A reader writes:
My mother gave birth to me at 18, went to college while raising me, got a BA, Masters and PhD by taking out student loans. She worked for 15 years to pay those back and help me go to college. When I was 21, she became very ill and has been on SSI for almost 12 years now. I have worked and paid taxes since I was 17 years old, and for the last six have paid federal income tax at the highest bracket possible with virtually no cap gains. After federal, state and city I get roughly 60 cents of every dollar. If she hadn't sacrificed the way she did, there is no way I'd be where I am today.
I pay a lot in taxes. I am happy to do so, because I know that in some small way my money goes to, among many things, people like my mother. I understand there are people out there who are gaming the system, but I'm willing to accept that knowing that people like my mother – good decent people who have had a tough time of it, and perhaps don't have sons sending them help every month – are being taken care of.
At first I didn't think Romney's comments were any big deal, but then I realized he was talking about me, and so many Americans like me. Then I felt insulted. My father died at age 42 after a four-year battle with extremely aggressive MS, when I was 10. Our family was financially ruined.
My mom, my older brother and I lived off his SSDI survivor benefits and help from my mom's family. My mom received the benefit until I was 16. Us kids received the benefit until we graduated from high school, me for eight years. My mom put herself through community college and found a good job. My brother graduated high school and joined the military. I graduated and went to college. The point is that we would have been destitute without the SSDI benefit, and I'm sure we didn't pay much in taxes for several years. The government benefit, which my dad paid into, did exactly what it was supposed to do – keep us afloat until we could take care of ourselves.
And that we have done. We've gone on to have good careers. I now proudly pay over twice as much tax, as a percentage of my income, as Gov. Romney does. I've not done the math, but I'm sure that the income and payroll taxes my dad paid before he died and the taxes my mom, brother, and I have paid – and continue to pay – more than make up for the years we lived on SSDI. I would have given up that benefit any day to have my dad back. It was not a political decision to take that benefit, and my first presidential vote for Bush in 1992 was not leveraged by whether or not he was going to keep me on the dole.
I feel sorry for Romney. I truly think that he and those who surround him simply don't understand how most Americans live.
I guess I'm one of the 47% that Romney rails about. I didn't know I was "lazy" when I was six years old picking strawberries, beans and cherries every summer until I was old enough to work on a farm with cattle, pigs, and spearmint. I didn't make enough in a summer to pay federal tax but my paycheck did include payroll taxes. Likewise, working through college and grad school I never made enough to pay fedeal taxes. But many jobs were paid "in kind", such as free meals at the Student Union in exchange for washing dishes or waiting tables at the fraternity for a place to sleep.
If I "mooched" on anyone it was those good people who helped me find jobs like babysitting a computer system all night (so no need to spend money on rent). Or it was my parents who held a single GED and worked four jobs between them but sent five children and four grandchildren to college and beyond. My computer experience led to a charmed career in international marketing of IT, where I traveled the world and got paid for it! Believe me I was not happy to pay A LOT of taxes of all kinds for over 30 years but I certainly understood why it was the right thing to do.
And when after five decades I had to stop working for health reasons, I am thrilled that Obama passed the stimulus, longer UI, subsidized COBRA, ObamaCare, etc. – and even brought my portfolio back to life. Thanks to those lifelines, my wife and I now run a vacation rental in such a way to bring joy to hundreds of our guests. But the business doesn't yet run a profit so we don't pay income taxes yet.
So my count is I paid federal income taxes in just 30 of 53 working years in my nearly six decades of life. Thanks to Mittens I'll remember that I'm a lazy, irresponsible 47-percenter when I clean the toilet bowl in the guesthouse tonight.
End of rant.