Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Forty-Seven Percent

My parents, both immigrants from India, started their lives in America as part of the “47%”. 

In other words, despite working hard to provide for their family, they were only barely able to make ends meet. They were not “victims” of big government, and they did not fail to “take responsibility” for their lives. They were members of the working poor, where they paid their payroll taxes but didn’t earn enough to pay federal income taxes.

My mother came to America when she was 18. She worked a full-time job at a nursing home for minimum wage ($3.25 an hour) while enrolled full-time at a community college. To help pay for her education, she also took student loans. After graduating, she got married to my dad and found work at a computer company for meager salary of $20,000 a year. While I was born and my father struggled to find work, my mother became the head breadwinner of our family. After seven years of working hard, however, the company laid her off because of downsizing. She then had to survive off unemployment benefits for 6 months as she had her second child, my younger sister.

My father came to America 6 years after my mom. Coming from a small village in India, he had nothing in his pockets except the hope to make it big in a generous nation. After struggling to find work, he finally decided to start his own small business selling small gift items in local outdoor flea markets.

Today, my parents are successful small business owners. And they understand that when demand for their products is decreasing, you must make the right investments (even if it means greater deficits in the short-term) in order to achieve strong growth and prosperity in the future.

As the case with President Obama, my parents’ story is part of the larger American story. Both my parents took personal responsibility for their own lives. Yet despite how hard they worked, they were just barely able to make ends meet. So when they looked to big government for help, they didn’t consider themselves “victims”. They looked toward the only other person that would assist them in their time of need when there was no one else: Uncle Sam.  They didn’t expect government to solve all their problems, but they did deserve some relief.

My parents understand the difficulties the “47%” face. They understand that in addition to their hard work and perseverance, they could never have achieved success without the help of others. What they cannot understand, however, is why Governor Romney criticizes President Obama for providing that same relief to so many Americans in a time of need, as if it were wrong to help these hard working people.

President Obama inherited the worst economy since the Great Depression. Yet despite relentless opposition from the other side, he’s put his political career on the line to find compromise and provide stability to a fragile nation. He has fought for families like mine to ensure that we grow our middle-class and help everyone achieve the American Dream.

For those unemployed, Obama extended unemployment benefits. For those underemployed, he’s lowered costs for healthcare, credit cards, student loans, and home mortgages. For those employed, he’s lowered taxes and made our financial system stronger to strengthen people’s job security. For those who hire American workers, he’s lowered small business taxes 18 times.

President Obama has also worked to reduce our deficit by making the right investments, ending a costly war in Iraq, enforcing new financial regulations, and asking everyone to pay their fair share.

If elected president, Mitt Romney has promised he will replace Obamacare (essentially keeping everything but the thing that pays for it); repeal the Dodd-Frank financial reforms (which ensures that banks have enough capital on hand to cover investor’s losses); and keep the Bush tax cuts on the wealthiest 2% (because it worked so well in the past?), all somehow while balancing the budget without increasing spending (despite Obama’s willingness to cut $10 in spending for every $1 in revenue).

This is why this election is so important. Because as the President has said, “This isn't just another political debate. This is the defining issue of our time. This is a make or break moment for the middle class, and all those who are fighting to get into the middle class.”