Today Romney made the comment that he’s not concerned with the very poor, because they have the safety nets they need, but if it has holes he’ll fix it. And he’s not concerned with the very wealthy because they’re doing just fine.
People got all up in arms about this comment because it’s not politically correct. You can’t just throw “half” of Americans away. First, the “rich” are the 1% right? The amount of people in the United States that are under the poverty line is about 15.1% according to a 2010 statistic from the Huffington Post. That’s about 16.1% of the population we’re talking about. So it’s not “half” of Americans. Most Americans aren’t “very poor” or “very rich”.
Now let me get to the heart of what I want to talk about.
I know what it’s like to be “very poor”. I was a waiter at Cracker Barrel for 5 years. I would also take classes at the local community college when I felt like it. Could I have gone more often? Sure, but I didn’t really want to. At the time, my brother was really suffering from depression and my parents kicked him out of the house to try and force him to make his own way in life or something. I’m not really sure why they did it to be honest. It didn’t make sense to me, but I took him in. I was living with roommates at the time and we shared a room, just as we had for most of our lives. For the first month or two, it was all he could do to just wake up and get around the house. He slowly improved and I was hopeful that someday he’d be able to function on his own and support himself.
The roommate we had who was in charge of money said the landlords needed to charge us extra for my brother to stay there, despite the fact we were in the same room. We ended up paying one and a half times the amount of money that the other three guys did. When the landlords came back from their Christian mission to try and sell the house, they found out for the first time that my brother and I had been living there. Turns out the roommate who was charging us extra was pocketing the money. Because they didn’t know we were there, they kicked us out. My brother and I lived in my car for a month so I could save enough money to put a down payment down on an apartment that was just the upstairs to a two story home. This was in the rougher part of town and we even had some drunk guys try to break into our apartment once and had to call the police. Luckily the station was only a few blocks way. It was during this time that our rent and everything started to be more than we could handle. My brother got food stamps for the first time and I shortly followed to ease the burden on my wallet, as I was covering most of our costs.
Eventually, my parents, who had moved out of the country to find work, asked us to live in their old home while they were gone and keep it in repair. At first this seemed like a great idea, but we soon found out that a 5 bedroom drafty house had a really high electricity bill come winter time. It alone was more than our rent and electricity was in our old apartment. It was everything I could do to keep my brother and I warm and fed. We reapplied for food stamps in the winter, because with the heating bill, we couldn’t pay for food and the electricity. Our water was turned off frequently as we had to pay it when I had the tips from my job to cover it. My brother tried to find work, but with his depression and mood swings, he often quit or was fired.
During this time I met my future wife online. She was a woman who had great sympathy for my situation. She listened to me and encouraged me. We spent hours on hours talking on the phone, Gmail Chat, Facebook, and web cam. I had quit my job after five years at Cracker Barrel because it literally brought me to tears just to walk in the doors. My brother was functional by that time for the most part though, and had a girlfriend who watched over him. He had friends and held down a job for a good period of time. I felt he was accountable for his own decisions and I could leave him to fend for himself in the world. I decided to move to Irving, Texas to actually be with this girl who had been so wonderful to me and to try and turn around my life thanks to her and God and little bit of my own faith.
I moved to Irving, Dallas to live with roommates that I had never before met, but were of my same faith. My parents had agreed to help pay for me to drive down to Irving in my old Oldsmobile Cutlass that upon arriving in Texas, immediately began overheating. Turns out it needed a new radiator fan and water pump. My parents were kind enough to help me out, but just a short time later, it was stolen out of my girlfriend’s parking lot. I begged my friends to drive me to work every day and my girlfriend would pick me up at 11pm each night and drive me home until I found a way to get a new car. I managed to find work through a temp agency testing motherboards for Dell and HP. I was also taking classes online with my community college to earn my associates degree.
After two semesters, I had a “new” car, an associates degree, and was engaged to my wife. I transferred to the University of Texas at Dallas and automatically qualified because of my GPA. I had finally gotten tired of testing motherboards so I started applying to more jobs and was able to land one being a computer technician for a start up company in Dallas. It was a salaried position, my first ever, and I worked there for about three months finishing my associates online before transferring to UTD. He was kind enough to let me stay on part time as I worked for my Software Engineering degree.
I’m paying for school primarily with Pell Grants and State Grants. I married my wife in June of 2010 and we’re very happily married so far. I’m not sure if the Pell Grants and state grants will continue this year, as my wife is an elementary school teacher and we make decent money together, but I was able to repay all my debts and greatly restore my credit rating, so if loans are needed, we’re in a decent position to take on small amounts of debt. As of right now, we have money in the bank and are grateful for all the blessings that we’ve received through God’s grace and through the generosity of government.
The point of this blog isn’t to ask for pity or for sympathy. It’s to show that the “very poor” in America aren’t helpless. It’s to show that Mitt Romney saying the social programs that support the very poor are fine and he’s not worried about us shouldn’t bother people. They do work. I’m proof of that. I’ve lived around people who just squat on the government dole. I used it as intended and my life is greatly improved because of it. Let me point out that this was during the Obama years and the answer to the question: “Am I better off than I was four years ago?” is a resounding yes. But I support Mitt Romney because I think he exemplifies the American Dream. He’s who I hope I can be. He’s who I’m working to become similar to. I also aspire to his business acumen, his repeated successes and his work ethic.
The American Dream is alive and well. Romney embodies it well. The “very poor” don’t need your sympathy and don’t care if Romney is politically correct or not. The fate of individuals, in America, are in those individuals hands and I’m so grateful for the programs that are in place in America to help those of us who fall on hard times recover and achieve our dreams.
God Bless Mitt Romney. He’s a shining example of what one can achieve in America.