Paging Mitt Romney: Here are the Holes in the Safety Net

Friday, February 03, 2012

Recap from It's a Free Country.

Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country, we bring you the unmissable quotes from the morning's political conversations on WNYC. Today on the Brian Lehrer Show, Mitt Romney says if the safety net for the very poor needs repair, he'll fix it. Melissa Boteach, poverty expert and manager of the Half in Ten Campaign at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, offered suggestions on where to start.

Should Romney be concerned?

"I'm not concerned about the very poor," was the political shot heard round the world this week, courtesy of one Willard Mitt Romney. "We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I'll fix it."

Watching the full clip, it's clear what Mitt means to say: there are programs in place to help the poorest Americans; the rich don't need any help from the government; so I'm concerned with helping middle income Americans, who don't seem to get any help.

On its own, though, it sounds like another in a long string of gaffes ("I like being able to fire people"; "Ten thousand dollars?") that have painted Romney into the out-of-touch-rich-guy corner, which he's been meaning to escape for a while now.

Is Mitt right? Is there a proper safety net for the poor? Does it do what it's supposed to do? Are there holes? And if so, where?

Here a hole, there a hole

Melissa Boteach of the Half in Ten Campaign at the Center for American Progress Action Fund said that some areas of the net are stronger than others. Certain programs, like affordable housing initiatives and energy assistance, are funded through discretionary spending that Congress allocates each year, and didn't keep up with demand as the recession deepened.

There is not a single congressional district in the entire country where a full-time minimum wage worker with kids can afford fair market rent for a two bedroom apartment. Only one in four people across the country gets any kind of housing assistance, and the waiting list for a Section 8 voucher is often so long that they're closed.

That's one place where there's a hole, but there are other places where Boteach said there actually was a responsive safety net that Governor Romney has proposed to slash.

Because of the increase in the food stamp program from the Recovery Act, hunger didn't really rise during the recession, despite increased poverty and unemployment. We need to be talking about things when they're working; unfortunately, Governor Romney has endorsed cutting $127 billion from the program, which would kick about 8 million people off of food stamps.

The (offensive) 'hammock' analogy

Callers offered their experience with other holes in the net: dentists not taking Medicaid; food stamps not providing enough of a daily allowance to afford fruits and vegetables; subsidized child care not available to a parent for the duration of their undergraduate education.

Many of these anecdotes gave the lie to a common political interpretation of why people are poor and how they remain that way: the social safety net, instead of getting people back on their feet during tough times, has become "a hammock which lulls able-bodied people into lives of complacency and dependency," as House Republican Paul Ryan put it in his response to the State of the Union last year.

But Boteach said that poverty is not an uncommon experience for many Americans, and neither is using the safety net to rise above it. Between 2004 and 2008, one in three Americans were in poverty for at least two months. And this was before the Great Recession.

This is not some stagnant group of people that are just laying there on a hammock watching Oprah all day. They're people trying to work, trying to make it, and being paid low wages and oftentimes can't find a job in this economy. So that analogy is actually quite offensive to people who are really trying to make it.

Cutting taxes, cutting new holes

Mitt Romney says that he'd look at fixing the safety net only if the safety net needed fixing. It's not a priority: what are priorities are lower taxes and repealing "Obamacare."

But Boteach argues that repealing "Obamacare" would weaken an area of the safety net that's less expensive to shore up than the tax cuts sought by Romney. Not being concerned about the very poor could undermine the very rationale Romney gives for focusing his attention elsewhere.

His tax cuts to the one percent, over $2 trillion over ten years, would be more than his cuts to 72 million Americans' health care. We're looking at a massive transfer from people getting health care, by repealing the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansions, and channeling that money upward towards the one percent in the form of tax cuts.

Comments [76]


Isn't it amazaing they are so set on ruining everyone's lives due to a small few that maybe have taken advantage of the system. I believe its time the goverment recognize the finacial issues in the U.S are not caused by these few people or those that are unemployed now due to the inadequacy of the Goverment. Meaning them those representing us. The reason we are in finacianl disspair is we have been fighting two Wars that could have been prevented. Yes Bush was warned that something needed to be done to prevent the attack on U.S. Soil and he pushed it aside, didn't listen. Weapons of Mass destruction they did not exist. Quit making those that suffered due to the inadequaceys of our elected officials pay for thier sins. Time for them to take a cut in their paycheck ,cut back on their entitilements and sit down and start talking about how they are going to fix the country for those that employ them WE THE PEOPLE, insted of deciding pizza is a vegetable further contributing to the detioration of the health of its people. I would like to say to all of you in Congress that put big business before the people of the United States in order to line your own pockets. YOU ARE FIRED!!!! Only if it were that easy. It could be possible to LOVE to fire people then. Right MITT? P.S. you won't win with my vote.

Apr. 21 2012 03:21 PM
Political Pop from America

I sense a huge uprising in america coming soon

Feb. 06 2012 01:48 PM

(to many prosthelytizing is nothing more than a sin, to beware)

Feb. 04 2012 11:32 AM

Romney gave millions of his own money to charity and is a former missionary. Our current President made unemployment and poverty much worse and is generous with other people's money after he and his cronies get their cut.

Feb. 03 2012 10:15 PM

Romeny says he will step up and fix the holes in the 'safety net' if he finds them. This is the type of statement that our premier politicians are alwyas offering up. More often than not their supporters are eager adn willing to embrace these statements and ideas. It is also usually true that more often that not, the statements are meaningless words, empty of substance and devoid of value.

Unfortunatel for Mitt, he managed to find one of those statements to demonstrates so many levels of incompetence. Well, he doesn't have to worry about his core constituents who accept without question. And for those rabidly opposed to him, they won't see the significance of his statement and what it communicates about his perceptins, experiences,philosophies, religious principles, and his personal values.

No one has even noticed yet that if you are dealing with a safety net, then fixing the holes presents an iconic image problem. Nets by their very structure have holes, and so fixing them would rende the net something else. The image he should have used is if people are falling through the net, he will find a way to catch them.

Feb. 03 2012 06:30 PM

New York City only has the enough subsidized child care slots to serve 27% of income eligible children, and we're looking at significant cuts this year, which will mean that many low income working families will be left without care.

Feb. 03 2012 02:51 PM
kikakiki26 from Wall street

Always the minority cheaters in the system make it seem that the majority who are in real need are lazy, uneducated childbearing sloths. Historically children's education level is a direct correlation to the educational level of their parents, and their parents' parents proverty is deep hole to climb out of. And does it bother anyone else, the insane amounts of money raised and spent on these political campaigns (money going to money the rich politician buying media time from the media titan etc) and then talking about the poor. Can you imagine how many poor families would have been able to eat, go to the doctor, dentist, pay rent with the money spent by just one of republican contenders in Iowa.

Feb. 03 2012 11:31 AM
Connecticut Mom from Fairfield County, CT

My daughter is one of the estimated 3% of the population either unemployed or underemployed due to Borderline Personality Disorder. Borderline is a serious mental illness that was previously thought to be largely untreatable. Regular talk therpy is not effective for Borderline, but over the past 20 years a couple of treatments (most notably DBT) have been developed have been proven to be very successful, moving the prognosis to an extremely high recovery rate. The diffulty is that there are not a lot of people trained in these therapies and only a small handful who accept Medicaid. This is a huge hole in the saftey net.

We spent down my daughter's college fund and my IRA on private care before healthcare reform allowed her to be covered on her Father's insurance. She is much better now, but needs DBT on a less intensive basis going forward. She's turning 26 in a couple of months and to date we have been totally unable to find a DBT therapist who will accept medicaid.

Second hole: One of the issues for my daughter in making the transition to the workforce is that, if she takes a job, she will be cut off from the support that she needs before she has established herself as a stable worker with the ability to pay for what she needs to survive - mental health services, medical services, and housing. She needs support in making the transition that is simply not available in the system.

Feb. 03 2012 11:08 AM
The Truth from Becky

Unfortunately when you give a person can goods WITHOUT giving them a can opener!! You have done nothing!

By the by, thanks Campbell for finally coming up with pull top cans.

Feb. 03 2012 11:04 AM

Okay, correction:

"If you think taking the poor is expensive, just see how expensive it gets when you don't.", I'm not at the top of my game, this morning!! Not the first time!

Feb. 03 2012 11:00 AM
ben from Minneapolis, MN

Let's be honest to ourselves. The poor doesn't like the social safety net. In fact, the social safety net is a joke nationwide, contrast to other safety net programs that is often found in Nordic Europe, Japan, France, and the United Kingdom. We treat the poor in the United States like ashtrays, asking them to straddle their bootstraps and prey into their weakness by thinking that being poor was a matter of lifestyle choice, not determine results. As a wealthy country, we should be ashamed ourselves with the growing number of people falling into poverty. We could broaden the safety net by removing the cap off social security, abolishing medicare and medicaid all together by replacing it with universal health care nationwide, provide education vouchers to all citizens and give them an opportunity to go to college with expandable pell grants and affordable financial aid packages, make housing affordable through a revised version of the 1934 National Housing Act that allows the government to insured mortgages to needy families and individuals, creating a new GI Bill of Rights, creating a modern day Workers Progress Administration in order to put decent people back into the labor market, and have the government to create state-sponsor cooperatives for the general public to obtain mutual benefit.

Feb. 03 2012 10:57 AM

Thanks for having me on the show. People should feel free to submit their stories to We collaborate with storytellers to share real-life examples of the safety net (working and not-working) with policymakers who are making the decisions on these issues.

Feb. 03 2012 10:54 AM

let them eat twinkies

Feb. 03 2012 10:51 AM
Lawrence H. McFarland from 16 Terry Hill Rd, Carmel, NY

For ALL your guests and callers: $0.42 BORROWED for every tax dollar raised. How can they support FEDERAL help at current deficits, for as long as the eye can see, debt at Greek levels?
To the caller who laments having to "invade" college savings because he/she is unemployed, I'm Glen Campbell's "Wichita Lineman" DEMANDING to know why I should "support" his college fund.
Ask your federal welfarers what have they done for me TODAY. None "works hard for her money!"
They should recall the WW II GI Bill passed by ONE vote - the minority thought defending the country was a citizen's DUTY.

Feb. 03 2012 10:49 AM

If you think not taking the poor is expensive, just see how expensive it gets when you don't.

Feb. 03 2012 10:46 AM
Jay from New York

As always, there is more than one fact for consideration. I believe it was Ms. Boteach who noted that a family was required to spend down its children's college fund before qualifying for public assistance.

That's one fact. An additional fact is that public assistance is funded by taxes paid by the rest of us, including those who cannot afford a college fund for their children because they are making just enough to support themselves and pay taxes.

So where is the fair balance - John Doe gets to keep his children's college fund by getting some of the taxes being paid by Ron Roe who cannot afford a college fund but is paying his bills, including those taxes?

Feb. 03 2012 10:46 AM
Jack Jackson from Central New Jersey

Yes, too reminiscent of the Bill Hicks joke..."Damn Democrats...
Think people should eat?!" and Hicks was mocking Bush I. Luckily for the GOP, Hicks is already gone or they would have to kill him.

Feb. 03 2012 10:38 AM
Kathy from Connecticut

SNAP & WIC provides for food, medicaid provides for doctor's visits, medication & medical equipment, but there is no coverage for DIAPERS. This may seem like a minor issue, but it is a very real need for babies & toddlers, as well as older children and adults with disabilities that require the use of diapers. For more info check out

Feb. 03 2012 10:38 AM
John A.

The point from [bernie from bklyn, 10:21 AM]
I'd love to hear a whole show or a whole week on this.
I thought Clinton was supposed to fix this, has 8 years of Bush erased it?

Feb. 03 2012 10:37 AM
Sophia from Yonkers, NY

The cruel aspect of the Republican strategy is that it attempts to set the middle class against the poor in the election debate. They paint the poor as lazy free loaders who are the cause of Middle Clas economic problems.
What other historical groups set up weak parts of their society as scape goats in order to gain political power?

Feb. 03 2012 10:36 AM
Bill from New Rochelle

To John P MacKenzie from Long Island City; two can play sub-standard misnaming...

Just call him MILT NUMNEY.

Feb. 03 2012 10:35 AM

Ol' Cheezlewhiz demonstrating yet again, just how far off his nut he actually is.

Always a hoot.

Feb. 03 2012 10:33 AM
The Truth from Becky

An inconvenient truth - the "very poor" are our responsibility as a doesn't matter how they became the very poor, children should not go hungry! Empower their "very poor" parents to take care of them.

Feb. 03 2012 10:32 AM
Alicia Kershaw from NYC

Dear Mr. Romney,
At GallopNYC we teach therapeutic horseback riding to people with disabilities. Families with a child with a disability face tens of thousands of dollars in costs that are not reimbursed, and must fight for every benefit, including education. Over the past several years, benefits have been cut every year. Its stressful to raise a child with special needs and to have to struggle to find care for them is cruel.
(We are a non profit and we subsidize the fees of 2/3rds of our riders.)

Feb. 03 2012 10:31 AM
Randi from NYC

@John from NYC:

I actually agree with you that finishing high school is the biggest factor in the ending poverty. But I know people who have Masters degrees who have moved back in with their parents during this recession because they are either underemployed or unemployed.

Also marriage doesn't guarantee prevention of poverty. I grew up in a single parent household and have never been poor a day in my life. Yet, its been my single mother that has on many occassions provided her married sisters with financial help when they and their husbands didn't have enough money to pay the bills.

The things that do help prevent poverty that I learned from my mom, whether you're single or married, are:
(1)financial responsibility (only spend what you can afford and do what you can to save money)
(2)personal responsibility (don't have kids that you can't afford, work hard every day, and behave - stay out of trouble)
(3)earn a good wage (my mother worked for a law firm that paid their employees well... if you have a job that doesn't pay you fairly, do be scared to look for another job)

Feb. 03 2012 10:30 AM

"Indeed, getting a college degree is a good bet for avoiding unemployment in the first place. The unemployment rate of college graduates who are at least 25 years old is just 4.1 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In contrast, 13.8 percent of high school dropouts, 8.7 percent of high school graduates, and 7.7 percent of college dropouts are unemployed."

Feb. 03 2012 10:30 AM
ragnar johnsen from Bedminster, nj

Isn't it a disgrace that we even have this discussion in the riches country in the world? With all the "corporate welfare" we have and all the loopholes fro the upper crust of the population. If the the big corporations would pay taxes on a reasonable level, we could have a lot of safety nets for the unfortunates in the society like we do for the rich and the corporate world.

Feb. 03 2012 10:30 AM
John P MacKenzie from Long Island City

Did you take note that for Romney the other political party is now the "Democrat" Party?
This may be the product of his debate coaching and tougher image, but it's offensive.
It's not new, maybe wash't even new when i first heard it from Senator Joe McCarthy.

Right wing pols use the term. This is a signal to the right wing that he's one of them at heart.

In context it's a signal to those who think Democrats are disloyal to their country.
i am a loyal American, a veteran, a patriot, and i am offended.

Feb. 03 2012 10:29 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

Frank from Brooklyn....sob.
Why didn't you get training to actually do something useful in society? Why should the rest of us pay for your self-indulgence?
Gee, I'd like to get a BFA also...but life has requirements

Feb. 03 2012 10:29 AM
Heather from New Jersey

Federal Student Loan Forgiveness

I could not meet my student loan payments, and now the Department of Education garnishes my already meager pay (yearly net approx. 14,000), making it extremely hard to pay rent and buy food, much less to continue developing my skills in order to find a job that would allow me to meet said loan payment.

Stop Educational Slavery.

Feb. 03 2012 10:28 AM
Amy from Manhattan

carolita, very good points. Too many politicians seem to think coming up w/a similar metaphor is enough.

We need someone to ask Gingrich what his "trampoline" would consist of. What policies does he think would act as a trampoline? Lemme cuts? And when did Obama say a safety net was enough?

And now someone calls it a hammock. Oy. Talk about stereotypes. Those people are just lazy, right.

Feb. 03 2012 10:28 AM
Inquisigal from Brooklyn

I am no fan of Romney, and am an Independent who mostly votes Democrat.
But this quote of his - repeatedly being played by the media - is a perfect example of isolating someone's words to suit (the opposition's) agenda. The guy didn't say he "doesn't care" about the poor from an emotional and psychological standpoint - he clearly explained his position, and it's tiring to listen to every news source pull this quote out to mean something else entirely.

It's perfectly legitimate to focus resources on fixing the most troubled part of any entity if your resources are limited. Candidates can't fix everything, and we all need to recognize that. We all need to stop being outraged about the fact that candidates can only focus their policies and agendas on certain areas.

That said, I think this is a good segment to discuss issues locally or at the state level.

Feb. 03 2012 10:27 AM

That guy Michael (who criticized even the term "Safety Net" as insulting and UnAmerican -- it's been so long since I've heard this kind of deep wisdom, and alternate way of looking at the status quo, boy do I wish he had his own radio program (on WNYC! Not BAI...)

Thank you Michael for your thoughts that I will surely be mulling over and discussing with friends and family this weekend.

And thanks to Brian for deciding not to cut him off, excellent judgement as usual.

Feb. 03 2012 10:27 AM
Orin from Queens

Why is no one mentioning Mitt's ignorance about the numbers? He said 90% to 95% of Americans are not in poverty. This is from Wikipedia: "According to the U.S. Census Bureau data released Tuesday September 13th, 2011, the nation's poverty rate rose to 15.1% (46.2 million) in 2010,[2] up from 14.3%." So take away the 1% and Mitt's Middle America is only 84%.

Feb. 03 2012 10:27 AM
RL from the bowery

John from NYC, you would have a good point, if everyone were as smart and fortunate as you. But you're missing the systemic problem of poverty. Others aren't as priveleged as you and do not come from such a line of educated families. It's hard to get educated when you get no re-enforcment at home. It's hard to adhere to your steps when your parents had no education, because their parents had no education, etc., and their parents had no education because they were slaves. It's a long line that is very hard to break. Only a few do.

Feb. 03 2012 10:26 AM
Dorothy from new york

Oh my gosh, first the net, then the trampoline, now a hammock! Oh, wait I just heard chutes and ladders mentioned too. Being poor is starting to sound like a day a Coney Island. What's wrong with a springboard???? At least you can use it to wind up somewhere else than where you started....

Feb. 03 2012 10:26 AM
Burtnor from Manhattan

There is nothing for long term care of people not sick enough for a nursing home (SNF) but unable to care for themselves at home. A couple of hours of home care twice a week does not do it if someone has a degree of dementia and/or is too sick or frail to drive, shop, cook, clean, keep track of medications, use the phone, pay bills, etc.

Assisted living facilities (ALF) are exorbitant and unreimbursed except by only a very few programs (VA Aid and Attendance pension or, oddly, Florida's Diversion Program).

Feb. 03 2012 10:25 AM
Craig from Brooklyn

As someone three years unemployed, kicked off of unemployment more than a year and a half ago, subsisting on the meager income of a freelance journalist, and earning less than minimum wage, I think one thing that could be eliminated is the awesome taxes one faces for dipping into their 401-k when you are under 59.5. years old. I think after two years of demonstrated unemployment (that is proof that one has been looking), people in my shoes should be given some sort of tax exemption. It's unfair these penalties and taxes hit so heavily on the very poor when the irony is one invested in a 401-k to avoid poverty in old age in the first place. . But I won't have this problem next year: My 401-k will be depleted soon if I don't find a job.

Feb. 03 2012 10:25 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

John, you are so right, if it were 30 years ago, a high school diploma is no good enough anymore.

I have no patience for lazy people or dead beats, living off the system.

However, there are lots of people who work long hours at "legit" jobs and still can't feed, cloth, or house themselves with out Gov't assistance. That's scary.

Feb. 03 2012 10:24 AM
frank from brooklyn

I am on unemployment. I have a BFA. Even though I work part time in the technology, I get paid under the table. Because if I didn't, and if I didn't get help from family, I would be living on the street. What is safe about this?

Feb. 03 2012 10:23 AM
Liz from Glen Cove

There is a gaping hole in the safety net for middle class people who fall below the poverty level, especially if they're trying to hold onto their homes. My husband has been unemployed for over a year, and I work part-time. We have been living off of our savings, and when we couldn't pay for insurance anymore, applied for sliding scale services at the local hospital's clinic. They could not process our application because according to our income, we should not be able to pay our mortgage. I explained that we were living off of our (dwindling) savings, but we were denied.

Medicaid denied us as well, but after months of appeals we were finally approved. This process took 11 months. Perhaps if we had lost our house already, we could have been insured a bit quicker?

Feb. 03 2012 10:22 AM
bernie from bklyn

the problem is that the system incentivizes less upward mobility. you get punished if you try to improve and rewarded if you stay at the lowest rung....the working poor are way worse-off than the workless poor. more kids, more runaway dads, more money.

Feb. 03 2012 10:21 AM
Jack Jackson from Central New Jersey

The U.S. economy generates approximately $45,000 per capita. Yet, the poverty level is $24,000 for a family of four. What's up with that?

Fair wages for labor.
Minimal universal health care levels.
Affordable college education.
Protection from predatory lenders.

By using terms like 'safety net', Mr. Romney is just trying to put a narrow focus on the race for President. If we replace that term with 'just society' what answers will your callers give?

Feb. 03 2012 10:21 AM
Bill from New Rochelle

SECTION 8....created to help the working poor to pay their rent; has been frozen & cut back. Now, recipients are terrified of losing it; and many working poor are locked out of Section 8, because it is making no new accounts.

Ask any waitress.

Feb. 03 2012 10:21 AM
Franci from NYC from Manhattan

How about providing a greater rental assistance to unemployed or underemployed people. Section 8 in New York has been closed down since 2009 and probably won't be reinstated any time soon.
The amount, at least 50% or more, could be paid directly to the landlord.

Feb. 03 2012 10:21 AM
Amy from Manhattan

I'd start even before where the holes are. "IF"?? *If* there are holes in the safety net? Romney doesn't know that there *are* holes? And he's trying not to look out of touch....

Feb. 03 2012 10:20 AM
John from Manhattan

I'd be interested in extending Social Security and Medicare payments to the over-55 unemployed. As it is, these folks will probably never find work again, and we owe them a stable and reliable source of income and healthcare, if not for moral and ethical reasons, than for economic ones - once they fall off of unemployment insurance, they stop contributing money to the consumer economy.

Feb. 03 2012 10:20 AM
Angela Muriel from manhattan

There are many people who have jobs and are still poor because so much of their salary is going to rent, utilities, etc. However, they may still be above the poverty level on paper. The fact is that we should replace the word poverty with DESTITUTE,which is what you have to be to get any assistance especially if you do not have children.

Feb. 03 2012 10:20 AM
Maimona from brooklyn

maimonides hospital Dental division now says that if you don't have health ins. you have to pay over $300 just see the doctor - just for 1 visit - every single visit (w/o insurance) to the dentist in MIN. +$300 over there. That's crazy! I have to travel abroad for dental work b/c I don't get dental thru employer. Not fair.

Feb. 03 2012 10:20 AM
Michael Klein from Brooklyn, NY

Suggestion to fix the safety net: Make sure that poor people who are NOT eligible for Medicaid can still get complex medical treatment when necessary, such as cancer therapy, heart bypass surgery, and the like. When it comes to obtaining necessary medical treatment, money should be no object.

Feb. 03 2012 10:19 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Carrie the student, welcome to the middle class, where you have to pay your way like everyone else.

Feb. 03 2012 10:19 AM
Leo from queens

The part of the comment/exchange with Soledad O'Brien I find more disturbing and which is not getting attention is that he frames his comment about not caring about the poor in between a statement in which he says he is concerned about Americans. As if the poor are not truly Americans..
That is very telling. These people are not really like us, they are some other people. Then he goes on to give an explanation that shows how out of touch he is.There is the follow up where he seems to claim that less than 5% of Americans are poor and they have all these safety nets where they are well protected and don't have to struggle.
He doesn't know the struggles and the hassles that the very poor have to go through to get any help. This is while other scheemers abuse the system.

Feb. 03 2012 10:19 AM
steve from Greenpoint

Romney is speaking as if "the poor" is a static state of being, and the people in the middle cannot fall into that group unless they are lazy or damned. One health emergency can bankrupt a family. Credit card rates and student loans can assure that someone is in poverty their entire lives. So a true safety net would include reforms to fix holes that are built to siphon economically viable people into a state of poverty, all designed for the benefit of the rich.

Feb. 03 2012 10:18 AM
alex from west village

i agree with the caller that medicaid is for the children, eldery, and disabled. however, as a health care provider, i repeatedly see the abuse of the medicaid system. it doesn't seem fair that "needy" people are coming in with medicaid benefits, yet they are wearing expensive designer clothing and spending large amounts of money of expensive eyewear (in my optometry office).

Feb. 03 2012 10:17 AM
Franci L from Manhattan

I think the government should waive the 10% penalty for withdrawing money for IRAs before 59 1/2 for people who have been unemployed or underemployed.
I've been unemployed since 2008 and job hunting full time and that penalty is killing me.

Feb. 03 2012 10:17 AM
Matt from Jackson Heights

I'm grateful for my $405/wk (less 10% income tax) unemployment check the last five months (although as a productive worker for over 40 years I think it is social insurance I have earned). But $405/wk only barely, if at all, covers COBRA insurance premiums. So you can either have health insurance, or you can eat, not both. And forget about rent. All you can do is run up big high cost debt that can't be discharged in bankruptcy. You can be wiped out in no time at all, no matter how prudent you've been.

Since there are periodic bouts of mass unemployment as a consequences of our market-based economy, could unemployment be insured at something like the levels of private disability insurance (about 60% of earnings) up to a maximum, coupled with intensive support in finding work and re-education?

Or, might the unemployed temporarily qualify for Medicare? In any case, my net's broken.

Feb. 03 2012 10:17 AM
Laurel from Bronx, NY

When you are learning how to use the trampoline , there is usually a safety net all around the trampoline. And spotters, too, to make sure you don't fall.
It's not either/or.

Feb. 03 2012 10:17 AM
Pina from South Plainfield

In my opinion, they should raise poverty income level. There are so many people who make a little more than what poverty income is and can't get any help in anything. The income of $23,000 for 4 ? I mean, come on! What about people who make 35,000? They still struggling....

Feb. 03 2012 10:17 AM
Matt from Jackson Heights

I'm grateful for my $405/wk (less 10% income tax) unemployment check the last five months (although as a productive worker for over 40 years I think it is social insurance I have earned). But $405/wk only barely, if at all, covers COBRA insurance premiums. So you can either have health insurance, or you can eat, not both. And forget about rent. All you can do is run up big high cost debt that can't be discharged in bankruptcy. You can be wiped out in no time at all, no matter how prudent you've been.

Since there are periodic bouts of mass unemployment as a consequences of our market-based economy, could unemployment be insured at something like the levels of private disability insurance (about 60% of earnings) up to a maximum, coupled with intensive support in finding work and re-education?

Or, might the unemployed temporarily qualify for Medicare? In any case, my net's broken.

Feb. 03 2012 10:16 AM
Laurel from Bronx, NY

When you are learning how to use the trampoline , there is usually a safety net all around the trampoline. And spotters, too, to make sure you don't fall.
It's not either/or.

Feb. 03 2012 10:16 AM
Zack from New Jersey


I agree with you 100%... make that 190%

Feb. 03 2012 10:15 AM
Henry E. from Elizabeth NJ

Can your guest please explain the relationship between poverty and our society of consumption-system. Where does poverty come from --nationally obviously--?

Can we tell the truth. Is poverty natural????

Feb. 03 2012 10:15 AM
RJ from prospect hts

Safety net programs are not indexed to inflation. First, the baseline levels of income in the programs should be increased from the point where they flat-lined in comparison to inflation to an ongoing minimum income by that percentage. Then, all of these programs should be indexed to inflation.

Feb. 03 2012 10:15 AM
Sara from Bushwick

As a forty year old adult who has never had insurance, is self employed, struggles to pay NYC rent, and suffers from asthma, I would personally be in serious trouble without the HHC Options program.

Feb. 03 2012 10:15 AM
Randi from NYC

It depends on how "safety net" is defined. There are many people that are working full time at low wages, but depend on government programs such as Medicaid, Food Stamps and housing vouchers. The problem is that there are MORE people that are WORKING FULL TIME that rely on these programs.

Why is it that the rich keep getting richer, yet people working full time still need things like Medicaid and Food Stamps????

Feb. 03 2012 10:14 AM

I believe Romney is partially right, there is a safety net for the "poor" the problem is that the definition of poor is unrealistic. This is seen in programs such as charity care where the cut off is at an income level that leaves anyone making slightly more in a situation where they will not be able to afford hospital bills etc etc

Feb. 03 2012 10:14 AM
John from NYC

When will this show confront the fact that if people do 3 things:

- Finish high school
- Do not get married until finishing high school
- Do not have a child until getting married (and finishing high school)

If people do these 3 things, 90% of poverty goes away.

Feb. 03 2012 10:13 AM

I dwell among the rich. They are not fine: there are too many depressed robbers who have no regard for their communities, the environment or a basic sense of fairness and justice. It's like there is a whole -- and I blame official policies (transport, food, tax policies, etc) and rhetoric for class warfare mentality -- among the "rich."

Feb. 03 2012 10:13 AM
Jane from west side

For starters, reinstate preschool education, library, food stamp cuts, etc that Mayor Bloomberg, mayor of the largest population city in the US, announced this week in his new budget.

Feb. 03 2012 10:13 AM
rich from nj

Mr. Romney it is the "Democratic" party not the "Democrat" party

Feb. 03 2012 10:11 AM
carolita from nyc

What's wrong with him? Many of the very poor were once the middle class. They want to be middle class again, but they're supposed to be happy with the safety net? And as for Gingrich and his stupid trampoline metaphor, why not a bungee cord? What nonsense. If you want to go with the trampoline metaphon, the very poor have lost momentum. You don't get anywhere on a trampoline if you've lost momentum.

Feb. 03 2012 10:11 AM
John A.

First: fair medical charges. Remove the preferential treatment (price fixing) given to large insurance companies.
Second: Insurance available to all at at least a flat rate.
Third: progressive rate health insurance, where the rich could be called upon to support the poor to any degree.

Feb. 03 2012 10:11 AM
bob from SI

My wife is a NYC teacher, she had a child who did not attend school and needed to be held back. Her mother requested for my wife to sign documents to declare her child disabled to be eligible for SSI disability. My wife refused because the child was not disabled.

Another abuse is EBT (food stamps) abuse. My son attends a private high school and was asked how many students families had a EBT card.Twenty percent raised their hands. If they can afford $7000 in private school tuition they do not deserve an EBT card. One family i know personally had maritial problems where the father left the household. He is still supporting the family but the mother requested and receive food stamps.(their children also go to private schools, total tuition $10000)

Feb. 03 2012 10:10 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Zach, Democrats and Obama were too scared to do single payer and be called socialists, They prefer to be called "fascists" by forcing everyone to buy insurance.

Feb. 03 2012 10:07 AM
Barbara Levitan from New York

How about disavowing the Ryan tax plan?

Feb. 03 2012 10:01 AM
zack from New Jersey

How about.... Health Insurance. Single Payer. Classless access to healthcare (you know, cause we are a "classless" society)

Feb. 03 2012 09:12 AM

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