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Not my job? Romney and Obama differ over poverty

21 September 2012


PRESIDENT Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate for the White House (above), responded last week to a request from Christian leaders to state how they will tackle poverty in the United States.

The Circle of Protection, an umbrella organisation composed of more than 65 leaders from churches and charities, asked the presidential candidates to provide statements on video stating what they proposed to do "to provide help and op­portunity for hungry and poor people in the United States and around the world".

The videos were posted on YouTube on Wednesday of last week. President Obama, in his video, referred more explicitly to his religious faith than Mr Romney did. President Obama said: "My faith teaches me that poverty is a moral issue. The Bible calls on us to be our brother's keeper, and our sister's keeper, and I believe that as a public servant I must do my part to answer that call."

He said that his Office of Faith-based and Neighbourhood Partner­ships had expanded its work "to help those in need", and that, last year, "in the midst of a heated budget debate in Washington, I promised to protect vital assistance for the least of these."

Mr Romney, in his video, said: "If we're going to lift our brothers and sisters out of poverty, we must restore our economy and reduce the debt. When our economy is healthy and growing, we have the resources to take care of those who still find themselves in need."

In a message to supporters, on Thursday of last week, the Revd Jim Wallis, the president of the Christian ministry organisation Sojourners, said: "There is a growing consensus that poverty is a Christian issue. . . There are a lot of issues Christians should care about and a lot of differ­ent thoughts on the best ways to express that, but when casting a ballot every Christian should have 'the least of these' on their minds."

Last month, President Obama and Mr Romney spoke about religion, in an interview with the Washington National Cath­ed­ral magazine Cathed­ral Age ( News, 31 August).

On Monday, a video was posted on the Mother Jones website of Mr Romney telling Republican donors that it was not his job was "to worry" about the "47 per cent of Americans [who] pay no income tax".

Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Mr Romney said that his remarks were "not elegantly stated", and that he had been "speaking off the cuff". But he reiterated that his campaign was not focused on people who don't pay taxes, "because frankly my discussion about lowering taxes isn't as attractive to them".


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