Without a Net

If I learned anything from our brush with the national political spotlight last week, it’s that Mitt Romney really, really loves America. He said so repeatedly from a podium set up behind Metro Pizza in Henderson on Feb. 3, right after a couple of songs from a Los Angeles-based guitar strummer who warmed up the crowd with a joke about how lonely it is being a Republican in L.A., and then sang about loving America.

Romney, who was in town for the Feb. 5 Republican presidential caucuses, introduced his family—there were a lot of them, more names than I could scribble down—and then said that President Obama was elected to lead, chose to follow and now needs to get out of the way. Then he said something about Obama sending mash notes to Raul Castro, Hugo Chavez and Kim Jong Un, which got a tepid response from the crowd. It was cold and dinnertime, after all.

Up close, Romney is just another middle-aged rich white guy, graying around the temples a bit, rocking a pair of expensive jeans as he meets the masses. Earlier in the week we learned that he doesn’t really care about poor people, because there’s a system in place to take care of them. But then we learned that he doesn’t think the system works because none of the money actually reaches poor people, leaving us to wonder what in the world he really thinks. It’s all so confusing. But at least he got us talking about poor people at a policy level, which we hadn’t done since—oh, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, also known as welfare reform. (That’s when we learned there’s no such thing as poverty, only personal irresponsibility.)

Romney’s campaign is fueled by supply-side thinking, in which all things are healed by helping the well-heeled. It’s an attitude suited to Nevada, where we’ve placed our bet on luring capital by shoving everything else out of the way. It sounds good—companies create jobs, and jobs create a path to the middle class, so why muck that up with taxes, environmental regulations and workers’ rights? But economic times like these remind us that in trickle-down economics, someone always gets trickled on.

So in a roundabout way, Romney has nailed Nevada’s take on the security net: It’s there, so we shouldn’t really worry about the poor, but it’s government-run, so none of the money gets where it’s needed, and it wouldn’t work anyway even if it did. His resounding victory in Nevada, which will likely pave his way to the nomination, proves it: Mitt’s our man.