Thursday, September 20, 2012

Ed Falco's Voice

Dear Mitt—

Congratulations on having managed to insult just about everyone in America by claiming that 47% of us are dependent upon the government and won’t take responsibility for our own lives.  You were referring, mostly, to the elderly, the poor, and the disabled who make use of government services but don’t contribute by paying federal incomes taxes.  The elderly, of course, most likely paid federal income taxes during the long expanse of their working lives, and some of the disabled got that way fighting in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan.  And the poor . . .  Really?  Are you complaining that folks with incomes under $20,000 a year aren’t paying taxes beyond what’s automatically deducted from their pay checks?  Oh, but, by now many many voices have spoken up about the unfairness of your comments.  My point is this: though you meant to divide the country by insulting the integrity of anyone who, for any reason, isn’t currently paying federal income taxes but is using government services, and to suggest that these people who you can’t convince to “take personal responsibility and care for their lives” are a burden carried by all the rest of us, you wound up insulting just about everyone who hasn’t had the advantage of growing up wealthy.  In my case, I paid for college with low-interest, government-supported loans.  Back then, long before I started paying federal income taxes, I was part of the 47% you have apparently given up on caring about.  These days I have several older relatives who depend on social security and take advantage of tax breaks for the elderly. Interestingly, some of these folks are Republicans, and some are far-right leaning Republicans, who support your candidacy.  (Or at least they used to support your candidacy.)  Something like 97% of us aren’t rich, Mitt, and so we have at some point in our lives taken advantage of government policies designed to give all of us the opportunity to succeed, or we have friends, family, or loved ones who are aided by government programs designed to help them live good, healthy, decent lives.  The vast majority of us, I believe, don’t mind paying federal income taxes that provide opportunities for others to succeed, or to help those struggling to live good lives.  In fact, we’re happy to help, and feel blessed that we’re in a position to do so.  And, listen Mitt, even the rich may have at some point in the history of their families been the beneficiaries of a government that believes we’re all in it together and should help each other out whenever possible.  Here’s a quote you might recognize, uttered by a woman looking into a TV camera.  She says, “We’ve only owned our home for the last few years,” and goes on, talking about her husband, to say “He was a refugee from Mexico.  He was on relief—welfare relief—for the first years of his life, but this great country gave him opportunities.”  That, of course, is your mother speaking, Mitt.  You should listen to her.  And then you should apologize to the whole nation.

-- Ed Falco

Ed Falco's latest book is The Family Corleone, a novel based on material excerpted from screenplays by Mario Puzo. He's the author of three short story collections, most recently Burning Man, and four other novels. He is also a playwright.