Dear Mitt Romney,
As a young girl with a bicultural heritage, I grew up between three worlds: the world of my wealthy maternal grandparents in New Jersey, the world of my paternal grandparents who lived in a small village in Northern India, and the world of my middle-income parents in a community near New York City. I was comfortable in all places: at the country club, at the bazaar, and at the town’s harbor park.
I learned that there are many ways to live. And they all have honor. And even though my parents sometimes struggled to make ends meet, the ends were always met.
But when I reached adulthood, life took me to a place where I didn’t think I would ever go—to the divorce court. And I had a three-year-old and no one to help out. I think people with privilege like to think that they can control all—their lives, their income, their families, their environment, their fellow beings—but they can’t. And life can take anyone to unexpected places in a second—into a hospital, into debt, into bankruptcy. Or just hovering above the poverty line, as I was, part of the dire national statistics for single women heading the household. I made juuuust enough to not qualify for government programs, but too little to pay government and state taxes. And I was grateful the government protected me and my son in that way.
But even though I was not paying those taxes, I was paying the state sales tax every time I bought something. I contributed to other people paying taxes, as I worked for companies that did, enabling them to make their bottom line. So you see, Mr. Romney, the 47% is still contributing to the economy and helping to keep others afloat (like yourself) so that they can pay their taxes. And believe me, we are more than happy to get to a place where we are making enough to contribute on our own. I don’t know anyone who says I’ll work for less so I can owe less. Owing less, for the lower-income class, means you have less. Everyone wants more.
I once spoke to a woman living on the streets. She had no job, begged for money, but was adamant that she still helped the economy every time she went into McDonald’s to buy her cup of coffee. She felt a sense of pride when she went into the store with her hard-earned cash (yes, what some have to do for spare change can be harder than what some do for millions in investments). She felt like she was contributing something. She wanted to contribute something.
We can’t get away from taxes, even on the streets.
Thanks for listening to this story, just one of millions.
Tara L. Masih
Tara L. Masih is editor of The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction (a ForeWord Book of the Year), The Chalk Circle: Intercultural Prizewinning Essays (a Skipping Stones Honor Book), and author of Where the Dog Star Never Glows (a National Best Books Award finalist). She has published fiction, poetry, and essays in numerous anthologies and literary magazines (including Confrontation, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Natural Bridge, The Pedestal, Night Train, and The Caribbean Writer), and several limited edition illustrated chapbooks featuring her flash fiction have been published by The Feral Press. Awards for her work include first place in The Ledge Magazine’s fiction contest and Pushcart Prize, Best New American Voices, and Best of the Web nominations. www.taramasih.com.