“Dear President Ford” was the salutation I read over my father’s shoulder thirty-eight years ago this month. He was writing to protest Gerald Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon, whose crimes seem relatively benign now, compared to subsequent presidential duplicities such as Iran-Contra or phantom WMDs. My father wrote to the President because he believed in the democratic process. He may have held this quaint belief because he was one of the 47%.
My father’s family arrived in this country as refugees in 1939. They came with no money and spoke no English. They were resettled in America at government expense--the moochers--and various placement services—more taxpayer dollars down the drain—helped them make a new start in a new land.
Ten years later and living in New York, my father attended Queens College. This was part of the City University of New York system that, from 1847 until New York’s budget crisis in 1975, charged no tuition. A more upstanding approach would have been to take on backbreaking loans and pay tuition to a for-profit school such as the University of Phoenix, whose CEO makes millions annually while graduating 9% of his students. But such fine private institutions as this did not exist then, and my father, the parasite, used public money to improve himself.
One would think that with two strikes against him, my father would have been done mooching. But having cadged a free degree from New York, now he turned to Uncle Sam. Having served in the Army, my father went to grad school on the GI Bill. Had he been a true patriot, he would have rejected that benefit in the spirit of smaller government, and like you, Mitt, paid for school, as your wife said, “by selling off stock a little at a time.” Thank goodness today’s vets, who continue to drain us through the post-9/11 GI Bill, can be brought into line by the tough love of congressional Republicans. Last week these vigilant lawmakers wisely shot down a veterans’ jobs bill—after all, vets got an all-expenses paid holiday in the desert, and maybe a college degree, on the necks of the taxpayers. It’s time these moochers finally gave something back to their country.
Having sucked the teat of the taxpayer on and off until he was twenty-five, you would think my father could have at least become a banker, or if private equity firms had existed in his time, a centimillionaire. Instead he became one of those moochers that Paul Ryan’s blonder brother from a different mother, Dan Quayle, derided for loafing in faculty lounges--a college professor. Real patriots, of course, loaf on golf courses. Instead of creating wealth by firing people, my deadbeat father inspired thousands of students to become moochers—to seek financial aid and go into parasitic fields like linguistics and literature, not job-creating ones like corporate raiding and risk arbitrage.
Mitt, my father’s name was John Kronik. He was an immigrant and an Army veteran. He was a PhD, a speaker of four languages, and he only owned one home in his life—which makes him a failure among the $50,000 a plate set—and of course he paid for it by mooching off the mortgage tax deduction. You may pay for your multiple homes the new-fashioned way, with cash, Mitt, and you may be in the 53%, but you’re no John Kronik. And I hope I never have to start a letter with “Dear President Romney.”
Geoff Kronik is a writer from Brookline, MA with a recent MFA degree from Warren Wilson College. My fiction and essays have appeared in Salamander, The Lancet, Opium, SmokeLong Quarterly and elsewhere.