Romney’s Lack of Concern for the Very Poor

What Does This Mean for New Jersey’s Very Poor?

Mitt RomneyOn February 1, 2012, Jared Bernstein, senior fellow for Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) of their concern about Governor Mitt Romney’s recent comments that show his lack of empathy for America’s very poor. Brian Lehrer on WNYC also had a call-in show on this topic on Friday February 3rd.

In “Governor Romney and Concern for the Poor” posted on The Huffington Post, Bernstein quotes Romney’s comment that he is “not very concerned about the poor” and points to his beliefs that the federal government’s “safety net” does help the very poor.

He refutes Romney’s theory with this quote:

According to my CBPP colleagues Van de Water and Kogan (that under ) Governor Romney’s budget proposals … Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) would face cumulative cuts of $946 billion through 2021. Repealing the coverage expansions of the 2010 health reform legislation, as Governor Romney has proposed, would achieve more than the necessary savings. But it would leave 34 million people uninsured who would have gained coverage under health reform.

Cuts in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program) would throw 10 million low-income people off the benefit rolls, cut benefits by thousands of dollars a year, or some combination of the two.

He further warns that if more “safety net” programs are block granted, we will see drastic consequences. For example, funding for the SNAP (former Food Stamp) program , a block granted program, has remained about the same over the past 15 years even during the huge increase in unemployment during the recent recession.

What does this mean for New Jersey? And our state’s very poor?

Poverty poses a major problem and policy issue for our state. In September 2011, the U.S. Census Bureau released its annual report, “Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2010.” Its findings included that in New Jersey, the poverty rate reached 10% which is the highest level since 1993-1994.

Additional statewide date for New Jersey included in the report:

  • Even after the recession ended, 32,266 of our neighbors in fell into poverty;
  • Poverty in New Jersey has been increasing since 2004-2005;
  • The number of those with incomes below half the poverty level increased from 4.4% in 2009-2010 to 5% in 2009-2010. This represents an increase of residents in true poverty with incomes below the real cost of living a 24.3% to 24.8% increase;
  • The percentage of the unemployed remained above 9% for the past 27 months – the July 2011 rate was 9.5%;
  • In 2009-2010, 278,923 low-income people, 32.1%, of the population group – were uninsured, compared to 15.6% of the general population.

If Romney succeeds in making further cuts to the already shrinking safety net, what will happen to our poor neighbors, those on the brink of poverty, the unemployed and underinsured? And perhaps most importantly, how can we show the 2012 presidential candidates that we are very concerned for the poor and that the “safety net” needs repair?

Click here to read Bersentin’s full piece in The Huffington Post.

Click here for Monarch’s previous post on the 2011 Census report.

To listen to the Brian Lehrer Show On WNYC use the following link: