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Works and Days

Our Battered American

February 20th, 2009 - 7:47 am

I think this battered American would also say, “Mr. President, I passed on buying that bigger house. When I wanted to refinance and put in that extra room, I also backed out, since I couldn’t meet that additional $400 a month on the debt. I never flipped a house; I never missed a mortgage payment; and I never took out a second, third, or fourth mortgage either. I didn’t even know there were such crazy things. So please don’t tell me that the 93% of us that played by our grandfathers’ rules are obligated to come to the rescue of the 7%, who did the exact opposite. At one of your town meetings, just one, instead of pandering to those who defaulted, ask one of us to stand up for paying our debts and then say to the crowd, “Give a hand to Mrs. Battered American. She pays her mortgage, so the rest of us don’t have to!” Try that just once.”

Mrs. Battered American would go on, “I have two credit cards, and only use one, and it is not maxed out. And when I hear the radio blaring to renegotiate my mortgage, to renounce my credit card debt, or stick it to the IRS, I turn it off. I was raised to pay what I owe—or not to borrow the money in the first place. I never thought what I make today I would necessarily always make tomorrow, and so I did not go into debt on the chance that our government—other Americans—should pay off what I charged.”

“I tried to put away a little away for college, Mr. President. Just a bit for tuition and such. But when I did, my kids no longer qualified for loans, and scholarships and federal help. So, yes, I want more education. But we are in debt for over a trillion dollars this year, and maybe, just once, you might advise us to pass on that big-screen television, that digital camera, and instead put a tiny bit away for our girls’ tuition, or our boys’ books, so others won’t have to.”

“And Mr. President,” the battered American would add, “When I add up my federal income tax, my state income tax, my Medicare, and my Social Security taxes, I am paying half my income to the government. Wait— far more than half my income, when I figure in my sales and property and car taxes. My accountant, when I can afford one, tells me to pay, not dodge, what I owe. And, oh, Mr. President I am so tired of all those taxes, so tired, but I am so lawful as well. And so I pay the bill, all of it. Every dime. Unlike your Treasury Secretary, who runs the IRS, I never cheat. I don’t write off my kid’s camp as a business expense—hell, I don’t even send him to camp in the first place. And unlike your cabinet nominee Mr. Daschle, I don’t have a limousine. And if I got a free one, I would think someone had to pay for it. If used it every day, why shouldn’t I pay taxes on it? And unlike your Labor Secretary nominee, I have no liens on my property, Mr. President. But if I did, I’d pay them off before you nominated me—or bow out if I didn’t.”

This battered American would remember all that—I’ve seen it happen—and get angrier, “Mr. President, I have never been nominated for much, but when I did serve someone or something, I never bowed out like Mr. Richardson, because the government was never investigating whether or not I was a crook. Sorry, never happened.”

Finally, Mr. Battered American would snap back to Mr. President: “I played by the rules, and put a little away in my 401(k). I knew the risks, not because the broker, the bank, or the firm told me all the risks, but because I never shook hands with any of them or even knew those who took my money and promised it was safe—and so I was never sure it really was. And I lost 30% of it. I will live by that too. But please, don’t tell me I must pay for AIG, and the state of California, and all those who charged too much on their VISAs. Just take more of my money in taxes to do all that—but, again, please, no more lectures that I have to, that I must, that I am obligated to. And no more of your team’s lecturing me about being patriotic in paying my taxes, and unpatriotic in not wanting to borrow more trillions that my kids’ kids will have to pay back.”

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