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So You Want To Be Our Leader?

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So You Want To Be Our Leader?

I don’t often like to get too political on this blog. But yesterday Mitt Romney’s comments left me cold. I couldn’t let it lie.

I believe that the measure of one’s character is not found in the face one allows the public to see; true character is revealed in the moments where one believes the world isn’t watching.

The video leaked yesterday showed what Mitt Romney really thinks about people like me. About my family, who only survived because of social programmes. He believes we think of ourselves as victims. That we feel the state owes us. That we are simply incapable of yanking our bootstraps firmly enough to pluck ourselves out of poverty.

He asserted that he wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth — at least the way we think of the term. Instead he dubbed America as the silver spoon he was born with, crediting the country of his birth with his success. The arrogance behind such a statement, that simply being born here is enough to overcome any obstacles of poverty, disease, hunger, or debt is such that I sat back in my seat and reeled.

Because for many Americans, the silver spoon he spoke of is corroded and tarnished. For people like me who had to work full time throughout university, who avoided being kicked out (because of finances) multiple times and was able to stay only because of the extreme generosity of a few friends and loved ones, who now have to keep applying for forbearance after forbearance to keep loan payments at bay, who can’t get a job in their field, who struggle to build a life weighed down by that impetus of our American civilisation: money.

People who start out at or below the poverty line have to work twice as hard to get half as far. And before you say that’s not true, look at the following scenarios:

Person A comes from a middle class family, gets into a good university. Her parents help her with PLUS loans and some extra cash. She’s able to get by during university and picks up a part-time job for extra money. She graduates with none of her own loans and still has the slightly-aged car her parents gave her for graduation. She is able to find a nice place to live, even if she can’t find a job in her field. She has no debt, and thus can get by on less income. She starts a small savings account, which grows. She goes out with her friends, meets a special someone, gets married, and a couple years later they buy a home.

Person B’s parents have no credit to speak of, and they’re unable to help her with tuition costs. They send $30 every now and then, but that’s all they can scrape together. Person B immediately has to get a job and adds working full time to taking classes full time just to pay the tuition bills. Person B qualifies for Stafford Loans and Perkins Loans, but as her Pell grants decline over the course of her studies, each semester’s tuition bills come closer to the line where she can’t pay. She runs out of meals on her meal plan and has to use a credit card to fix the car she bought herself. When she graduates, she immediately finds out that she must make more money per month than the economy can offer just to pay her credit cards and  loans. She has no savings. She picks the cheapest place to live, which may not be the safest place to live. She works long hours, and bills still don’t get paid.

That is the difference, right there, between Mitt Romney and I. The other difference is that he is a much more extreme Person A. He was born in an upper-middle class family with money to spare. He had stocks he could sell off to support himself during university. And I bet that Mitt’s never once gone without running water and a toilet before.

That’s not a character judgment in and of itself, of course. Having a head start doesn’t make you bad, but unless you find some perspective and can realise that most of us don’t get that, your perspective will be skewed.

I have. And at university, I had to tell my friends no all the time. No, I can’t go with you for Spring Break. No, I can’t go to the movies tonight. Payday’s next week. No, I can’t go out to dinner. No, I can’t afford that concert. No, I can’t go snowboarding. No. No. Not that either. No, I can’t go shopping. Some of them didn’t even really understand why not. They thought I was joking when I’d say, “Well, I kind of want to eat next week.”

So when a candidate for the presidency of this nation asserts the following:

There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax.

…I can’t help but feel sickened. My husband and I paid a higher tax rate last year than did Mitt Romney. I know there are millions of Americans who don’t make enough to pay taxes. But to say they’re lazy, worthless, and entitled is such a gross fallacy that it makes my arms go numb. My parents don’t make enough to pay income taxes. My mother is severely disabled. Both of my parents have advanced degrees. My stepdad works for $9 an hour.

Would you be able to pay your family’s bills with that?

“[M]y job is is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

Mitt Romney, you want to lead this country?

How can you do so when you have such dripping disdain for half the inhabitants of this land? It’s not your job to worry about us? We’re not taking personal responsibility and care for our lives? I paid a higher tax rate than you, and I didn’t hide any of my money away in foreign countries to avoid paying it. Because I believe that it’s an honour not to have to pay for my freedom in blood. Take 25% of my money. Take 30%. If that’s the price, I’ll pay it with dignity.

I live in a land where I don’t have soldiers beating on my door. Where I don’t have to worry about IEDs crashing through my roof. Where our freedom was won by many many lives, many many years ago.

For that, I’ll pay my taxes. But you — you demean those who don’t earn enough to do so while stashing your own income away in offshore accounts. While taking full advantage of loopholes that benefit only the wealthy. While working hard to pay even less taxes and expecting those of us who actually DO have to worry about keeping a roof over our heads to shoulder the bill you don’t deign to pay.

And you have the gall to say we won’t take responsibility.

I have heard many, many obscene things from politicians. But making a blanket statement about anyone who voted for your opponent four years ago and writing us off as incompetent drains on society — that is a new low.

You don’t have what it takes to lead a nation if you can’t abide half the people in it.

And yes, Governor. It IS your job to worry about ALL Americans. It’s your job to understand and behave in a way that shows you respect each individual’s dignity, no matter how humble or broke. It’s your job to recognise that opportunity does not preclude poverty, that sometimes there are circumstances beyond control.

It’s your job to recognise that there’s more going on in a household that doesn’t make enough to pay taxes than simple laziness — it’s a minimum wage that would require 24 hour work days to reach your Threshold of Worthiness. It’s a healthcare system that bankrupts families while you enjoy excellent coverage. It’s an education system that keeps failing young children and plunging young adults into debt.

It’s so many other things. And it is your job to empathise with them. To try and make things better. To commit yourself to leaving America better and happier than you found it, and not just for the seven-or-eight-figure club you felt so at ease with in Boca Raton. Because compared to us, those people already have it much, much easier. And even if you took half their money in taxes (which I’m not advocating), they would still be wealthy by any reasonable standard.

The 47% of the country you disparaged? Yes. It’s your job to worry about them. If you don’t understand that or can’t handle it, the title of President is far too high an honour for you.

Until yesterday, I believed that you were a decent person, even if I vehemently disagreed with your politics. After yesterday, I see only a man (who has had more financial assistance in building a life than any of the welfare-users in this country) running a campaign with no respect for the tapestry of humanity that exists beneath his own tax bracket.

And Mitt, many of those people who don’t pay income taxes are people whose votes YOU are courting — unless you think the Southern states are inhabited only by the affluent.

I don’t want an apology, because it’s clear by watching the videos that you believed everything you said. An apology would ring false, and I’ve had enough of that. But I do want to see you humbled by the insult you dealt to half of your countryfolk. I want to see you walk through a poor neighbourhood and look into the faces of the people you disparage.

I want to see you try and survive a month the way they do. To have to tell your children no. To have to prioritise which bills you’re going to pay. To know what it’s like to have your hours and benefits slashed and feel the fear that you’ll lose what little you have. To understand what it’s like not to know where your next meal is coming from — or worse, how you are going to feed your children.

You didn’t start at the bottom and work your way up, Mitt. You were born near the top. You had a head start. And the fact that you do not understand or acknowledge that simple truth means one thing to me.

You don’t deserve to lead this country. You’re not worthy.

Go here to watch the videos. Watch his body language. Watch how candidly and openly he addresses the people he deems his equals. Watch how sure of himself he is, and how he knows they’ll be nodding along. Should someone who believes as he does be given the reins to one of the world’s biggest powers?

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Author | Emmie Comments | 12 Date | September 19, 2012

comments

Amanda

This is why I haven’t watched or read the news much in over a year. I may be grossly underinformed, but at least I don’t have to worry about my blood pressure rising over comments like these.

I think The Daily Show had it right when they covered the RNC. They called it RNC 2012: The Road to 2016. Romney was, at the time, the best of a sad bunch of candidates, but they didn’t expect him to win. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Party just sort of sits back and lets him dig his own hole.

September 19, 2012 | 10:08 am

alienredqueen

Excellent. I’d like to add one more point. In addition to Person A and Person B is Person C, people like me, who fall through the cracks. Because we have one income (I am a SAHM- I don’t see the point in a minimum wage job that will only go to paying someone else to watch my child.) We are always going in the red to keep food on the table and keep the bills paid. We are poor…but not poor enough to get any assistance. Yet some (not all) of the people who ARE poor enough to get assistance are content to linger on it and not even make an effort to get out from under. Essentially, it comes to being penalized for TRYING to do the right thing.

September 19, 2012 | 11:57 am

    Emmie Mears

    Agreed. I try to pay all my bills on time (definitely don’t succeed) go on a payment plan for my taxes, and still can’t get ahead at all. Endlessly frustrating.

    September 19, 2012 | 12:10 pm

lisashambrook

Not being American I don’t really follow American politics, but it angers me when politicians of either party (here, UK, and the US) have a go at those trying to earn a living and not meeting their prescribed standards. My life has been similar to yours, never having enough for the extras in life, and sometimes not enough for the basics either, but as adults we have worked hard for low wages and contributed to society in many ways. If a country has a welfare system, then its people should feel that they can use it…I don’t condone those who sit on their backsides and live off benefits just because they can, but those who work, or try to work, should feel comfortable using the system without being called victims or (in this country) scroungers.
My own daughter has decided against a university education because of the huge costs involved and we have nothing to help her with. Instead she’s started her own business and shown both integrity and enthusiasm.
Blanket statements denigrating a percentage of the population from politicians doesn’t help anyone, least of all the politician!

September 19, 2012 | 12:18 pm

    Emmie Mears

    Well stated.

    My bottom line is that anyone who thinks so little of half a nation’s population has no right to be anywhere near political power.

    September 19, 2012 | 12:20 pm

mott342

Thank you for posting this. Well-stated and timely. I try to stay out of the political firestorm this time of year, but I get more and more angered by this type of idiocy (the damning video, not your post). I will post one politically themed item on Facebook, and one only. It will be a link to this blog post. Thank you, Emmie, for continuing to make us think responsibly.

September 19, 2012 | 3:10 pm

KarenDenton

I like your post. I didn’t realize I wasn’t paying income taxes. I thought having payroll taxes taken out of my paycheck was paying my taxes. i would never have voted for Romney anyway, but I found his speech shocking. I thought going to work everyday and raising my son and trying to pay my bills was being responsible. I didn’t know Mr. Romney and other conservative Republicans believe I’m a parasite on society. I’ve been so outraged that I keep reading about it — I’m a little obsessed. I only hope other people pay attention to all of this and vote!

September 19, 2012 | 8:59 pm

patriciasands

Keep encouraging everyone to get out and vote. It’s the only way things will improve!

September 20, 2012 | 12:07 am

Greg Wiley

I’m right there with @alienredqueen. However, I take a completely different view on my circumstances. Yes, it is harder for me, making just enough to be taxed, but not enough to “get ahead”, but I get creative. I find ways to make that little extra to get me where I want to be, and it is not my right to get there. And it certainly isn’t the government’s job to get me there.

The 47% quote is only half of the story, and even with that half, there are some valid points. There will be very few of the 47% who vote for him. I am one of that few. It is hard to run against a candidate who is promising everyone something for nothing.

As many of us know personally, it is hard to get ahead when you have debt. With a crushing debt looming over our country how do you expect to prosper in a stagnate economy in a country that can’t even pay its bills? When you can’t pay your bills, something has to go. We know that. So I pose the question: What goes?

September 22, 2012 | 11:55 am

wordsmithmagic

Bravo…very well put. You should consider submitting this as an op-ed piece for your local paper. Seriously.

September 24, 2012 | 1:11 am

    Emmie Mears

    My local paper is the Washington Post, hahaha…*gulp*

    But thank you — I might give it a shot!

    September 24, 2012 | 9:38 am

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