Ruth Marcus’s Washington Post column “The real battle for the soul of America” clarifies the stakes involved in GOP’s bid to retake the white house:
Romney asserts that President Obama wants to “fundamentally transform America,” turning the country “into a European-style entitlement society.” In fact, Romney and his Republican presidential rivals have a far more radical transformation in mind. They envision a dramatically shrunken federal government and a dangerously unraveled social safety net.
Theirs is not the self-styled compassionate conservatism of a George W. Bush…Republicans have traditionally favored state over federal involvement, but the degree of proposed retrenchment during the current campaign is remarkable — and troubling.
Marcus quotes from one of Romney’s demogogic government-bashing statements to underscore the danger posed by his agenda:
“Well, what we don’t need is to have a federal government saying we’re going to solve all the problems of poverty across the entire country, because what it means to be poor in Massachusetts is different than Montana and Mississippi and other places in the country,” Romney said.
“And that’s why these programs, all these federal programs that are bundled to help people and make sure we have a safety net, need to be brought together and sent back to the states. And let states that are closest to the needs of their own people craft the programs that are able to deal with the needs of those folks.”
Then there is Romney’s simplistic critique of important federal programs, including “food stamps, housing vouchers, Medicaid, emergency heating assistance.”
“What unfortunately happens is, with all the multiplicity of federal programs, you have massive overhead with government bureaucrats in Washington administering all these programs. Very little of the money that’s actually needed by those that really need help, those that can’t care for themselves, actually reaches them,” Romney added.
Nice talking point, if it were true. As the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities has demonstrated, the major programs for the poor are extraordinarily efficient, even taking into account state as well as federal administrative costs. In 2010, 96.2 percent of Medicaid spending went for care; 94.6 percent of food stamp spending went for food; and 90.9 percent of housing program dollars went to rental assistance for low-income tenants….the impact of their plans would be to shred the safety net. Making sure that doesn’t happen is the real battle for America’s soul.
Whether Romney’s problem is ignorance or dishonesty, it’s clear he won’t be bringing much “compassionate conservatism” to his presidential campaign.