Thursday, October 23, 2008

Why am I a Republican?

A while back, a friend made the statement to the effect that, with all my family has gone through, they cannot believe I am not backing Obama for this election. As the day approaches when we all will have a voice in the selection of our next leader, I have been pondering the very question he asked.

We were poor. Very poor. On two occasions in our life. I think I should speak on those two occasions.

Our first trip through Poverty was when we were first married. Evan was a newborn. We were struggling to pay the basic bills like rent and electric and car payments. I knew the only way to remedy our financial situation was to make more money. You cannot cut back on your expenses when your expenses are the bare bones of need. But how was I to go back to school to do this for my family?

We turned off the cable. We went without a phone. Internet access? Nah. With the money I saved from my budget, I paid payments on tuition at the local college so I could start taking classes. And while taking those classes, I made sure that I studied like a mad woman. Even for those classes that were a cakewalk. I did this so that my GPA remained immacualte. The healthcare-related fields are pretty challenging, so the school used anatomy and physiology to weed out non-hackers. I remember my instructor getting called into her boss's office over my 100% overall grade in the course. This is a hard class, why does this girl have a perfect score? I remember my instructor saying that is is just Andrea.

So I worked. And worked. And worked. And the next semester, I didn't have to worry about my finances because I had proven my worthiness of my education that I had others willing to step foreward to say "Hey, I will give this girl a scholarship because she has earned it." It was not because of my race or gender or family status or religion or for any other affiliation. It was because I proved myself.

So I graduated. With honors. And within the first month after graduation, I passed my credentialing exams and had a license to practice. And because I had done so well at school, I had many people willing to overlook my greenness as a new graduate and take a chance on me. We could afford the brand new house suddenly. I could afford to give my son everything he wanted. The few years we spent without a pohone or cable or internet no longer mattered because we had those things now. I did it.

Then March, 2008 hit us. I was working, making way more than our family needed. My husband was a stay-at-home-Dad. We could afford that luxury. And then I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. I was terrified, and terribly ill. I was unable to work. The only comfort I had was that our country has laws to protect people like me. I took FMLA leave for two weeks while they did about 8 head scans in 2 weeks. The little money we had saved up disappeared as the medical expenses rolled in. And then my employer broke the law and fired me, even though I was on leave. This is when the Summer of Hell began. I tried to make it. I did everything I could do. I applied for jobs everywhere, despite the fact that I had not been medically cleared to do so, being honest about what had happened. Noone wanted to take a chance on me after what had happened. The electric and cable were disconnected on the same day. My car was repossessed. I lost it all. I was finally persuaded to go and try to get help.

So I did. It was the most humiliating experience I have had. I took my paystubs and all the necessary information and I applied for governement assistance. Foodstamps, medical cards, cash assistance. I will never forget the worker's face when she looked at my paystubs, stating that I made more money than anyone she had ever known. I saw the look on her face when she found out that my son actually belonged to my husband, that we were married when he was born and that, yes, my husband still lived with us. I got approved for the help. $200 per month in food stamps for my family of three, and $200 in cash assistance. For the months of April, May, and June, my total aid was $1200. Last year, I paid $25,000 in taxes. I had, technically, earned my little piece of help.

But I had an aquaintence who got help also. She had never worked, not even completed high school. Her husband had a full-time job. They got $600 per month in food stamps, $300 in cash assistance, Medicaid for the whole family, their rent subsidized so they only had to pay $50 per month. Noone pressured her to get a job, to get her GED. But the number of tax dollars made available to her family was limitless. All she had to prove was that they had no money. There was no concern with whether or not there was any effort on their part. For my little bit I got? I had to fight tooth and nail, had to provide lists of job contacts. The amount of money I received in one month was about equal to what I earned in one DAY before my family encountered our crisis. Did they really believe that I didn't want to work? That I could be content with that? My rent was 4 times the amount of cash assistance they were giving me.

I had always believed that those taxes I paid went to help people like us, who were in a tight spot because of something horrible that had happened to them. As the amount of my taxes grew and grew with the amount of money I earned, I figured I was doing my part to help society. I assumed that society would return the favor if I needed it. Boy, was I wrong. That isn't how it works at all. The food dollars I got kept us in groceries for about 2 weeks each month. The money I got went to pay for fuel so I could interview for jobs. The only thing that even kept us from drowning was the fact that before that point, I had always paid my bills. The electric company and phone company and landlord were all lenient with us because you could honestly look at our records with each company and see a a distinct break beyond which I had stopped paying earlier and in full, and had started to fall behind. And the only way out was for me to finally find an employer who would do the research, look into my story and see that while it was unfortunate, I really was terminated from my only job in my field because I had been diagnosed with the tumor. The only way to recover from the ordeal we had survived was to accept that position, even though it was an hour and half's one-way drive away, and count down the days until I was no longer an orientee. To the point where I could take overtime and dig myself out of the mess we had fallen into.

So No. I will not vote for a candidate who will endorse or condone the redistribution of wealth. Do the people who will do nothing to help themselves truly deserve the same-sized piece of the pie that I do? Do our tax dollars truly need to go to fund more programs to help these people, when the very people they were designed to help fall through the cracks? The people like me, who work and better themselves, who pay their taxes without complaint and then encounter something so terrible and can't get the help they need?

Instead of creating more programs to help these people, maybe we need to reign in the programs we have. Adding a work requirement, like Obama has done? Is that enough? I have always worked, and when the money I earned wasn't enough, I did what was necessary to get a job that would provide the funds we need. Everyone can do this. Even if you are not academically inclined, there are still technical schools out there that can get you trained in a trade, some of which pay even more than I make. So you can be productive, so you can make your contribution to society.

Until some more of this happens, I will not vote for a candidate like Obama.

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