Mitt Romney can't seem to get it right when he tries to talk about people who make significantly less money than him, as his latest awkward comments about the waitstaff at a Jackson, Miss., fundraiser make clear. The candidate was trying to make a point about President Barack Obama's programs not working out for the middle class, and to do so, he used as an example the only middle class people in the room full of 300 attendees who paid $2,500, $10,000 or $50,000 to be there. Politico's Maggie Haberman relates the comments:
The waiters and waitresses that come in and out of this room and offer us refreshments, they’re not having a good year. The people of the middle class of America are really struggling. And they’re struggling I think in a way because they’re surprised because when they voted for Barack Obama…he promised them that things were going to get a heck a lot of better. He promised hope and change and they’re still waiting.
There are a couple of problems with this. First, as David Frum points out, it's really awkward. Romney's use of the third person is alienating to those he's talking about, especially since they're in the room with him, which makes them about as involved as the furniture.
Then there's the fact that the social programs Romney opposes would do a lot to help those he's holding up as an example of Obama's failed social programs. The Atlanta Journal Constitution's Jay Bookman has the best response along that vein (whether you agree or not), pointing out that programs such as food stamps and Obamacare, which Republicans want to reduce or kill, hugely benefit Mississippians: "One in five people in Mississippi — again including much of that wait staff, I’d suspect — have no health insurance. Romney is intent on repealing the only real hope they have of attaining health coverage that citizens of almost every other industrialized country somehow enjoy, and he has offered no plans on how to replace it."
What Romney forgot to mention, as long as he was talking about food servers, is that he's actually supported regular increases to the federal minimum wage, to the chagrin of his fellow Republicans. The minimum wage for servers in Mississippi is $2.13 an hour since they're exempt from federal standards because they get tipped, and that keeps their wages at an average of $17,647, at least according to The New York Times salary calculator. If he's looking to pick up the waitstaff vote, some more attention to the minimum wage would probably go a long way.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.