To be fair, this is what he actually said:
I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it it needs repairing, I’ll fix it. I’m not concerned about the very rich, they’re doing just fine. I’m concerned about the heart of America, the 90, 95 percent who are struggling.
The Daily Show characterized this as being like a doctor who says, “Hey, I’m not worried about healthy people, because, you know, they’re healthy! i’m also not worried about the really sick people - because hey, we have morphine!” I think it’s really more like a doctor saying, “Hey, I’m not worried about healthy people, because they’re healthy, and I’m not worried about people who I think will be dead in twenty minutes because, you know, they’ll be dead in twenty minutes.”
To be clear, I absolutely think we should focus on poverty, because: (1) To stick with the health analogy, they’re dying in large part because we, i.e. society, made them sick, and refused to offer the medicine when they were ill, and now they’re dying, and we have a duty to help them, given that we hurt them, (2) It’s not at all clear they are beyond help, and (3) There’s this underlying assumption that there just always will be severe poverty and there’s nothing we can do about it, and I don’t buy that.
I am, however, rather surprised by the outrage around this remark. When was the last time anyone in American politics cared about the poor? The poor don’t vote. I suppose Edwards’s “Two Americas” was as close as we got, but you certainly never hear politicians talking about increasing the number of homeless shelters, or emergency food stamps, or broadening Medicaid’s reach, or what have you. No one ever advocates for programs that affect only the very poor.
So yeah, Romney’s remark was pretty horrifying. We have a duty to care for absolutely every single person in this country to the extent they ask for it, and to say that we shouldn’t care about starving or homeless people because it might be hard to fix that problem is wrong. That said, it’s also a position most people and certainly most politicians in this country take. We don’t focus on the poor. They have no money and they don’t vote.