Friday, September 21, 2012

Dean Bakopoulos's Voice

Dear Mitt Romney,

Here is the simplest way I can describe you: You destroy lives. You have done this, albeit in a cowardly and indirect way, for a living and for most of your life. You have done this as a means of pursuing more wealth. To you the American worker is so much overhead, not an individual but a thing to be managed and reduced when maximizing profits dictate such reductions.

We have a social safety net in this country because of people like you. Because when the Wall Street scandals and manipulations of 1929 and 1982 and 1989 and 2008 destroy the economy—eliminating jobs, defunding the public sector, and crashing the real estate market—we need something to save the working people, the ones you have recently roasted as dependent, lazy, and irresponsible people you “can’t worry about.”

In 2008, my mother, suffering from bad health herself after thirty-five years as a schoolteacher (she retired early to care for her elderly parents) began to fall behind on her mortgage payments. She wanted to sell her home, but the very modest place, which she’d bought for a reasonable sum of $139K in 2004, was now worth less than fifty thousand dollars. She tried to negotiate with her bank, which had earned interest on our family’s savings account since 1955, refused to restructure her mortgage, because the financial collapse has turned all banks into fortresses inaccessible to working people.

Without social security, Medicare, and her teachers’union pension, my mother, too ill to work, would have been homeless. I would have helped her out, but in 2008, I too lost my day job and soon after sold my own home for a huge loss, decimating any savings I had. I cashed in a 401K and won a Guggenheim Fellowship just as that was gone, an answered prayer, and this saved me and my wife and small children until I could find work and publish my next novel. But most working people don’t have 401ks and novel advances, nor do they win Guggenheims out of the blue. (All of these things I paid a great deal of income taxes on that year, of course, despite also taking a big loss on my house. All this while never missing a payment on my credit cards and student loans).

I was unbelievably lucky. I scraped out of it, and though am still struggling some months, I believe in a brighter future. Most people look down from these precipices and see only an abyss. You have no idea.

We have a safety net in this nation so the victims of your world, a world you seem so disgustingly comfortable in—the world of tax-dodging CEOs and trust fund chums—have a place to fall when you destroy things in your quest for greedy, unregulated wealth. We do not have a safety net in spite of you; we have one, Mr. Romney, because of you.

--Dean Bakopoulos

Dean Bakopoulos is the author of two novels, Please Don't Come Back from the Moon and My American Unhappiness, and has just completed a third book. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and a National Endowment for the Arts award of $25,000, which he used to pay his income tax bill in 2006. A former conservative Republican newspaper columnist, he now lives in a small town in central Iowa.