In Reagan’s vision, conservatives should never accept a permanent underclass trapped in dependency and despair. But that is precisely what Romney described. Here is what Romney said: “We have a very ample safety net, and we can talk about whether it needs to be strengthened or whether there are holes in it. But we have food stamps, we have Medicaid, we have housing vouchers, we have programs to help the poor.” So Romney is fine with an entire class of Americans being permanently on food stamps, Medicaid, housing vouchers and other government welfare programs? His solution for our fellow citizens trapped in poverty and dependency is to find holes in the safety net and repair them?

That is not conservatism. That is liberalism. The left judges compassion by how much money we spend, which is why the liberal project is to strengthen the safety net and grow the nanny state. The conservative project is to help people escape the safety net. Conservatives seek to create an opportunity society where we can lift people out of lives of dependency. We are not okay with having millions of Americans trapped in poverty and living on the dole. We are not okay with multiple generations trapped in government welfare. We believe in a society where the poor have opportunities for advancement. We want them to have the education and skills they need to find good jobs, get off public assistance and to move up to the middle class and beyond — as far as their ambition and ability will take them.