Commentary: An open letter to Mitt Romney
Columnist says don't write off those of us with roots in poverty, struggle
Dear Mr. Romney,
I am one of the 47 percent.
I grew up in Northwest Philadelphia in a single-parent home. My mother, divorced from my father when I was 6 years old, worked two, sometimes three, jobs to help make ends meet. It wasn't enough, because at the same time we were also receiving government assistance in the form of food stamps and Medicaid.
Several years later, in search of a better life, my mother moved us to California to be with my aunt and grandmother. And while it was still a struggle at times, overall it was a significant improvement over where we came from. I thank my mother for that, because I truly believe that despite my eternal love for my hometown, my life would have taken a much different path had we stayed there.
While in California I met a beautiful woman who was a transplant from Illinois. We were inseparable until she transferred to the University of Wisconsin. Six months after she left, I decided that I couldn't live without her, so I moved to Madison. We married a few years later, and we had three wonderful, smart, healthy children.
Over the years I've had the honor and privilege to do many things. I have worked in the insurance industry for well over 15 years. I have been involved in the community in a number of roles and responsibilities. I have two radio shows and write three columns, including this one. I am grateful and thankful for all of the opportunities that have come my way.
But Mr. Romney, my life hasn't been without its struggles. You see, even as an adult and far removed from my early childhood, I know what it's like to struggle to make ends meet. I know what it's like to be laid off or let go. And while I've never had to go on any type of government assistance, I know what it's like to look at a household budget and make tough choices.
The reason why I write this isn't to share my life story with you. It's to help you to understand the following:
First, while I did vote for President Obama in 2008, I also voted for George Bush in 2004 and 2000 and Bill Clinton in 1996 and 1992, which means that I'm one of those independent voters that you're so desperately trying to court.
Second, and most importantly, with all the good times and bad, all the highs and lows, all the triumphs, trials and tribulations that have gone on in my life, I have never been, nor will I ever be dependent on the government to take care of me, or to solve my problems. I work hard, I pay income tax and I am not a freeloader. And neither are the millions of others that you insulted in your speech at a fundraiser recently.
In writing off 47 percent of the voters in this country, you've basically said to them that they don't matter. And while there are some who have taken advantage and have no interest in being a productive member of society, the overwhelming majority of us are decent, hardworking people. That would include the wounded soldiers who are spending time in a VA hospital, the senior citizens on Medicare, the man or woman who has been laid off and is still trying to find work, the family who, because of a tragic accident, a sick child or relative, is struggling to pay the bills and needs help from friend and neighbors so they don't lose everything.
And yes, Mr. Romney, that would include both the wealthy and corporations, who receive their fair share of assistance by the way of tax cuts and breaks. And as for the non-income-taxpayers, that would include states like Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia, three of the highest percentage of non-taxpayers in the country, which are also "red states."
In conclusion Mr. Romney, I believe that you are a decent man. But it's clear that you truly don't "get it," despite your words to the contrary. So I will do what I've always done: cast my vote for the person who I feel will do the best job in dealing with the issues that we face as a country. And in 2012, that person will not be you.
Derrell Connor works in the insurance industry in Madison and hosts a weekly radio show on WIBA AM. His column will run the second and fourth Thursday of the month on Channel 3000.
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