I am the 47 Percent, Mr. Romney

"All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that's an entitlement.”      -Mitt Romney, 2012

Dear Mr. Romney,

After I graduated from high school in 1992, I was on my own. I mean really on my own – with no help from my mother, who was on welfare, and no help from my father, who had more important things to do, like take cruises that were featured on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. Fast forward to today and here I am:  an independent voter with an Ivy League Master's degree and a wary eye on both presidential candidates.  And I have a story to tell that I think you need to hear.

Without support from anyone, I set out after high school to have a better life. I worked two jobs, all while attending college full time. But that didn’t cover all of my expenses. So I took out government-subsidized loans, received Pell Grants, and qualified for my state’s work/study program. Thanks to this much-needed support from the state and federal government, I became the first person in my family to earn a bachelor’s degree.

What did I do after college? Realizing how lucky I was to have a solid foundation for my future, an education, I decided to go abroad to serve in the Peace Corps. I did this because I wanted to exemplify the best of our country. I wanted to show that Americans were not greedy, superficial conquistadors seeking to McDonalds-ize the world. As a 23-year-old, I believed that the best way to do this was to show my new community in Radom, Poland that, even as an American I had much to learn from their language, culture, and history.

I tell you all of this not to make you feel like a spoiled capitalist and not to portray myself as some left-wing socialist. I say this because were it not for the government assistance I received as a young adult, there is a good chance that I too would have ended up on welfare like my mother later on. I too might have ended up a teenage parent. And I too would have been part of that 47 percent you so glibly trampled on during your speech at a campaign fundraising event.

I know, I know, I paid taxes the whole time so I'm not technically part of the large chunk of Americans you're condemning. But I am someone who grew up way under the poverty line, just like the people you're callously referring to as "victims." Trust me, Mr. Romney, there are a lot of words to describe my childhood, and "entitled" is not one of them. Not by a long shot.

I didn’t want to be poor, Mr. Romney. But I didn’t have much of a choice because of the family I was born into and the harsh circumstances I had to contend with as a kid. Today, I don’t belong to any political party. I observe both Republicans and Democrats and ask myself: which candidate would look at a poor, scrappy girl from Tannersville, PA and see her potential? Which one would invest in her future so she doesn’t become a statistic?

You see, it’s my contention that kids don’t want to be poor. Kids don’t want to be abandoned or neglected by parents who are too selfish, screwed up, incompetent, clueless, or sick to give a shit about them. Call me crazy, but I think most kids want a life that lets them eventually pay their bills and feel safe in their communities. When you look at the policies you’re promoting, Mr. Romney, are they for the kids who won't have a chance unless our elected leaders care about their future?

Thanks for hearing me out. And please remember: I’m an independent voter and I’m pretty much fed up with both political parties these days. This is not an attack on you, Republicans, freedom, America, or anything else. This is just a reminder that those of us who come from poverty are more than a statistic. We're more than the 47 percent who don’t deserve your time.


Wendy Widom


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