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Edward L. Glaeser

Gaffe gives Romney chance to redesign safety net

LAST WEEK, as he attempted to emphasize his focus on middle-class America, Mitt Romney uttered these unfortunate words: “I’m not concerned about the very poor.’’ That statement may have nicked Romney’s aura of inevitability and contributed to his triple drubbing Tuesday by Rick Santorum - whom no less than Bono has described as “a defender of the most vulnerable.’’

In the awkward aftermath of his comments, Romney insisted that if the safety net “needs repair, I’ll fix it.’’ But he has said next to nothing about what that might entail. It’s entirely possible to make the safety net more effective and less expensive - by consolidating programs, improving incentives, and rethinking our current combination of cash support and in-kind transfers - and it’s high time for Romney to articulate a Republican master plan to do so.

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