It wouldn't be possible to pass equivalent measures by a majority vote of Congress either. The middle class wouldn't go along with being means tested out of Social Security and Medicare. Or losing the mortgage interest deduction. Or severely limiting federal student loan programs.
Federal dollars poured into air travel disproportionately benefit the middle and upper classes. So do NPR, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Park system. In countless ways big and small, ours is a country where the bipartisan consensus favors a mix of federal policies and priorities that disproportionately benefits folks other than the very poor.
That brings us to Mitt Romney:
On Wednesday morning in an interview with CNN, Mr. Romney said, "I'm not concerned about the very poor," a comment that has ricocheted around the Web and cable news channels, and which Mr. Romney took pains to clarify in a brief conversation with reporters as he flew to Minnesota. The comment seems to have captivated the political psyche because it reinforces the Democrats' biggest line of attack against Mr. Romney, as well as the Republicans' worst fear: that Mr. Romney's net worth, estimated at $200 million, leaves him out of touch and unable to relate to average Americans who are struggling.It should perhaps make us uncomfortable that our government is mostly focused on relatively privileged citizens, and that we think little about the very poor aside from providing a safety net. But it's true of every viable presidential candidate from both major political parties, and the vast majority of pundits too. All Romney can be faulted for in this instance is saying he'll behave as everyone else does without acknowledging it openly.
Taken in the full context of his remarks, as Mr. Romney urged reporters to do, his statement appears more benign: "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 -- they're doing just fine."
Shouldn't we prefer a political discourse where forthrightness of that kind isn't treated as a fault? Romney's statement may hurt him with voters. But it shouldn't.