Romney To The Poor: "Let Them Eat Cake"

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[Speaking Truth To Power]

Romney's Unbearable Burden of Wealth

There was a convergence of forces this week; both directed at the poor.

One, in New York, seeks to mildly alleviate their plight; the other, a declaration from a presidential candidate, says they should be damned.

This week, in Albany, New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver proposed raising minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.50.

Given the financial misery of many Americans—exemplified by the rise of the Occupy Wall Street Movement—isn’t it time government address issues of economic inequality? “When you work full time at the minimum wage, you are poor in New York,” Mr. Silver said. “You’re not making enough to get by. We want to have people able to support their families, plain and simple.”  New York State’s chief Democrat also stated "It's absurd to expect anyone, let alone a working family, to afford the cost of living today."

Speaker Silver said the wage increase would help an estimated one million New Yorkers. Passage of the bill would make New York the fourth highest minimum wage state in the nation. The top three states with the highest minimum wage laws are: Washington State $9.04, Oregon $8.80 and Vermont $8.46.  Eighteen states have higher minimum wage laws than New York.

Governor Andrew Cuomo who has agreed with the idea of raising the minimum wage in the past hasn’t given much indication whether he would sign on to the proposed plan.  “We’re going to watch it through this legislative session,” said Mr. Cuomo. “He just put forth a specific proposal. We’ll look at it, we’ll study it. We want to understand the impact of a minimum wage increase on the economy.” Mr. Cuomo also stated that he wants to “hear from the business groups and the economic advisers.”

Mr. Silvers’ legislation has gained a level of “conceptual” support from Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The mayor has not fully endorsed the specifics of the current plan, because he said “I haven’t looked at that number yet. You want to make sure that it is competitive with the adjoining states.” Mr. Bloomberg also stated “While we would prefer the federal government to act to keep us competitive this year we will join Speaker Shelly Silver in pushing for a responsible raise in the minimum wage.”

New Yorkers—and Americans—deserve a “responsible raise in the minimum wage,” given the state of rising inflation and falling salaries. After all, what good is a minimum wage that can’t secure the bare necessities of life? Do billionaire mayors and privilege politicians really understand what that entails for everyday folk? It’s time for Americans to engage in a conversation about adopting a national livable wage, which can be flexibly adjusted to offset inflation.

The proposal to raise the minimum wage in New York and the current conversation on economic inequality is a testament to the impact of the Occupy Wall Street Movement. For, now we’re witnessing politicians like Mayor Bloomberg—and Mitt Romney, we’ll get to him shortly—tell us of their support for minimum wage increases. But are they willing to address the larger issue of economic inequality and the influence of corrupt corporations in undermining the democratic will of the majority?

America has the highest income inequality in the developed world. Here are a few facts to consider: (1) 1 percent of America takes home 20 percent of the nation’s income, the highest percentage since the 1920’s. (2) The top 1 percent owns a third of the nation’s wealth. (3) The top 1 percent own 50 percent of America’s investment assets. (4) Inflation-adjusted wages have been flat for 50 years—although worker productivity has risen steadily.

When one factors in the current 25 million Americans who’re either unemployed or underemployed, the economic forecast for the country is indeed dire. And with the rising ranks of the poor, and the building outrage that is boiling on the streets, concerned leadership in Washington—I know it sounds oxymoronic—is now imperative.

Presidential wannabe Mitt Romney made comments, this week, which are extremely important in this regard. On Wednesday, while basking in his victory in Tuesday’s Florida Primary, the former Massachusetts governor told CNN reporter Soledad O’Brien “I'm not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I'll fix it.”

Mr. Romney is now whining that his statements were taken out of context—although, there’s documentation he’s made this exact comment numerous times before. Should we be surprised a pampered person of privilege is so callous and clueless?

What “safety net” does this Richie Rich kid—a poster child for the one percent—see that makes him think the “very poor” like the “very rich” are unworthy of the concern of someone who aspires to be president? Does he seriously think programs such as Food Stamps and Medicaid satisfy all the essential needs of the “very poor?”

During the CNN interview, he also said "We will hear from the Democrat party the plight of the poor.” Whether he realizes it or not isn’t he basically telling us the Republican Party doesn’t give a damn about poor people? Is it any wonder this presidential pretender tells us “corporations are people” with a straight face?

Shouldn’t every president care for the needs of all his citizens—especially, the most vulnerable? Keep in mind, Mr. Romney, like other immoral Republicans, have accused President Obama of “dividing America” by engaging in “class warfare.” Can a president who chooses to be responsive to only some segments of America be successful in uniting the entire country?

Mr. Romney’s comments reflect his profound ignorance of the travails of those who live outside his sealed, segregated, born-rich bubble. Unfortunately, too many in politics are now hopelessly locked into this “separate and unequal,” gated-community reality which renders them unfit to adequately represent the needs of the regular working Joe. Romney, who was born with a golden spoon, is proof positive of this.

Clearly, Americans are hurting and demanding more fairness in the economy. What does it say when 18 states have higher minimum wage averages than New York—one of the richest states and the financial hub of activity in America? Along with raising the minimum wage it’s time Americans tackle income inequality in New York and America once and for all.

"Speaking Truth To Empower."

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