supposed to give. It is set up to make you give up everything you own so you can't claw your way out and they can keep you there.
    The people that work at these places seem to encourage fraud with the way they ask questions, repeatedly. For an example;
    How many children do you have? none.
    Are you sure? You know, if you had two children you could get x dollars more. You sure you don't have children?
    Some of this stuff just makes you sick. I used to call the fraud hotline to turn people in. I don't no more. If they can rip the system off for a few thousand, good for them. All of them added up wouldn't come close to the total that the healthcare providers rip the system off for. Yanno, like the gov of Florida? But in the tealiban eyes, that's ok. It's a business ripping off taxpayers to line their pockets and not someone trying to feed their family.

  • bob h on February 02, 2012 3:58 PM:

    One of the key parts of the future safety net will be the subsidized health insurance and enhanced Medicaid as provided by ACA. How does killing ACA enhance the safety net?

  • Joel on February 02, 2012 4:12 PM:

    "The reason that people get trapped in welfare . . . "

    Here we go again. Where are these people "trapped in welfare?" How many of them are able-bodied adults without children? Were are the data? Where, exactly, does the "trapped in welfare" meme come from?

  • beejeez on February 02, 2012 4:50 PM:

    I guess I need to know why poor people all suddenly got real lazy at exactly the same time in late 2007. I mean, I know it's Obama's fault, but I'm having trouble figuring out how they coordinated it like that.