My deeply Republican [elderly relative] likes to forward right-wing emails to a large swath of his relatives. His latest thing is bemoaning “entitlements.” Yesterday’s treat was “Why I Don’t Vote…and you shouldn’t either,” by professional sociopath and convicted fraudster Porter Stansberry. Today, we got “'Entitlement Cliff' Threatens America.” Feel free to follow the links for some helpful background on today’s post. Sorry in advance for their content.
Today, my sister Naomi got a little bit fed up. Here’s her response, reprinted in full with her permission.
Dear [elderly relative],
I do not provide fact checking services at this time (not enough staff), but I am happy to provide a reality check, free of charge.
Obama’s re-election is not disheartening to America at large. It is disheartening mostly to a single demographic: the old/rich conservative white person. The old/rich conservative white person is one of many kinds of voting person. This person is not America. This person does not have a larger, better, or more valid claim to America than the poor/single woman/Latino/black/gay voting person. America, with all of its wealth, opportunity, and freedom, belongs equally to the black lesbian in a wheelchair as it does to you. This person’s concerns, needs, and aspirations are as legitimate as yours.
On this note, it is my understanding that you are a beneficiary of social programs. As a veteran, as an old person, as a person with medical needs. You get a discounted bus pass. This may seem like something you earned as a privilege of getting older, ‘honoring our elders’ and all that. But it is an entitlement, and to my knowledge, you do not insist on paying full price in order to be ideologically consistent about handouts. You are no more deserving of the programs—federal, state, local—that serve you than a single mother with a low paying job is deserving of her food stamps or subsidized childcare. You did not arrive at a vulnerable place in life more honorably. If this sounds presumptuous, that’s because it is. The presumption I hold is that in a developed, democratic society, we all face obstacles we did not choose in addition to challenges that are the results of our choices. We are all affected by natural disasters, changes in our country’s economic fortune, expensive wars overseas.
Some of us, however, are more vulnerable than others. I am a young unmarried woman. Because of this I have vulnerabilities you do not. This is not my fault. My best friend is gay. He faces legal barriers and threats of violence that you do not. This is also not his fault. Another friend with a PhD is earning $8 per hour working the front desk at a hotel part-time. Because that’s all he can get. He relies on government aid to make up the difference. It’s easy to say: get another (or a better) job. But there are not more or better jobs. There are more highly qualified, eager workers than there are jobs. Your corporations are bringing in record profits in troubled times AND THEY ARE NOT HIRING. Not because they can’t. Because they won’t. Because they’d rather squeeze 38 hours a week from 2 underpaid shift workers than hire one of them full-time. Because they know they can get away with treating their workers like disposable, interchangeable drones, why would they ever do differently of their own accord? Regulation matters and a living wage matters. It matters to me, it matters to my family. You don’t want to vote for it.
I did the work to earn two degrees. I entered the work force as my intended career field was evaporating due to spending cuts that your party supports at the state and federal level. I work 9.5 hours a day at an hourly wage with no benefits.
I make about $1400 per month.
My rent plus utilities is about 600 per month—and I live in a pretty ramshackle place. We have raccoons in our walls.
I use public transportation, which costs $100 per month. Driving and parking and insuring a car would be significantly more expensive.
Because my job does not provide health insurance, I pay $200 per month for the privilege of 4 covered doctor’s visits per year, and no prescription coverage.
I pay back my student loans. This is $200 per month.
I spend about $160 per month on groceries.
What I have left over at the end of a month is basically nothing. Certainly not enough to save up for what’s coming next in my life or to have any security in case I lose my job or face an unexpected crisis. If I qualified for handouts, you can bet I would take advantage of them. Not to buy a flat-screen TV like the fabled ‘welfare queen’, but to be sure I could get a cavity filled if I needed to. Right now, I couldn’t. I can’t afford dental insurance. And I sure as hell can’t afford to pay out of pocket. I spend my whole day working and living within my means and it’s not enough. I live by your values. I contribute. And yet that tooth would just have to rot in my mouth, because the America that’s available to you is not yet available to me.
I make too much to qualify for food stamps or Medicaid, but just barely. This is the reason people continue to rely on government services after you’d prefer them to ‘stop relying on handouts’. I make $10 per hour; others in my current field earn $7.25 or $8 per hour. This is not enough to support one single person with my expenses working full-time, much less a family. But under your political umbrella, it is more important for businesses to be left alone to wallow freely in profits than to require them to pay their workers fairly enough for their workers to achieve financial stability. There’s not much stability gained if I make $21K a year vs $16K per year. And no, the free market is not clearing this up of its own accord. Because that would offend their shareholders. Because shareholders are the god that your America drops on its knees to.
In case this sounds strident or critical, let me be clear: your vote against Obama is a vote against me. It is not neutral. The provisions of Obamacare are life-changing for me as they continue to go into effect. Obama’s Lilly Ledbetter Act ensures that I might have a chance to earn fair pay for my work as I struggle to find better footing in the work world. His commitment to programs like Headstart, WIC, CHIP might make the difference between whether I can ever afford to have a family. That’s right, AFFORD to have a family. This is a growing concern for young people my age. I have about 10 years left to have any babies I want to have, and it’s not happening if I can’t break into the middle class. If Romney had won, your vote would have effectively signed away much of the chance I have to get my bearings and make choices based on what I dream for myself, rather than what is out of reach for me because of the GOP’s fear and disdain for people like me. People like me being women. Let me put it yet another way: if you want to see great-grandchildren from us, you need to understand that times are harder for me and my siblings than they are for you. I can’t afford to go to the movies once a week, much less start a family. Obama’s policies offer me a chance. The policies of your preferred candidate deny me that chance, and dismiss me as a person that counts. Do you dismiss me as a person that counts?
There’s no way to split your loyalty nicely. You can’t be loyal to the GOP’s positions on social issues and government spending and also claim to care for the outcomes of the many young people in your life. Because every one of us benefits directly from Obamacare, from Obama’s reduction of student loan costs, from Obama’s commitment to education and research, etc. Your party would cut my lifelines—-my public transit now, my healthcare accessibility now and in the future, my hope for better work, my desire to be able to make my own choices about having a family, and not have them decided for me by Romney’s aversions to raising taxes. Your party would repeal Obamacare, which would leave at least three of my siblings without health insurance.
And to get away from the case study of me for a moment, into the broader picture about ‘bad news’, here it is—-America is troubled and many of its citizens need help. As much as we need the deficit to go away, we also cannot neglect broad swaths of our population that are hungry, cold, sick, and hopeless. Before Obama’s re-election, maybe you could live in a fantasy world where these people are marginal, just a few fringe failures who could be dismissed as free-loaders. But they’re not. They’re people like me, like Prisca, like my dad. They’re people like my best friend and my classmates. And we voted, and we won. You may not like that we feel ‘entitled’ to things like medical care, a fair wage, and a hope for a future. But we didn’t like that people of your demographic feel entitled to grab up all America has to offer for themselves, and leave the rest of us out in the cold. America doesn’t belong to you, with the rest of us hanging on like some invasive species. It belongs equally to gay, straight, Christian, Catholic, Muslim, Jew, black, white, Asian, Latino, poor, blue-collar, professional, fat, thin, young, old, disabled, Native American, male, and female. And now you and the whiny authors you waste your time reading have to man up and come to terms with the fact that maybe that’s a longer list than you’d like to see. But it is our reality, and there’s no going back. For those who deny this, there is only increasing irrelevance and shaking one’s head slowly in the echo chamber. Have fun.
You are in the minority now, and that’s a good thing. Less than 50% of Americans now agree with that bullshit you’re reading, and the election results speak to that. You are welcome to refute or counterpoint as much as you’d like, but I need you to understand why it is that this branch of your family is disagreeing with you so vehemently on these issues. It’s not a matter of different opinions. It’s a matter, for us, of making it or not making it. I’d like to think that when you sent those emails you didn’t think of it that way, you didn’t realize what we feel is at stake for us so early in our lives, and at such a crucial point.