Thursday, September 27, 2012

Agnes Bannigan's Voice

Dear Mitt Romney,

From 2006 to 2009, I was non-elderly (still am) with an annual income under $20,000. I paid income taxes but no federal taxes. According to you, I would have been an irresponsible victim. Except I wasn't, because I was a successful, responsible, independent graduate student, earning approximately $14,000/year for a teaching assistantship at a public university. Although I was technically employed by the state of Maryland, I earned the stipend by teaching University of Maryland students. Although technically the position was 20 hours a week, I worked more than 50 hours a week. I was lucky enough to receive health insurance through the university, to hold a babysitting job and tutoring positions to pay for extra expenses, and to have a family to help me as needed (and they did pay federal income taxes).

Over the three years I was in graduate school, I taught nearly 1,000 students. And I was just one of many, many graduate teaching assistants. For students who attend large public universities, a good part of their university education is made possible by graduate students who are too poor to pay income taxes but who work their asses off to improve their own lives, certainly, but also to contribute to the success of educational institutions, students, community, and countless fields of study.

Obama hadn't been in office the whole time, of course. But I did not need the government to take care of me, and I did not feel entitled to food, healthcare, and housing. I earned the income I received from the state and provided a service far beyond the compensation. To categorize all those who didn't or don't pay federal income taxes as victims, dependent, and entitled is bigoted. And it's insulting to generalize that everyone in the same group would cast a vote over these issues alone.

Now I work for a nonprofit teachers' association, and I continue to better our public education and the quality of our teachers. I would not have been able to provide this service, which is essential to our nation's future, without having first been in the 47%. I'm LUCKY to have been in the 47%.

Agnes Bannigan

Agnes P. Bannigan is a writer and editor with experience in teaching, content development, and publishing. She is a full-time editor at an educational book press and is working on her first collection of short stories. She holds a BA in English from Elon University and an MFA in creative writing from the University of Maryland. She lives in Washington, DC.