On Romney: A View From A “Very Poor” American

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.


27 thoughts on “On Romney: A View From A “Very Poor” American

  1. Read some of your other blogs and agree. You might like my numerology analysis on both The Grinch and Mitt. Can read at my blog: http://www.barbaraferrell.blogspot.com. “Newt GinGRINCH on the Numbers Couch,” and “Romney – Good Qualities Media Ignores.” In more than 140 characters: I agree with Gov Romney’s statement, just worried Left and Right media will use against him, for whatever their agendas are, as not being in touch with average people, that he is somehow against poor people. That is not my take on him at all. My take is that he actually LIKES people. But, saying he isn’t worried about poor people was awkward. I’ll state my concerns in a letter with my measley check to Mitt. Thanks for pointing out my own awkward comment on Twitter. Didn’t know I was reading your blog. Thought it was a retweet. All the best to you. LOL, Barbara. PS: Been there too in my own scenariio. So many have.

    • Thanks Barbara! I appreciate your comments, they’re always fun to get. I’ll check out your blog for sure!

    • scotty says:

      Please feel free to use any of this to help counter the sick twist on Romneys statement.
      I’m not understanding all the fuss over Romney’s statement today – “I’m not concerned about the very poor,” he said. “There’s a safety net there, and if it needs repair I’ll fix it. I’m not concerned about the very rich, they’re doing just fine. I’m concerned about the heart of America, the 95% of Americans who are right now struggling.”

      He’s right, there is a safety net right now for the very poor. And when the economy turns around, the very poor also have more opportunity. But what gets me more is that Obama and Newt attempted to paint Romney as “insensitive” today.

      … Here’s what I find “insensitive” and out of touch and uncaring –

      Romney charitable donations in 2010 – 14% of his income.
      Obama charitable donations in 2010 – 1% of his income.
      Newt charitable donations in 2010 – 2.6% of his income

      And Romney’s estimated 2011 percentage is 19%.

      The only misstep Romney did on the poor, is thinking his challengers to the White House actually care put their money where there mouth is…or actually act, instead of just pander.

  2. peter says:

    idiots…ALL OF YOU

  3. Kathy says:

    I tend to agree. People need to help themselves and utilize the programs out there for them. We all have to have personal accountability. Right now, it’s those that fall in between the very poor and the very rich who are not getting any help and Mitt Romney is correct about that.

  4. Christy says:

    Thanks for your post. Totally agree. Too many people have lost sight of the fact the “American Dream” takes a lot of hard work to accomplish. Way to go – in utilizing the system to better your life. Thanks for contextualizing Romney’s statement in a realistic manner.

    • Christy, thanks so much for your comment. I appreciate you taking the time to do so. It really means a lot to me. The American Dream is the best thing in the world, and I refuse to let the media or other vilify it to make a political sting, especially on Romney.

  5. hillplus says:

    I really enjoyed your comments and I am pretty sure that you would agree with me that the things one learns about resourcefulness and the resilience of the human spirit are invaluable. I know that my ‘down and out’ years taught me great things.

  6. If you think this is an example of the very poor, your dreaming. I was “poor” in college too. But that’s very different from being poor while working full-time, becoming poor due to domestic violence or divorce, or disability. That’s nothing like the poverty experienced by people without an education making them eligible for college. When your only choice is to make minimum wage, if you even qualify for food stamps or “welfare” (which I don’t even think people know what that term means), your entire life can be consumed just treading water.
    The American Dream is not alive and well for everyone.

  7. Inspector Fu says:

    This anecdote leaves two thoughts for me:

    1. These situations are remedied by social programs (the seen)
    2. These social programs are only necessary because of problems caused by other policies. (the unseen)

  8. Larry Lawton says:

    Thanks for the article. My story’s like yours. I was the child of a teen-age waitress and a railroad clerk, but they stayed married and taught us to value the American dream. I was the first in my family to graduate from a university, which I did with two jobs in the summer, one during the school year. With loans and a working wife, I got a law degree, and (but for choosing public service) would have easily been in the 1%.
    There is a way out, and there is a way up. I know. I took that road.

    • Thanks Larry! I knew a lot of kids while working at Cracker Barrel who’s parents were working with me. A lot of single/divorced moms that were going to college and breaking out of the trap themselves. It’s a great thing to see. Thanks for telling us your story!

  9. What an amazing and inspiring strory. I’m really looking forward to reading more of your posts!

  10. You are a gifted writer. What a wonderful and inspiring blog! Thanks for sharing and dont stop writing because you have a gift!

  11. damainvincent says:

    really, Romney never started off poor, and never considered a middle class income anything more than pocket change. He embodies the rich getting richer while the poor fight over what he considers table scraps, after many of our jobs are now in china due to the government and the leg men like Romney. These are the people who sold away our manufacturing economy and turned us into a service based economy, making all of us poorer, while getting filthy rich himself. Sitting on the board of a company committing millions in medicaid fraud, taking worker pensions while reaping tens of millions of profits from the company. You guys are nuts to support this guy, I don’t see a winner here at all, after all both Obama and Romney supported Government mandates, Cap and trade, Tax hikes or ‘fees’ as Romney calls em, Gun bans, abortion even. I’m a lifelong (R) even was a delegate before, and I will not vote for Romney I know many like me too. Sure we don’t like Obama, but whats the point in embarrassing ourselves with a Republican version. That’s what he is despite all his current rhetoric, words are cheep look at Romney’s actions to see who he is.

    • You obviously don’t know as much about Romney as you think you do. I would encourage you to look at his years going to college and before he got hired at Bain. Read the stories about the frugality of Mr. Romney. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

  12. Andres says:

    Thanks for this post, you have a story that I have seen happen over and over again in my years in this the greatest country on earth. I am an immigrant and have been here for 22 years, came here to go to school and get an education and then go back to Venezuela but Chavez won the year I graduated and I am thankful that me and my wife decided to stay here. My first car was a 1974 Dodge Dart and I bought it the second month after getting here, we lived in a one bedroom apartment with our first son and our girl was born while there. Now we live in our own house and have two cars, our girl is married and buying a condo with her husband and our oldest is getting married in May. I also used government help to get us started and that is what is supposed to be, a safety net. Maybe Mitt should have not said the words “I’m not concerned” but what he said IS TRUE!!!

    I live in Utah and I had the great privilege of volunteering for the olympics and saw Mitt’s competence and leadership skills first hand and that’s why I don’t have a problem with his comments and why I support him.

  13. I’m poor too, & have been most of the last 20 years or so, & I’m honestly happier living in poverty than I ever was when I had money. I’d rather be happy. I had no problem with anything Mitt Romney said, I think he gets us & will work with us to fix the holes in that net.

    You’re in my prayers.
    @TheOtherRosie on Twitter.

  14. DIGISPY says:

    All you Romney supporters do realize the Republicans want to cut and privatize the safety net for the very poor? Have you even read the Ryan Plan Romney supports? If that Romney’s idea of how to fix it when it needs repair (which the Repulicans have been arguing it does, immediately, now), everyone leveraging the safety net is in trouble.

    The guy who wrote the well-written blog post leveraged the government safety programs to uplift himself (food stamps, pell grants, etc). Yet says he will vote in November against the very things that helped him. It wasn’t God, it was Government.

    People come on… Open your freaking eyes and stop voting against your own interests!!!

    • Hey 🙂 Thanks for the comments. Nothing in Paul Ryan’s plan would stop what I did from being able to be accomplished, and Romney is fine with the safety net as is.

      As far as God goes, the profound effect turning to back to my religion was profound. Help appeared that had theretofore be absent. Peace, assurance, faith, courage etc. were all added to me. The government helped a lot, but truth be told, it was God that really rescued me.

      • DIGISPY says:

        If you really believe Romney won’t cut pell grants and food stamps (Republicans call those programs “welfare”, remember?), while Republicans try to privatize Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, unfortunately you have your eyes closed. Congrats on your uplifting story. Please make sure to thank a Democrat for your full stomach and new degree because without their support, those programs you depended on would have been killed by Republicans years ago.

      • Paul Ryan’s plan does cut federal funding for SNAP or food stamps over 10 years, and creates personal savings accounts instead of just one big pot to share, but neither of those things “kills” or eliminates the programs I’m talking about.

        It reins in government spending, shrinks the national budget and are steps to a well balanced budget, something Democrats seem to not realize exists.

        That said, I’m an independent. I do think some social programs are good for our country and I especially favor government help with education. When education was privatized, only the rich could afford it and now, most private schools aren’t better than public schools. Schools should be paying a lot more to attract more highly skilled teachers. Being married to one, persuing her masters is one example of a good teacher vs. her coworker that hates her job and is trying to find work outside the teaching profession even as she teaches kids everyday in our schools.

        Romney is a moderate. He sees both sides. I’m fine with that. He’s a good starting point. Mitt has also said that he doesn’t 100% support the Ryan plan but it’s a starting point. So forgive me if I have a little more hope and a less cynical attitude than you do on Romney.

        He is the big flip flopper right? Are you suddenly afraid he might have a couple views that lean a little Democrat?

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