Greetings, Mr. Romney,
I’m writing to you from my office. Well, it’s not so much an office as it is a really nice chair. Before this chair, I had a really nice computer desk in one corner of the dining room. My kids do their math there now, or maybe watch a show on Netflix if they’ve been good and I think I can sneak in a little work. Before that, I had a really nice office, with a couch and bookshelves and rescued file cabinets full of research and a very old tabletop copy machine that used powdered toner and was about five feet wide because it had to move the upper unit back and forth across the light and scanner and not the other way round.
That room is the sleeping room now. That’s what we call it since we only have one bedroom for all our children to sleep in. It’s kind of like a barracks that way. But the girls love it, and every now and then they get giddy with excitement because everyone has agreed to trade beds that night, and everyone gets a new responsibility, a new opportunity – to turn off the light, to pick the station on the radio that will play softly in the background as they fall to sleep, to set the alarm clock for school and shut it off in the morning.
I hope you don’t mind if I talk on and on about my kids, Mitt. But you see, my joy comes from my family more so than my work. It’s not really a high paying investment, unless someone starts paying out what the bushel and a peck of love from that song I sing to my kids might actually be worth if there was a futures market for it. I’ve chosen family over work multiple times. When my first daughter was born in 2004, I knew immediately that I wanted to give her the sense of security and closeness that having a stay-at-home parent brings, just like I had. So I quit my job working at a book publishing company and began writing freelance from home, where I could be with my children all day long, writing children’s books and classroom curriculum materials, first from my office, then my desk, and now my chair.
My wife continued to work in part because she made more than I did, but mainly because she had great medical benefits there. It was extremely helpful when we had to go through infertility treatments to have our first child to begin with. And when she left that job to go to a new one, with a smaller business with no health care insurance policies, it was a helpful one to keep as we continued on and on with trying to get pregnant again, even though we had to use COBRA to keep that coverage because getting a new insurance policy would have prevented my wife from having a pregnancy covered by insurance. You see, they didn’t cover that for the first eighteen months of a policy. You could call it a pre-pre-existing condition, a condition that already exists in the minds of insurance companies who, like you, see those of us who might need help to pay for $20,000 pregnancies as moochers trying to game the system, and perhaps suspect that women such as my wife are so committed to their “gimme gimmie gimmie” attitude that perhaps those same psychically intuitive reproductive systems that your colleague suggested would shut down in the case of “legitimate rape” would also exert themselves as necessary to extend a gestation period out to twelve or fourteen months if need be if it meant getting someone else to pay for it. So, eighteen months then.
How fortunate, then, that we able to at last conceive and deliver an even more difficult to conceive child just under the wire of COBRA. I imagined I could sense the hand-wringing and the gnashing of teeth on the part of the insurance company when they indeed had to follow through on covering a healthy pregnancy and delivery with no special needs, treatment, or C-sections, but still costly enough for them to need to send back almost seventy-five percent of the eighteen thousand dollars we had paid to them in premiums.
Ah, those were the good old days. After that, trying to take responsibility for ourselves, just like you want, we took an HSA account plan to save and pay for our own way. If we wanted anything remotely resembling the level of coverage we had at our first two girls’ births, I’d be paying ridiculously more than that amount today as the premiums shot up double-digit percent year after year, despite the promise that an HSA style plan was built exactly to avoid that kind of thing. But alas, in order to stay within our meager budget, to pay at the level we can afford, we’ve had to raise our annual deductible over and over and over again. We have “catastrophic” level coverage now, meaning we’ll only reach our deductible now if one of us gets hit by a truck, or worse. Even so, our health insurance premiums are still higher than our house payments, care payments, and utilities. Combined. And beyond that, we’ll likely be hurting beyond the physical pain of being hit by said truck because the level of our annual deductible is now higher than what we can legally place in our HSA in any given year. If we meet the deductible, we’ll be tapped out long before that point. Thank goodness the Affordable Care Act – Obamacare, if you will, although that ceases to give yourself any credit for some of the good things in that legislation – forces a limit of a nine percent increase in premiums in any given year. I’ll give you three guesses as to what they’ve gone up by each year since, but I’ll bet you won’t need them. You know the business world pretty well.
But all that is pretty depressing, isn’t it, Mr. Romney? So let’s move on to daughter number three. I love all my children with all my heart, but child number three is a true miracle. After soul-crushing long years of infertility finally washed away by successful pregnancies, an honest to goodness out of the blue miracle. A naturally conceived child who definitely put the twist to our “family planning.” As if an angel then, and an angel now, so kind and empathetic that she would melt your heart if you met her, which I imagine you never will. I can’t imagine a person like her would ever travel in your circles or work for any of your companies. She cares far too much about people to ever make money at their expense as you do.
Her name is Kirsten, but you would probably call her “victim.” Because her unexpected and joyous birth placed us among the 47%, at least for a while, when that one more deduction brought our federal tax liability to zero. Although I must admit we have never stopped paying in to the state of Minnesota. We’ve never quite managed to mooch off the government so effectively as to stop paying state taxes, county taxes, state taxes, or property taxes, I guess.
By now I imagine that you are convinced that I am one of those who would vote for Obama “no matter what,” whether it’s because I’m writing you this letter or because you have detected some sense of my government addiction to Pell grants, energy saving tax credits, and 529 matching plans that I might just never escape from. But as it turns out, I’m one of the independents you were talking about how important it is to appeal to. I always have been independent, and I have the United We Stand caps, the Governor Ventura thank you letter, and MNIP lawn signs as mementos from along the way.
But I’m not voting for you. I’m not voting for Obama either, by the way. I know my candidates will lose, but I’ll vote for them all the same as I have every year, because they are the ones who come closest to my dream. I’m still waiting for my Mr. Smith to go to Washington. My candidates would be the ones who say what they mean and mean what they say. Whose strength comes in admitting their own weaknesses and fallibility so they can grow from them. Someone who knows what it’s like to lend a hand when that hand is tired. Someone who might have given a needy person a bill from their wallet when that bill is the only one inside and is marked “for emergencies only.” Someone who would not write off huge swaths of his country because of their economic status, political party, nationality, or gender.
I’m waiting for someone like my daughters.