Sunday, September 23, 2012

Diane Robert's Voice

Dear Mr. Romney,

I think it’s great that you went to Harvard; I like that you speak French; I have no problem with you owning a million dollar Oldenburg mare, a couple of Cadillacs, three or four mansions and a Swiss bank account. But your dismissal of nearly the half the country as  no ‘count sorry critters who pay no income tax and expect the rest of us to take care of them, is not merely offensive. It’s unAmerican. It’s ignorant.

You were more or less correct when you told the well-wined Republicans of Boca Raton that 47 percent of the citizenry pay no federal income tax. It’s actually 46 percent, according to the IRS, but we’ll not quibble. The thing is, see, they pay plenty of other taxes: sales taxes (often more than 10 percent), social security taxes, Medicare taxes, gas taxes, county and city taxes. Forty-three states impose their own income tax, too. Remember your trip to Mississippi in March? (Hint: that’s where you tasted those delicious “cheesy grits”). Mississippi imposes a state income tax which hits people making less than $12,000 a year. Indeed, the poorest 20 percent pay twice the tax rate of the top 1 percent. In Alabama, the state income tax kicks in for a single parent with two children at below $10,000 a year. Have you ever tried to feed a couple of kids on ten grand a year? You spend more than that on horse chow.  

Mr. Romney: you’re convinced you pull in $57,000 a day because you were smarter or more hard working than everyone else. The truth is, you were lucky–lucky to be born into a wealthy family and educated at a top-notch prep school, lucky to be white in a country where racism still holds too many of us back. You got four draft deferments. When your contemporaries were dying in Vietnam, you were trying to convert the French to Mormonism. Your idea of hardship was having to sell off some of your American Motors stock while you were at Harvard. Yet you sneer at those you say feel “entitled” to such luxuries as food, housing and medical care. The people you so blithely dismiss teach America’s children, sweep America’s floors, fight fires, fight crime, grow our food. Many are elderly, living on the social security money they paid into over a lifetime. Many are veterans, who put their lives on the line for this country.

You’re the one acting entitled. You’re the one who confuses good fortune with accomplishment.  You call yourself a Christian. I suggest you re-read the New Testament. Take note of what Jesus says about the responsibility of the rich toward the poor in Luke 14, say, or Matthew 25: 40–“And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

Diane Roberts

Diane Roberts writes for the Guardian, the Tampa Bay Times, Prospect Magazine, and the Oxford American. A professor at Florida State University, her commentaries appear on NPR and the BBC, and her most recent book is Dream State, a political family history of Florida.