What we owe and what we deserve

Everybody’s talking today about this video of Mitt Romney telling a group of donors how he really feels about nearly half the American populace. Please take a minute to give it a listen so that rest of this post will make sense.

What upsets me is Mr. Romney’s apparent assumption that anyone who votes for Obama is, by definition, a freeloader who is sucking on the government tit. I am a life-long registered Democrat who leans to the left socially and to the right fiscally. As such, I do (somewhat gingerly) support Obama–he’s not done all he promised he would do, of course, and his tenure has certainly had its failures and disappointments. However, I am a Democrat and he’s our man. Also, and this is important: I am not on the government dole in any way.

I have never used food stamps, never been on any kind of welfare, didn’t take the “tax credit” (a loan in disguise) for which I was eligible when I bought my house in 2008, didn’t participate in the “Cash for Clunkers” program, and have not in any other way expected or accepted an “entitlement” from the government. Even so, I have gotten a small tax refund every year but one that I have ever filed taxes, so perhaps Mr. Romney counts me among the 47% of Americans who “don’t pay taxes”?

[Aside: One year I had to pay a few hundred dollars because my small business had a good year, and I considered it an indicator of my success that I had made enough that I was required to pay taxes–to give something back.]

I believe that “government of the people, by the people and for the people” has to be paid for by those same people. “We the people” must each contribute our fair share (I know, even that is a loaded term, but let’s stipulate that fair is fair for the sake of this discussion) toward supporting the functions of democratic government: “establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” So I don’t have a problem paying my fair share of taxes, and don’t understand why everyone who enjoys those “blessings of liberty” and so forth doesn’t feel the same. We want government to do things for us: build our roads, protect our waterways, educate our children, defend our borders (among thousands of other responsibilities). Regardless of how well one believes these mandates are being carried out, the fact remains that governments are enacted primarily to “promote the general welfare” and as such, contributing to the nation’s funding is a responsibility of every citizen. We owe one another that because we’re all in this together.

And here’s another fact: EVERYBODY PAYS TAXES. Sales tax, gas tax, utility tax, income tax, property tax, inheritance tax, luxury tax, capital gains tax, you name it–everybody pays something, somewhere, some time because, like death, there’s simply no escaping it. So Mr. Romney is mistaken is saying that 47% of the American people only take from the community chest without contributing anything to it. Have I paid taxes every single year of my working life? You bet. I have always felt it was my duty and I have always been glad to do my little part to promote the general welfare. Those of us who get refunds from the government every year get them because we paid more than our fair share of income tax already and the difference actually is owed to us.

This statement is so offensive on so many levels that I cannot help but reject everything else the speaker has to say out of hand because he is willing to tar me and a lot of other decent, honorable, hard-working, independent American citizens with a very ugly brush. If he truly doesn’t care about me and millions of people like me, what right does he have to ask to be our president? What does he know of my responsibility, of my care for my own life as well as that of my family, my neighborhood, my city, my state, my country and my planet? Not one thing.

This is simply hate speech masquerading as political rhetoric. I hope this country will have the decency not to elect as its leader a man who disdains so many of us so deeply. We deserve better.

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