Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, not content to stick his big toe in the cesspool defined by his political opponents as being out of touch with the electorate, decided to wade the murky waters of the political gaffe, fortifying the stereotype created about him.
Romney, in his infamous CNN interview that went viral, stated,
I'm not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs a repair, I'll fix it. I'm not concerned about the very rich.... I'm concerned about the very heart of America -- the 90-95 percent of Americans who are struggling.
The majority of the post Romney gaffe discourse has rested largely on the limited analysis between what he meant to say and what the statement proves.
However one feels about Romney's statement is secondary to the fact that no one cares about the poor -- at least not in any tangible way.
Which presidential candidate is openly talking about poverty in 2012? Which presidential nominee discussed poverty in 2008?
After you finished answering those questions, who was the last presidential candidate from either major political party to discuss poverty? Was it John Edwards and the "Two Americas" back in 2004?
As I have written previously, overt use of the word poverty, or its myriad synonyms, has invoked a bipartisan prohibition. Elected officials opt instead to use the amorphous term "middle class" to obfuscate the reality that so many Americans face.
Politicians' abhorrence to discussing the poor in any real sense reflects the Faustian bargain made with the electorate. This holds true even for those who may haven fallen into poverty's grip.
It is better to maintain the notion of feeling that one is somehow middle class than to address the glaring realities.
Instead, poverty has been reduced to the mythical image of deadbeats who simply choose not to work.
Middle class is not the only phrase where politicians speak in meaningless platitudes; "small business" also qualifies. When politicians speak of their support for small business, it's more likely it's the mom and pop store that comes to mind rather than business with less than 500 employees and $7 million in revenue. The latter example is the official government definition.
Where I do take issue with Romney's statement is his concern for the "90-95 percent of Americans who are struggling." If he is concerned with that many Americans, by definition he must also be concerned with the poor.
As most are pacified by the amorphous term "middle class," leaving poverty as the phrase that applies to someone else, but according to Associated Press, nearly 1 in 2 Americans -- have fallen into poverty or are scraping by on earnings that classify them as low income.
As many Americans struggle to stay afloat financially, it was financial institutions that successfully lobbied to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act that for 66 years prohibited banks from returning to the practices that fueled the Great Depression. But after its repeal in 1999, America was once again on the brink of a second Depression by 2007 fueled by a housing crisis.
Moreover, when banks were deemed too big too fail, they received a taxpayer-funded bailout, but was not required, as a part of the loan, to find ways to keep more taxpayers in their homes.
The recent announcement of the $26 billion settlement that could provide relief to many impacted by the housing crisis feels too little too late, when one factors the collective negative equity is nearly $700 billion.
Romney's gaffe was simply a gift. He feeds the stereotype created about him, others can criticize what he said, but no one is under any moral obligation to do anything when it comes to addressing poverty in America.
Byron Williams is an Oakland pastor and syndicated columnist. He is the author of the Forthcoming book: '1963: The of Hope and Hostility.' Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website 1963hopeandhostility.com