I am in the 47%. Do you know me? – An open letter.

ImageAs a pastor I need to be everybody’s pastor and I value the fact that there are many who don’t agree with me on issues but still feel our church is their home and that I can be their spiritual mentor. So I help people have conversations, provoke them to think selflessly about tough issues, and I don’t advocate political positions. I work hard at helping people feel free to figure out for themselves what their faith means in rubber meets the road places like the polling booth. So, this post isn’t meant to be political in the sense of telling people how to vote, but Mitt Romney has made me personally very angry and I cannot help but speak out.

My wife and I were among the 47% for many years. We were ‘middle class’ but had more deductions than income. We paid lots of taxes, including the 15.3% self-employment tax, but no or very little income tax. All that time…

  • we secured our own healthcare, 
  • repaid college loans for ourselves and eventually for our children,
  • paid our own food bills, 
  • started a business (a church) that employed up to 8 other people and impacted the lives of 100’s of others, 
  • volunteered at schools, neighborhood parks and other organizations, 
  • gave fairly large amounts of money to charities we thought made a difference.

We never even remotely considered ourselves victims or waited for a handout, in fact we always thought we were privileged to have what we did and tried not to take it for granted. We realized that we are the beneficiaries of generations who worked hard to provide us with a world in which we could have secure, meaningful lives that realized dreams. We have always felt obliged to use our resources and influence to make that kind of world available for others too. To re-invest, so to speak, not accumulate.

As part of the 47% I never voted for a candidate who would create a government to take care of me, but a government that we could team up with in making the world we experienced available for everyone.

This 47% is full of people who are living to make the United States a great nation. I am angered that my middle class contribution to this country is looked down on as being dependent on government to come take care of us. We are helping build this country in powerful ways.

That is who we are as part of the 47%. 


5 responses to “I am in the 47%. Do you know me? – An open letter.

  1. You and I have a very similar story yet I am not angry with Mitt Romney and neither should you be. I don’t disagree with most of what you said and I don’t think he would either. The only point that I would disagree with is that I do not “want a government that we could team up with to make the world we experienced available for everyone”. This is not the role of government. The government should get out of the way and allow people and organizations to team up. Leave the government out as it is at best the most inefficient agent for most situations. Also, I would love to hear about at least one way in which you are angry with the current occupant of the oval office.

  2. Jeff, thanks for your comment. I can’t say I’ve really been angry with either of the candidates to this point. I haven’t always agreed or been happy with decisions or approaches, but that is not what this is about. I’m not disagreeing with Romney’s understanding of gov’t or his policies. His comments were personal to me, and many millions of others. They judged and dismissed me because of a category I was in. This is wrong and destructive.
    As for the role of gov’t, I don’t wish to have gov’t do more than it needs to, but I believe there are several roles that gov’t must either play or closely monitor. One is that of providing a level playing field in terms of basic opportunities for all. I am where I am today because of my public education and many other fundamental building blocks of our society that allowed me to develop to my potential and make the greatest contribution to my community. I am sure that his own family got its start because of similar publicly provided advantages.

  3. Dear Precariouspastor, (Greg) thank you for voicing so eloquently the anger so many of us feel at being marginalized simply because we are Americans living within the laws and mores our nation asks of us. I wonder how far back in our nations history one would have to go to find a time when the nation was not helping 100% of the population. I’m not just talking about income tax or even roads, or social security…(a very long list)…but rather the very constitution itself subsidizes our way of living, free speech, the right to assemble, the right to bear arms, freedom of religion…(an equally long list)…The whole of government is built around helping every woman, child and man pursue happiness, security and peace. Sometimes that means regulations that protect workers from a corporate short cut that adds to profits, but risks human life. Sometimes those freedoms need to be protected from outside influences from other governments, or groups. Sometimes those freedoms need the justice department to take to court violators of laws that allow the rich to get richer at the expense of the poor and voiceless. Freedom, especially America’s freedom is costly.

    Hello Jeff, two points, your last question first; I’m not angry at President Obama, call it rather disappointments. I’d prefer a single payer health care system – hopefully his second term. I’d like to see us out of Afganistan, 2014 can not come too soon. I wish a conversation about reducing poverty was more front and center in the political discourse. I’d love to see a real conversation about 60,000 homeless veterans. There are other things that I’d like to see our President accomplish and I will work very hard to help our nation move in those directions during his second term.

    But the problem with Governor Romney’s comments about the 47% is that it once again made a distinction that elevates the importance of the rich while diminishing the importance of the rest. This occurs often in these political conversations. It’s as if the rich are the answer to the problems and we should bow down as they walk our streets from limo to penthouse. The rich need tax cuts, or jobs won’t be created. The rich need tax shelters, or they won’t invest in America. The rich need a bigger voice, or a stronger political presence because…because… Fortunately in America it is one person, one vote. A billionaire may influence millions through a super pac but that same billionaire can only cast one vote. Finally, equality has it’s revenge.

    Three weeks ago at church we read from the second chapter of James. I turned it into a confession. It was the most political statement I’ve ever read at worship. If I had read this statement from the pulpit and failed to declare it as a New Testament reading, It very easily could have been misconstrued as a current partizan political statement. James 2:1-7 follows and concludes my remarks. Thank you for the forum:

    “My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favouritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, ‘Have a seat here, please’, while to the one who is poor you say, ‘Stand there’, or, ‘Sit at my feet’, have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonoured the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you?” James 2:1-7

  4. Thank you, thank, thank you, Greg! As a life long Republican, I am saddened by the drastic turn my former party has taken. I left my party years ago because of their distain for middle class and poor people, as well as other reasons. I think people need to hear more of your words. We need more men of God telling us this is not ok.

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