My parents were both orphaned young, though they were fortunate to have family members who took them in and raised them. Before he was able to finish college, my father went off to fight World War II. My mother skipped college too, instead taking a job at Hammermill Paper Company, a wartime replacement for a man who was also headed overseas.
Once my father returned, he was scarred by the war and suffered those scars in many ways, so he never did manage to finish his degree, but he was always able to hold down a job, as an auto mechanic, and later in a steel foundry, until cancer hit him hard at age 60. He had paid into social security for more than forty years at that point, but only pulled out two years’ worth of benefits before he died.
My mother worked almost her entire life, with a few gaps to raise her three children, and she lived into her eighties. She had a small amount saved, but social security is primarily what made it possible for her to eat, to have shelter, and to visit yard sales, where most of her purchases were under two dollars. She took out less than she had paid in, but thank goodness it was there.
As for myself, I was on food stamps in my early twenties, for about six months, or about $1,000 in total benefits. But I’ve been paying payroll taxes and income taxes for thirty-five years now, and at a higher rate than you, I can’t help but notice.
There are no free-loaders in my family, Mitt. No one who feels entitled. We’ve worked like hell, and we appreciate the few times we needed the government to step in and hold us in place until we could get back to work. I am proud of my parents, for their struggles, for their small bits of success, and for my father’s military service. I am proud of myself, for paying the taxes that allow us to have roads, water, social services, and safety nets.
I can’t fault you for being born into such privilege, Mitt Romney, but I can and do fault you for seeming to think that your privileged entry into the world makes you better than the rest of us. You aren’t better, you are just damn lucky.
I hope that luck runs out this November.
Dinty W. Moore is author of numerous books, including The Mindful Writer: Noble Truths of the Writing Life, Crafting the Personal Essay: A Guide for Writing and Publishing Creative Nonfiction, and the memoir Between Panic & Desire, winner of the Grub Street Nonfiction Book Prize. H recently edited THE ROSE METAL PRESS FIELD GUIDE TO WRITING FLASH NONFICTION: Advice and Essential Exercises from Respected Writers, Editors, and Teachers.
Having failed as a zookeeper, modern dancer, Greenwich Village waiter, filmmaker, and wire service journalist, he now writes essays and stories. He has been published in The Southern Review, The Georgia Review, Harpers, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, The Philadelphia Inquirer Magazine, Gettysburg Review, Utne Reader, and Crazyhorse, among numerous other venues.
Dinty lives in Athens, Ohio, the funkadelicious, hillbilly-hippie Appalachian epicenter of the locally-grown, locally-consumed, goats-are-for-cheese, paw-paws-are-for-eatin’, artisanal-salsa, our-farmers-market-rocks-the-hills sub-culture, where he grows his own heirloom tomatoes and edible dandelions, and teaches a crop of brilliant undergraduate and stunningly talented graduate students as director of Ohio University’s BA, MA, and PhD in Creative Writing program. More at: dintywmoore.com.