And no, this is not about hating on the right. This is about some disturbing attitudes I have seen in America, from people very dear to me.
So, for the unenlightened (British?) reader, presidential candidate Romney – what Brits might call ‘The Leader of the Opposition’ – has got himself into hot water. A secret video camera taped Romney at a Republican fundraiser saying to those who could afford the $50,000 per plate entry fee (which I am OK with – but it just gives you a sense of who he was talking to):
“There are 47% of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47% 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. But 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…. My job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
It hasn’t gone down brilliantly with some of America. And there are people who can dissect it way better than me, which is not the main purpose of this post (nor is it to whale on the right, so be patient, Republicans!). But suffice to say (for Brits again) that this 47% refers to people who don’t pay Federal income tax, but they may pay other forms of tax – sales tax, social security (which is like British National Insurance) etc. Now, if Rommers (as I randomly like to call him) wants to say “people who don’t pay income tax won’t vote for me, so I am going after everyone else’s votes” – well… alright then. It’s a bit exclusive, and probably wrong, but it’s his campaign and his prerogative. I guess. The problem is that he explicitly states that people who do not pay income tax:
“who believe that they are victims…[and don’t] take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
Now much of the press has focused on what makes up this 47% – highlighting that it is mostly the disabled, the veterans, the elderly and the ‘working poor’ – those who earn money, but not enough for their family size to qualify to pay income tax. See below for my gallery of such press images. I am not sure that is the real issue – I suspect Romney knew this. I used to think that I didn’t agree with his social policies but that he was quite smart, and if he supported freedom of choice for the individual (abortion, contraception), universal civil rights not based on a personal interpretation of one religion (e.g. equality for homosexuals!) and decent changes to the healthcare system (pre-existing conditions covered, and some more), I might quite like him. Now, after watching him on the campaign trail, I think that I don’t agree with his social policies, and he is a total tool. What Brits might call a spanner.
I also am convinced that, to an astonishing his degree, he utterly changes his stated policies to fit who he think might vote for him. I know a lot of politicians do it – some would argue Obama did it with allowing gay marriage – but my personal opinion is that Rommers does it more than most.
So, the concern to me is less that he may think that those who do not pay income tax do not have any ‘personal responsibility for their lives’, as I don’t know that he actually thinks that, it is more that he knows that saying that will win him votes. Because I have seen this view in Americans more than I am personally comfortable with. So yes, the press are correct:
(1) To jump on the fact that many people (e.g. vets) do take personal responsibility for their lives, yet not pay income tax.
(2) People on welfare, or not earning enough to pay income tax, do get out of the welfare cycle. There are personal stories , including that of Romney’s father and more statistical analysis, that show this is not always true – for this past point look up how many single parents end their TANF before their maximum time is up, due to earning enough.
(3) Just because some (likely less than 7%) of Americans may abuse the system, the system should still be there to help those genuinely motivated to improve their situation do so. He does not say the opposite of this, but perhaps there is an implication. (And please think on this America: do you want people to enter the low income / welfare cycle to have a chance at getting out, or not?
This is all out there in the commentaries, so I’ll leave it. I just kinda had to say it coz it was bubbling inside me. What breaks my heart, is that it speaks to an attitude I have seen all too much.
I have heard the view expressed (more than once) that people with extremely low paying jobs (e.g. hotel valets) are just not doing their best and trying hard enough – iften said with a tone of disgust. I am used to that view being thrown at the homeless. But, I am not used to that view being thrown at the gainfully employed – and I can’t sit with it (I can’t really dit with it with the homeless, but there we go). You know – I know someone who ‘cannot stand’ sign holders, valets at hotels, people with with these low-skill low-pay jobs. And the reasoning I get is:
“They are not even trying, they could do better”.
Really. REALLY??? You know their IQ? You know for sure it is high enough to ‘do better’? You know their mental health status? You know they are not cognitively crippled by extreme ADHD (with very low executive functioning skills) or some other? You know they didn’t experience some kind of horrendous deprivation / abuse in their life and it is damn amazing they face the world as they do. You know all this? You know their home-life, the neighborhood they grew up in, their school experiences and their personal skills to overcome any disadvantage. Because, you know what? We all have disadvantages, and we all have ones we can’t overcome. Some of us have health related issues that to others are ‘just another choice’. Is obesity ‘just another choice?” and if not, is having a ‘better’ job ‘just another choice’? Coz you know: society pays big for both.
Who are you to define what someone’s choice was? These are people who get up every day and do a job I would find soul destroying and drop out of. These are people employed by others who feel their job is useful. You hate sign holders?? They are apparently supporting the business growth I’ll bet you are mega in favour of encouraging. You hate hotel valets? Maybe they are helping the tourist industry your country needs. There is always a spectrum of wealth and earning. People will fall on both ends.
I’ll admit: before this trip, my attitude towards valets was ‘they are kind of irritating, because I hate saying no, but at least they hold down a job’. Then I traveled, alone, 8 months pregnant. And I changed my view. As I parked at the hotel I was like ‘holy heck, what would I do without a valet? I am high risk due to the excess amniotic fluid, it would be a terrible idea for me to carry my own (over packed) bags, and I would HATE to have to ask someone… I totally NEED this guy’. Heck, some people just want guys like this (and fair play to them) but I needed a valet. I felt bad I had been annoyed by valets in the past.
And then I began to think: if you are for trickle down economics – isn’t this the essence of it? If you take the traditional right-wing – what fits with your views? If hotels need valets, and it is a job that doesn’t pay enough to really make a life out of what can you do? (1) Demand businesses pay their valets A LOT more – but you don’t like that, right? You don’t want to add more financial burden to companies; (2) Allow them to be paid little, and people to choose to use the service and then make sure that it is a viable job option by providing welfare / tax breaks for these 47 %ers. Right? Because businesses deem these jobs as good for business. So you want (heck, I needed) the existence of low-skilled, low-paid jobs. But surely you don’t want to cripple people who have such jobs? Make it impossible to have a decent life, educate their kids, take care if their health, eat.
So please, stop looking at those who hold low-skilled, low-paid jobs as the scourge of society. Recognise their worth, don’t judge their choices ask you may ask that people don’t judge yours, and respect them. And, consider supporting someone who is holding a job and earning a honest $$ by using them – if you can.
Really, this post may seem pointless to some who are like “what is this rambling about respecting people we respect anyway”: let me say again, I have met more than one person who is disgusted by people holding such jobs. I hope that these people realise some people may actually be doing their best, and are providing a service that at least some people think is needed.
I’ve said it before and I will say it again: little more love people, little more love.
Gallery of 47 %-ers.