The 'Safety Net' and Realities of Poverty

Friday, February 03, 2012

On Tuesday evening following his Floriday primary victory, Mitt Romney told Soledad O'Brien that, "I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair I'll fix it." The following day, The Takeaway followed up with a segment about the changing face of poverty in America. As part of a continuing conversation about this topic, Ron Robinson joins the program. Robinson is a homeless father of twins who lost his job at AT&T in 2010, and has been moving his family in and out of homeless shelters in Detroit, Michigan ever since. Alex Kotlowitz, journalist, author of the book "There Are No Children Here," and producer of "The Interrupters" also addresses the subject. 


Alex Kotlowitz and Ron Robinson

Comments [13]

cate on the cape from Cape Cod

When Romney was our governor, one of his budgets cut out funding for WIC. Please tell me how an infant child is so responsible for his/her lot in life that a governor feels it is okay to take food from the baby's mouth. Please share with me about how we would save money in the long run by starving babies. Yes, Romney knows all about the safety nets for the poor, and he did as much as he could to punch holes in them.

Feb. 04 2012 08:22 AM
anna from new york

H. Dean, I have a much bigger problem with the so called "liberals" than I have with conservatives. Conservatives exist in every society - I don't have a problem here. BUT, some societies have also progressive opposition and not something which pretends to be, automatically killing a potentially real opposition: "No, no, no you don't need some labor party - "we represent you," no, no, no, you don't need a civilized agenda (jobs, dignity in the workplace, etc.) - we know what is good for you, etc. As result we have Hollywood illiterate "geniuses" and Caroline Kennedy type "geniuses" who tell us to vote like they or their toddlers want us vote. The most tragic thing is that we do vote this way.

Feb. 03 2012 01:23 PM
anna from new york

"This segment made it seem as all poor people are just honest folks whom are forgotten and deserve government help."
Did we listen to the same program?
No, L, of course, only millionaires and billionaire are honest and because they are honest they are millionaires and billionaires. Yeah, sure.
How do you brainwash people to this level? Or there is nothing to wash to begin with.

Feb. 03 2012 12:52 PM
anna from new york

H.Dean from Detroit,
Dean, my decision came easily to me - I am NOT voting.

Feb. 03 2012 12:45 PM
Sharin from Joplin, Missouri

As for those that "want" to remain on welfare(food stamps and the like), or feel a sense of entitlement, there are some out there. However, most are not inherently bad, or codependent, its just that it has always been a part of their lives. Their parents had assistance, they have fewer opportunities, and for them this is just the way things are, its how people like them get by. Its difficult for someone who has not grown up in poverty to understand...Its not that they wouldnt want a better life for themselves, its that many can hardly even imagine one. Growing up poor is different than becoming poor, sometimes you dont even realize...oh I dont know if I can explain it properly.
As for abuse of the system, its hard to come by reliable numbers. Many fraud numbers include mistakes made by the workers, information they entered incorrectly etc, but from what Ive seen the amount of welfare fraud in this country is very low. Not that it should be ignored or discounted, but in the grand scheme of things it is really a very minor issue. If Mitt Romney really wants to help the poor or "fix" the system...(if he finds its broken that is) he should really look toward public and higher education, our juvenile corrections system and other social youth services first.

Feb. 03 2012 12:26 PM
H.Dean from Detroit

I'm so torn. I can't decide between the guy that doesn't care about the poor, and the guy that mocks them.

Feb. 03 2012 11:51 AM
Sharin Ray from Joplin, Missouri

I live in Missouri. My husband works full time, I work part time and go to school full time. Our budget is as follows.
+250 food stamps
-500 rent
-400 fuel
-150 phones/internet (must have for work and school)
-225 gas/electric
-90 water/trash/sewer
-100 car insurance
-150 husbands student loan (have deferred this several times)
-200 childcare
leaving -$65 in the bank every month. Which doesn't sound like much, but month after month it adds up. Then you're juggling bills and paying late fees etc.
I have no insurance. We have no safety net for when our old cars break down or need a new tire etc. No money for clothes for us or our three children. Our last rental was falling apart, the roof in the bathroom was caving in. The state of rentals in this area is CRIMINAL. We use our tax return money to pay forward on a lot of our bills, or leave it in savings and direct our bills to come directly out of there, without that we would be in bad shape. Unfortunately, we are relatively secure compared to a lot of people out there. And hopefully when Im done with school we will at least be able to buy a reliable vehicle.

As for the system, here is ONE example of many Ive had with our local DSS.
I recently had to renew my food stamps. So I went in, filled out the paper work and was told someone would call me to set up an interview (standard procedure). No one called me, but I did receive a letter in the mail a few days later saying my interview was scheduled for X date...a date which was the day AFTER I had turned in my paperwork, it had already passed. So I called my social worker to set up an interview, but had to leave a message (standard procedure) which would be returned within two business days. She did call me after two days, we did the interview and then she said I needed to bring in more paperwork, proof of income etc. So I did the next day. A cpl days later I hadn't heard from her so I called and left another message which she returned two days later. Apparently the paperwork I turned in didn't get processed right away and by now it had been more than 10 days since we had started the whole process so we would have to start over again. Meanwhile my cupboards are bare. This sort of thing happens to me all the time. And you CANNOT just go in to talk to your worker to get it all done at once. Very frustrating. On the other hand I know they are SWAMPED with cases and just do not have the resources. Im not mad at my social worker, Im mad at the system.

Feb. 03 2012 11:27 AM

This segment made it seem as all poor people are just honest folks whom are forgotten and deserve government help. Sure those are out there, but as someone who grew up poor and am still struggling and forseeably will always be, I would say that there is a certain way in which Romney's words "I'm not concerned about the very poor" makes sense. I have seen a lot of abuse of the system. A lot of poor people just want to stay dependent on welfare. It just might have less to do with the way in which some politicians such as Romney ( and I am no "endorser" of him ) has an outwardly indifferent attitude toward the poor , than it has to do with the reputation that indolent people who only want hand-outs have given to everyone else whom is economically poor.

And again, I myself am struggling very much and always have been.

Feb. 03 2012 11:06 AM
anna from new york

"NO ONE pulls themselves up by their own bootstraps"
Angel, of course. But the stress on "pulling up" by itself is barbaric. What is it this pulling up? This is the only language I know which uses the word "loser" the way it does. It's sadly amusing. Again the nation which declares itself Christian also declares those who grab, steal and murder most - "winners." I thought that Christians were supposed to wait till death to find out who is winner.

Feb. 03 2012 10:35 AM

"Turmoil" stirred up by Mitt Romney?!? Romney is to be blamed for 40 years of crackpot progressive policies and corruption in Detroit which should be a model of what a progressive city should look like....and so it is.
Romney is to be blamed for government bureaucratic programs run by so-called progressives?
Romney is to be blamed for the failed last three years of the Obama Administration?

The Obama blame list has run from Bush, to insurance companies, to oil companies, to banks, to Wall Street, to banks, to Congress and now Romney. If Romney leads Obama in the polls come November, it will be the American people who will be blamed since they are not worthy of our President.

The audience should pay attention to the media this year because we will be a widespread and remarkable demostration of reality turned on its head in service of a political agenda.

Feb. 03 2012 10:10 AM
Angel from Miami, FL

NO ONE pulls themselves up by their own bootstraps. Aside from being physically difficult, there are many people that help along the way to success. There are times when you are chosen for a task based on your merits but it usually has more to do with how those who chose you feel about you. "Do I give this guy a chance or not?" is thought of more than, "Oh, this overconfident twit is perfect for my organization."

As a whole, Society helped to mold Romney, and Romney helped to mold Society. You have to help the poor just like the poor help you. This is happening right now whether you see it or not. Ron Paul doesn't understand this which is why he's not President material.

Feb. 03 2012 10:06 AM
Aeriadne from NY

Please don't forget about the veterans of foreign wars, too - the rate of homelessness among returned vets is frighteningly high.

Feb. 03 2012 08:39 AM
anna from new york

It's hopeless. Look at the number of comments on planned parenthood and a number of comments on poverty.
The problem is much, much, much deeper than Romney. Barbarism is as American as apple pie and goes back to the Calvinist "the rich are rich because they deserve to be rich." You can't overcome this cultural tradition/limitations. The same people who claim to be soooo religious and sooooo Christian apparently never read their sacred text with its "Camel." I tend to repeat the question: "Who killed the Camel?" So called liberals who spend their days bubbling about ... everything except for what really is important are shaped by the same barbarism. Personally, I don't see any difference between the Democratic and Republican parties. Recently, someone finally stated publicly that most of rich people are Democrats. It isn't than surprising that we have a choice between Obama and Romney.
People, go deeper than Romney.

Feb. 03 2012 07:05 AM

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