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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