I don’t really believe Mitt Romney is an alien from another planet. Truth be told, I don’t really believe my fellow Ohioan, John Boehner is an alien either although with his orange hue he puts on a convincing show, certainly. I do watch both men with a certain degree of fascination not because I think they might secretly be aliens but because they say and do the most interesting things, Mitt Romney in particular.
Now, given, it’s an election year, the guy is trying to get elected to the highest office in the United States. Of course statements are taken out of context and of course he is going to say weirdly interesting things. This is the one I ran across today-
“I’m not concerned about the very poor.” he said Wednesday. “We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I’ll fix it. I’m not concerned about the very rich. They’re doing just fine. I’m concerned about the very heart of America, the 90-95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling.”
On some level I really do think I understand what Mr Romney is saying. Rather than simply believe that he’s angling for the vote of those 90-95% of Americans he cites in this quote I think underneath it all he really believes this is right and true. He really does believe that the poor have the “safety net” and that the rich are fine. There is something comforting about that statement on its surface. The poor have a safety net and the rich are fine. It’s the 90-95% of Americans who need help and he assures us he is the man who can help us.
Still, something sticks in my gut about this. Something if off, here. It could be that my bleeding heart liberal streak rising to the surface again, I’ll allow for that, so rather than cite graphs and studies about whether or not it’s true that poor have a safety net and the rich are fine I will simply ask, is that where we want to live?
Now, I’m not a politician or an economist and my brain and intelligence fall solidly in the “average” category. I run on intuition more than intellect. I am the Counselor Troi to your Captain Picard. This statement by Mr Romney, this mindset, gets my Counselor Troi sense tingling.
For me it strikes a chord of separation, a chord of segregation. It is easy to look at spreadsheets and studies and make statements that group people together in this way. “The poor” are in this part of the pie chart, “the rich” are in another part of the pie chart and the big red wedge in the middle, well, that’s “everyone else.” These divisions are, for the most part, financial I suppose. The very rich don’t often send their children to schools with the very poor…the average people end up in average neighborhoods, putting their kids in average schools. So it makes sense that Mr Romney would want to focus on raising up average schools, putting money into average neighborhoods, finding jobs for average americans. I don’t deride this plan, I think he has a point here, those in the big red wedge ARE suffering, they have no safety net and they have no wealth in offshore accounts somewhere to fall to if business is bad.
It’s the mindset of separation that sticks to me, the thinking that because the poor are very poor they are not “us” and because the rich are very rich they are also not “us.” And because the extremes stop being the “average” and because most of us end up in the big red wedge in the middle we may start to simply accept that what the very rich and the very poor do has little impact on the rest of us. Out of sight, out of mind. Different rules. Different lives. What can we possibly have in common and why should we care?
At this point you can feel free to label me a Socialist. I don’t identify as a Socialist but you can feel free to place your labels wherever you like because this next statement may lend itself to this supposition. That can’t be helped, I guess.
I think that when we start believing that certain small segments of our population have no bearing on “the many” then we live in mighty dangerous territory. To say that the poor have a safety net is to neglect the fact that the other 95% of us weave that net, we make the ropes, we tie it together, we hold the edges when someone is falling or jumping or collapsing. To say that the rich are fine is to neglect the fact that the other 95% of us buy their products, work in their cubicles, invest in their technology with our time and money and tweets. The other 95% is not set apart from the very rich and the very poor. We are all the collective “us.”
Maybe the very rich can live without us, they do appear to prove that when they move jobs offshore, when they lay off large numbers of people, when they advocate for corporate personhood, when they choose profits over people. Maybe the very poor do this too when they misuse the system, when they lose hope no matter how many of “the 95%” try to encourage them, when they fail to vote in an election because they simply cannot imagine a better life anymore, no matter who is in office. And so, it falls to the other 90-95% of “us.”
For Mr Romney to say that he wants to focus on this large percentage of the “us” is indeed a good selling point for his bid to become president. To offer us better jobs and lower taxes is appetizing indeed and yet I have to wonder if in the end it becomes more of the same old story, robbing Peter to pay Paul as it were. And in this case, failing to mention that the 95% are both Peter and Paul.
In the end, we are all “the poor…” when we lose sight of the “us.”