Thursday, September 20, 2012

I'm Part of the 47%...

A few days ago a video of presidential candidate Mitt Romney was released with some rather shocking statements including:

"...there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that 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...These are people who pay no income tax....I'll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives"
More than anything I was saddened by these comments and I thought I would share my own journey in the 47%. My husband and I are both college educated. He has a bachelor of science degree and I have a masters degree from an Ivy League University.

We supported ourselves through college and are the first in each of our respective immediate families to complete college degrees. We graduated with an immense amount of student loans, but as we took those out to complete our educations we weren't worried. We had a plan in place which would allow us to pay them back and we were confident in our ability to manage our money long term. We were obtaining education a promise to a brighter future right?

However, when we graduated in 2010, with one year old twins, reality sunk in. The economy was at an all time low, and we finished our educations with no job prospects in sight. We spent the next several months applying for positions all over the country, and I found a full-time job paying $30,000 which utilized my degrees and would be a stepping stone in my career. I jumped at the chance.

In addition to my full-time job I also took a part time job tutoring low income kids to bring in some extra money so we could afford the basics we needed to survive. 

Marcus, continued his search for a job in his field, even pursuing an extra certification to make him more competitive in the job field. However, a job did not come despite the many, many  applications he submitted.

In the meantime we had to do something about insurance for Eli & Emerson. Eli and Emerson were premature and in their early years had several medical, occupational, and physical therapy concerns that needed to be evaluated and treated.

With no other option we enrolled Eli & Emerson in medicaid, and thank goodness we did as both Eli & Emerson were in the E.R. that year with Emerson being admitted to the hospital for 3 nights for RSV and Pneumonia. Without medcaid those bills would have been impossible for us to pay.

During this first year post-college Marcus went without insurance and we prayed that we would avoid calamity, which aside from a visit to urgent care (my church generously paid this bill) we did. 

At the end of the year, I was delighted to learn that I would be given my first pastoral appointment in church. The down-side was this was only a part-time position, but since we were being provided housing we thought that though tight we would be able to continue to manage. We also hoped a new state and a new area might yield better job options for Marcus.

Our optimism was quickly shattered when we learned that we simply could not survive on the income I was being paid. Marcus continued his persistent and never ending job hunt, and finally settled for a a part-time job as a tire technician making less than minimum wage.

Despite this, we still could not make ends meet, and we realized that by the time our basic bills were paid, we were putting our groceries on our credit card.

So I enrolled in WIC, this too was not enough and I finally told Marcus that we had no choice but to apply for food stamps. We could not make ends meet, and despite his protests I did just that.

Our health insurance situation continued to be difficult. Due to a number of pre-existing conditions I could not purchase health insurance (despite my employers willingness to pay for it). I finally found a HIPAA plan with such a high deductible it was as though I had no insurance at all. This then created another hardship related to the medication I use for my Crohn's disease which costs $700 a month.

Eli and Emerson were thankfully still covered under medi-cal but at this point in our lives, despite doing everything we could we were on medi-cal, WIC, and foodstamps, not to mention the tax credits that go along with being a low income family. All programs Romney suggest are an "entitlement"

In July I was given yet another appointment and I finally have a full time job that allows us some more flexibility and freedom. Marcus continues his quest for full time employment using his degree and yet over 2 years past his graduation date has not been able to do so. The emotional and psychological effects of this frustration and constant rejection are taking their toll. He is coaching cross-country at a local high school for a very minimum sum. 

I am once again covered under a decent insurance plan through my employer, however Eli and Emerson are still covered under Medi-cal because, at the age of 3 they too have pre- existing conditions which precludes purchasing a plan (at least until 2014 when President Obama's no denial for pre- existing conditions goes into effect).

I'm part of the 47%, despite my education, despite my very best efforts, but I continue to recognize that I'm still among the privileged in our society. 

I'm educated, my employment provides housing so despite our income we will never be homeless, and I'm a pastor so I'm blessed with the knowledge and the presence to see and encounter those on a daily basis who are not as lucky as I am. I see that as frustrating as my own realities I'm wealthy compared to much of the world.

Mr. Romney, I am entitled to food, housing, and health care as is every American. Not only do I believe this is true on a societal level, but my faith tradition calls me to feed the hungry, clothe the poor, and find for justice for those on the margin of society.

In many ways my own necessity of partaking in social aid programs better equips me to help those who come through the doors of my church because I have an intimate knowledge of how the system works. Of the need to have access to computers, phones, copy machines, documents to prove income, status, etc.

Are there those who abuse the system? Of course, but I'm not really interested in that, there are dishonest people at every soci-economic level. What I'm more interested in is allowing people to live in our country without worrying that one hospital bill will bankrupt them. I'm interested in living in a society that allows people to purchase food without going into more debt, or causing them to worry how they'll pay some other basic bill, I'm interested in a society that cares about one another on a deep level.

A society full of people that as Michelle Obama said, "When [they] walk through the door of opportunity [they] don't slam it behind [them]-- [they] reach back."

I'm part of the 47% and I'm devoted my life to a calling that expects me to be among and help those in the 47% recognizing that if Jesus were here today that's exactly who he would be ministering too and with.

Never mind the government, on a basic human level, we should all desire to help one another live.

I'm part of the 47%...


foxy said...

Well said Sadie. and so much more articulate than my response was.

The whole election season leaves me feeling so sad, and confused. The later comments about "Middle Income" being families who make $200k / year - I just don't even know how I could hold such different views than some people. It is perplexing to me.

Thank you for writing this - and for saying these things that need to be said. I am also part of the 47% - thankful to the government for 17 years of public school education, access to loans for college, the safe water I drink, the traffic lights and freeways I drive on, etc...


Rory, Chocolate Hair/Vanilla Care said...

powerful and well-stated. thanks for sharing your story and putting another face to us 47% folks. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Well written. Obama wants you to continue to be one of the 47%. Mitt Romney would like to help your husband get a job so you wouldn't have to be.