Fareed Zakaria: Mitt, You Need To Worry About The Poor


Fareed Zakaria has had a lot of advice for Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. He's already exhorted him to become more aware of the rest of the world and not be so myopic in his foreign policy. Zakaria has also tried to soften up the image of venture capitalists. And now, after his infamous declaration that he is not concerned about the poor, Fareed Zakaria implores Mitt Romney .to think again:

We rank 31st of the 34 countries that make up the OECD in terms of the percentage of our population that qualifies as poor. Of the 34 member states, only Mexico, Chile and Israel are worse off than we are. The UK (at 11 percent), Germany (8.9 percent) and France (7.2 percent) are all much lower. The OECD average is 11 percent.

In case you're wondering how the OECD defines poverty, it calculates the number as the percentage of people who earn less than half of the country's median wage. It's an easy way to compare data across countries.

In the video above, look at the chart that shows the percentage of children in poverty. At 20.6 percent, we again come off far worse than other rich countries.

Japan, Australia, the UK, Germany and France all have much better numbers.

Romney spoke about how he would fix the safety net for poor people "if it needs repair.”

Let me suggest one place to fix things: end child poverty.

Whatever the causes of poverty, when children grow up in desperate circumstances - circumstances that they had no role in creating - studies show that they will be more likely to drop out of high school, be unemployed, use drugs, have children out of wedlock and get ill.

In other words, they will be unproductive members of society and cost taxpayers huge amounts of money over the course of their lives.

As with any time we see someone in the media deviate from the corporate lines and speak to populism, it's hard to argue with the cold, hard facts. Let me put another one out there: The economy does better when the income disparity is lessened. All of us are lifted up when we lift up the poor.

But the question must be asked: why limit this only to Mitt Romney? Why not make a blanket accusation of Congress? They're the ones locked in gridlock, arguing austerity, cutting benefits left and right for the poorest and refusing to extend unemployment benefits, chintzing on SCHIP benefits and touting vouchers for schools. Not one of those "solutions" will help the situation of the poor, and yet that's all we hear.

Please, let us all voice a concern for the poor. For a country supposedly founded on Christian principles (as conservatives love to tell us), there is precious little Christian charity in our rhetoric.


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