When Mitt Romney stepped on his Florida primary victory message by declaring that he wasn’t concerned about the very poor – and that he’d patch any holes that just might be in their safety net – most observers thought his mistake was declaring disinterest in the poor. But to right-wing activists, Romney’s bigger problem was his support for any kind of social safety net.
The Weekly Standard’s John McCormack called Romney’s comments “unconservative,” saying that “The standard conservative argument is that a conservative economic agenda will help everyone.”
“The safety net contributes to poverty,” declared Rush Limbaugh. “It does not solve it.” Tea Party favorite Sen. Jim DeMint told a reporter, “Those are the programs that are hurting, not just the poor, but our country.”
Religious Right leaders added another touch: the safety net is un-Biblical. Yesterday, Liberty Counsel pushed out a statement promoting the Christian Reconstructionist notion that the Bible gives the government no role in addressing poverty:
Romney wrongly assumes that it is the role of government to provide more entitlements to help the poor. In fact, that is not the role of government. The historical biblical view of helping the poor is that they are best helped by individuals and the faith community. Government programs tend to enslave the poor in an endless cycle of poverty. The biblical model is that both, the giver and the recipient, are blessed. When government steps in between the giver and the recipient, the giver loses the blessing of giving and the recipient is often left in a worse, rather than better, position. Romney's statement that he would rely on government programs to help the poor indicates his intent to continue the same failed big government programs and policies….it is the duty of the church, the faith community, to look after the poor, the orphans, and the widows.
Longtime Religoius Right activist Gary Bauer made the same point in a USA Today column in January, arguing that “nowhere in the Bible are we told that government should take one man's money by force of law and give it to another man. Jesus' admonition was a personal command to share, not a command for Caesar to "spread the wealth around."
There are, of course, alternative views about what the Bible has to say. President Obama, speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast this week, cited the Biblical principal that much will be expected of the person who has been given much. (Laughably, Obama has been criticized by Ralph Reed for discussing how his faith influenced his approach to policy-making.) Writing recently for Sojourner’s, an economically liberal evangelical group, Tim King called Bauer’s claims about scripture “false,” saying that biblical injunctions related to forgiveness of debts and the release of slaves are “forms of government mandated redistribution of wealth” and “laws concerned with justice not encouragements to charity.”