This is my response to the general theme of the negative comments from yesterday’s explosive post.
Let me just clarify that I am not speaking for Cathy, the author of the post. I am speaking only for myself, the owner of this blog and host of the discussion.
My response can be summed up quite simply. I don’t want your money. I don’t resent your money. I don’t care about your money.
I am lower middle class. I own my own business, as does my husband. His business is five years old. Mine is relatively new. I started it when I was laid off by corporate America. I realized the moment I got my pink slip that I had been handed freedom.
There are some consequences to this decision, and we accept them completely, just as we accept responsibility for making the decision to be small business owners.
We do not have health insurance. We cannot afford it. But we do pay our medical bills, in cash, at every appointment.
We do not have new cars. But the old beaters we have usually run, and for that we are thankful.
We do not have a large house. We have a house that fits our family and does not require a cleaning service. (After all, isn’t that what children are for?)
Our kids shop at discount clothing stores and goodwill. And that’s okay. They don’t mind, or even care.
We cut coupons and grow as much of our own food as we can on our urban lot.
We make ends meet, though some months it’s tight. And we are faced with the daily job of saying no to our children’s wants in favor of covering their needs.
It’s okay. We accept this. We made these choices. And every day, we work as hard as we can to fulfill our priorities – spending time with each other, eating good food, traveling once a year whether it’s a camping trip in Moab or a vacation in Costa Rica.
We count our blessings daily, and we have many. We are healthy, we have a home, our cars (usually) run, we have clothes and shoes and a bountiful garden. We have wonderful friends and fabulous neighbors and our children go to an amazing public school that is close enough for them to walk to. We have passports that allow us to see how people live all around the world.
Life is good.
That doesn’t mean it is easy. And that’s okay too. We come from backgrounds that have told us that hard work is necessary and that it will pay off in the end. We were raised to believe that hard work is its own form of reward. And it is. I love my job. I love what I do. And I know that am free to change my career at any point if that love should dry up, or if I decide I want money more than happiness.
So when people tell me, or try to imply, that I am some sort of Robin Hood stealing from the rich to give to the poor, or that I am engaging in class warfare because I think that all Americans should pay taxes, or that I’m an angry Liberal who wants cradle to grave handouts, my feathers get a little ruffled.
I don’t want handouts. I don’t blame the rich, or covet their money, or crave their vacation homes, third yachts and private jets. I just want them to be honest and admit that they are part of our society, not above it. And that they too rely on public sector infrastructure. Sure, their kids don’t go to public school, but their employees do. They still drive on publicly funded roads and bridges. They still call 911 and receive help from publicly funded police and firefighters.
I don’t believe it is unreasonable to ask that companies with over 50 employees offer those employees health insurance. If that means that you will only ever have 49 employees on your payroll, so be it. That leaves room for competition from people like me. People who want to run a business – yes, to make money – but also to help build and sustain my community.
I do not believe that asking the wealthy to pay the same rate of taxes as the middle-class is class warfare, or thievery. I believe it is social responsibility. I believe that if we truly want a functioning democracy rather than a corptocracy, we must acknowledge that having a healthy, educated citizenry is required. We must acknowledge that a parent working 2-3 jobs to make ends meet is not lazy if they cannot afford insurance. That they are not broken – the system is. We must acknowledge that we grossly underpay the people responsible for educating the next generation of citizens and that we have largely tied their hands with burdensome testing and poorly thought out standards under No Child Left Behind.
I do believe that there should be a social floor, below which no working American should be allowed to fall. I have been to countries where education is a privilege, not a right, and to countries where it is a responsibility, not a right. And I will fight to my dying breath to make America one of the latter. I will also fight to make America a nation where anyone seeking medical care can get it. I have been to countries where the government taxes the people, and pays for medical care, and to countries where the people themselves pay. I would be okay with either method, but paying a private profiteering company to look after my medical care seems insane. Insurance companies are not there to help us, they exist to make money. Their job is to deny our claims, not pay them.
Lastly, I do not believe Ann Romney, or Mitt Romney has even the slightest clue what the average American goes through every day. They have never, not for one single day, ever been average. They have never not had a safety net. They have never been afraid that their car would break down because if it did they wouldn’t be able to make their mortgage payment, or their child’s medical bills. They have never wondered where their next paycheck would come from, or if it would come in time.
The Obamas aren’t perfect. But they have never claimed to speak for me. And they both lived and worked as average Americans before working their way to where they are now. They have both paid their taxes and contributed to the nation that helped them get where they are today. If I have to vote for who I think has my best interests in mind, they will win every time. Because, unlike the Romneys, they have been here. They have walked in my shoes before. They have had to make hard choices, and they were raised by parents who had to make hard choices.
So no, I don’t want Romney’s money. I don’t want your money either. I just want us all to admit that we’re in this crazy boat together, and that we all have to pitch in to keep it afloat. I don’t understand what is so revolutionary about that. I’m not asking for charity. I’m asking for partnership.