Mitt Romney, Meet My Mother

My brother feeding my mother

It is personal now.  You have insulted my family, and your policies embody an actual threat to my mother's life.  Mitt Romney, meet my mother.

Dear Mr. Romney,

I watched your comments to those who paid $50,000 to have dinner with you.  If you weren't a candidate for President, I would simply be disgusted and keep my peace.  But you are trying to take the helm of my country--to shape policies that will affect my life and the lives of those I love.  The video, taken when you thought no one was watching, reveals a frightening callousness that I can only pray never darkens the door of the Oval Office.

I'm sure you remember your words, as you have refused to disown or even moderate them, saying only that you somehow didn't say it just right.  Au contraire, I find your words crystal clear:

"There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the 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. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax."

It is personal now.  You have insulted my family, and your policies embody an actual threat to my mother's life.  Mitt Romney, meet my mother.  Yes, that's her in the picture.  You'll note that she has such a sense of entitlement that my brother has to feed her.  Shame on her.  She won't even pick up a fork. 

It's true.  She pays no taxes.  And it's true that she will not vote for you.  Actually, she won't vote for anyone.  In 2004 she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and I'm afraid at this stage she would be considered a "low-information voter."  She does not speak and often doesn't remember how to swallow.  A "good" visit is a day when she opens her eyes.  My last meaningful conversation with her was almost a decade ago.  She will not be voting.

You see her in this picture in the dining room of the nursing home that gives her excellent care.  She is well-beyond the stage where anyone in our family could care for her.  In her day, she was a shrewd money-manager, making the best of her pension as a public school teacher and the life insurance money she received when my father dropped dead at age 47.  But, alas, it still was not enough.

Every scrap of savings and investment she once had are now gone, as my (Republican) stepfather did everything he could to avoid taking a dime of government money.  But she has good genes.  She has been in a care facility now for eight years.  Her pension was enough to let her live a comfortable life in retirement, but her nursing home care is twice her monthly pension amount.  We have just arranged to donate her body to science at her passing, since there will not even be funds to have a funeral.

It is now the Medicaid program that makes up the difference between her pension and the cost of her care.  Mr. Romney, you haven't talked much about your running mate's proposal to cut 34% from the Medicaid program.  You do realize, don't you, that 2/3 of the people on Medicaid are seniors in nursing homes like my mother?  Nobody on Medicaid pays taxes.  Do you care?  Oh, I forgot, you addressed that with your donors:

"And-- and so my job is not to worry about those people.  I'll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for for their lives."

What are we to do when you take away my irresponsible mother's Medicaid?  Oh, yeah--you answered that, too.  She should go to the Emergency Room.  Are they prepared for her to live there?

Just as an aside, Mr. Romney, my parents were Republicans, embodying the best of the "compassionate conservatism" that once characterized the GOP.  They were both public school teachers and guidance counselors who never did join the union, but who counted union members as lifelong friends and allies.  When the teacher's union went on strike they did not cross the picket line.  Instead they went and served coffee, while wincing at the misspelled signs of protesters who came to mock those on strike.

When times were tough in the seventies, my parents struggled.  I remember my mother sitting down with me in those hard times and asking me about the silver service she had been given when she and my father were married.  Was it something I would want one day?  Times were getting tough and she was thinking of selling it, but she would find another way if I wanted it.  The silver was sold.  The RV that had taken our family on two cross-country camping trips was sold, as was much else.  They did not ask for a handout, they made it work, even while maintaining their tithe to the Baptist church where they were officers and Sunday School teachers.

My parents took in students in crisis, fought for civil rights in our town, took out a second mortgage on our home to send me to college.  And yes, they paid taxes.  They did it the hard way.  They gave of themselves to others in need, even when it didn't result in a tax deduction.  They were people of faith, and they had no independent sources of income apart from their jobs.

My parents in 1954

My father served in the army and in the first years of their marriage they rented a small home to live in--but only during the winter.  During the summer they lived in campgrounds near the California army base where my father was stationed.  My mother was raised by her great-grandmother.  My father's family lost their small business in the Depression.  When they went to Brown University (Pembroke for my mother) as undergraduates, they could not ask their parents for a loan.  They later scraped together more money to go to grad school.  Both of them pulled their way up from poverty to the middle class through their own hard work and sacrifice.

Come to think of it, my mother actually might be just the teensiest bit "entitled" to help with a devastating illness in her senior years. She's been a good citizen of these United States.  She has fulfilled civic duties, gave her life to public education, and did her best to embody Christ's command to love her neighbor as herself.  And now, Mr. Romney, you would have her feel shame that she doesn't have $8,000 a month to pay for her care?  Now that she is in need, your administration would view her as a parasite and it won't be your job as President to worry about her and people like her?

Like the Grinch, Mr. Romney, your heart appears to be at least two sizes too small.  Since you have refused to articulate the details of your actual policies, I can only assume that they will reflect that too-small heart.

You have said quite plainly that your job is not to worry about people like my mother.  In your estimation she sees herself as a "victim," and she feels "entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it."  Alzheimer's is an awful disease.  But, Mr. Romney, I am so glad that my mother is not able to comprehend your words.  I would not add your insult to her injury, even for all your millions.

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