...Romney emphasized, "You can focus on the very poor, that's not my focus."
Thank goodness that public school educators and school district employees are focused on the very poor; many of the children enrolled in South Carolina's public schools fall well within that category.
In context, Romney attempted to assert that America provides an "ample safety net" for people who are very poor, so his focus is on America's middle class. Except that there are two flaws in his assertion. One is that what he considers an ample safety net is pretty pathetic -- if you're homeless due to home foreclosures, and don't know where your meals and health care are coming from, the poorly-funded services available through state and federal agencies, and the paltry aid offered by churches and civic groups, don't really add up to first-class American citizenship.
The second is that the policies that Romney has articulated don't really help the incredible shrinking middle class, either.
He brought up the subject of the poor in a CNN interview marking his big win in Florida's GOP primary Tuesday night, a major step toward becoming the party's challenger to President Barack Obama in the fall. A multi-millionaire former venture capitalist, Romney has been criticized by Democrats and his Republican rivals alike for earlier remarks seen as insensitive, such as saying "I like being able to fire people" and declaring that he knew what it was like to worry about being "pink-slipped" out of a job.
"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.
Mitt Romney, fixer. He'll fix the safety net for the very poor, he says. "Fix" has two definitions: One means to repair something that needs repair, the other means to freeze a thing in place, as in "price-fixing." Which do you think he means?
Asked whether his comment about the poor might come across as odd to some, Romney reiterated.
"We will hear from the Democrat party the plight of the poor and there's no question, it's not good being poor, and we have a safety net to help those that are very poor," Romney said, adding that he's more worried about the unemployed, people living on Social Security and those struggling to send their kids to college.
"We have a very ample safety net and we can talk about whether it needs to be strengthened or whether there are holes in it. But we have food stamps, we have Medicaid, we have housing vouchers, we have programs to help the poor," Romney said.
Indeed, far from the days of workhouses for the poor, and debtors' prisons, and Skid Row.
We, in the land of plenty, have food stamps and Medicaid for the very poor, which approximates a kingly living, to be sure. And the children of the very poor, you can safely assume, are enrolled in public schools, where public school educators and school district employees see them, care for them and TEACH them every day.
Poor Mitt Romney. He deserves our sympathy, truly. Aside from the daily trials and tribulations of a presidential campaign, he has another steep hill to climb: Understanding and identifying with those who weren't born into privilege, who have had to raise children and balance a household budget on hourly wages, who have had to make thousands of compromises of principle and pride over their careers to keep their jobs and their livelihoods. We have to remember, reaching out to the mass of Americans, and asking for their votes, is a gargantuan task.
He is, after all, used to being able to buy what he wants.
Just how rich is Mitt Romney? Add up the wealth of the last eight presidents, from Richard Nixon to Barack Obama. Then double that number. Now you're in Romney territory. He would be among the richest presidents in American history if elected – probably in the top four.
He couldn't top George Washington who, with nearly 60,000 acres and more than 300 slaves, is considered the big daddy of presidential wealth.
But it's safe to say the Roosevelts had nothing on Romney, and the Bushes are nowhere close.
The former Massachusetts governor has disclosed only the broad outlines of his wealth, putting it somewhere from $190 million to $250 million. That easily could make him 50 times richer than Obama, who falls in the still-impressive-to-most-of-us range of $2.2 million to $7.5 million.
"I think it's almost hard to conceptualize what $250 million means," said Shamus Khan, a Columbia University sociologist who studies the wealthy. "People say Romney made $50,000 a day while not working last year. What do you do with all that money? I can't even imagine spending it. Well, maybe ..."
Of course, an unbelievable boatload of bucks is just one way to think of Romney's net worth, and the 44 U.S. presidents make up a pretty small pond for him to swim in.
So here's a look where Romney's riches rank – among the most flush Americans, the White House contenders, and the rest of us:
-Within the 1 percent:
A household needs to bring in roughly $400,000 per year to make the cut. Romney and his wife, Ann, have been making 50 times that – more than $20 million a year. In 2009, only 8,274 federal tax filers had income above $10 million. Romney is solidly within that elite 0.006 percent of all U.S. taxpayers.
-As a potential president:
Romney clearly stands out here. America's super rich generally don't jockey to live in the White House. A few have toyed with the idea, most notably New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whom Forbes ranks as the 12th richest American, worth $19.5 billion. A lesser billionaire, Ross Perot, bankrolled his own third-party campaigns in 1992 and 1996.
Many presidents weren't particularly well-off, especially 19th century leaders such as Abraham Lincoln, James Buchanan and Ulysses S. Grant. Nor was the 33rd president, Harry Truman.
"These things ebb and flow," said sociologist Khan. "It's not the case that all presidents were always rich."
-How does Romney stand next to a regular Joe? He's roughly 1,800 times richer.
The typical U.S. household was worth $120,300 in 2007, according to the Census Bureau's most recent data, although that number is sure to have dropped since the recession. A typical family's income is $50,000.
Calculations from 24/7 Wall St. of the peak lifetime wealth (or peak so far) of Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama add up to a total $128 million – while Romney reports assets of up to $250 million.
If you consider only those presidents' assets while in office, without millions earned later from speeches and books, their combined total would be substantially lower, and Romney's riches would leave the pack even further behind.
Poor Mitt Romney.
No wonder he isn't focused on the very poor. He can't imagine that they exist.