This is my first diary entry here on Daily Kos. I thought I would use it to introduce myself and discuss why I am a liberal.
First, let me introduce myself. I am a 25 year old history teacher. I have been married for just about 6 years and have a 6 year old daughter. I hope to use this diary to blog about education and the effects politics and public policy has on it and on our students.
Okay, now to the point of this diary, why I am a liberal...
As you can see I had a child and was married at a young age. During my first semester of college, at age 19, I found out my girlfriend was pregnant. Taking responsibility for our actions we moved in together the next semester, living in my old bedroom at parents house. We both finished up our first years of college working as much as we could in order to save a little money. That spring we moved into an apartment. We had our daughter that summer and the trials and tribulations began. We both decided it would be better for us in the long run if we stayed in college. This of course meant lots of juggling to make everything work. I switched colleges, from a larger university to a community college, so we could save money on gas and on tuition. I would drop to part time at school going to class two days a week all day so I could work the other five days a week. My wife did the same.
Despite working full time we still had trouble making ends meet. Go figure that $5.15 an hour can't pay the bills. Minimum wage is indeed the minimum. We received government aid through Medicaid, food stamps, rent assistance for a while, subsidized student loans and some money for daycare. We had help from our families, to whom we owe a great deal, when it came to watching our daughter so we could still go to school and some financial assistance here and there. Rent assistance went away when we started making a little more money to be living just under paycheck to paycheck, food stamps went away when I started working commission at JC Penney and made too much money on the one pay period they looked at to see if we still qualified. Medicare started costing money, but still was far cheaper for a while for both my wife and I then it stopped automatically and we just didn't go to the doctor anymore. Our daughter was luckily still covered in the state we lived in.
Through all of this we worked opposite shifts, went to school part time, ate way too much canned ravioli from the Save-a-Lot, and did all we could to stay in college and make ends meet. My wife finished with her associates degrees first and got a good paying job so I could go back to school full time and be a stay at home dad at all other times. This in no way means we were rolling in the dough, but rather, that it was cheaper for me to stay home than for me to work and give almost all of my paycheck to pay for daycare. My wife continued to work full time and get her bachelors degree taking online classes and I finished up my education degree. We are now finally at the place we hoped to be at 6 years ago. We finished college and have jobs that pay well (well not too well, I am a teacher), we have a nice place to live, we have real health insurance, and we are finally paying back what we owe to our families and the government.
Now, why would all of this make me a liberal and a Democrat? Well, if it were not for government assistance, my family would not be where we are today. There is no way we could have paid for college without loans from the government, the interest alone from an unsubsidized loan would have been enough to scare us away from borrowing the kind of money you need to pay for a college education these days. Assistance with rent helped us get on our feet in our own place. Medicaid was a godsend, without it we would never have been able to afford all of the medical bills that come along with having a child. Food stamps helped us feed our family.
Without this assistance we would never have been able to make it through college and be in the position we are today. Without them we would most likely both be working minimum wage jobs (probably more than one), with no healthcare, and living hand to mouth trying to make things work like so many families in the U.S. These programs gave us a chance and I am grateful for them. Its true that we made a choice to have a child young and that it is our fault we were in the position we were in. But the choices we made did not make us bad people, just people who needed a little help to get to a better place. I am glad the government was there for me and I want it to be there for others.
Conservatives have called these programs "handouts." To them I took without giving. They must not realize the sales tax I paid anytime I bought anything, the gas tax I paid in order to get back and forth to the job that didn't pay me enough to make ends meet, and the rent I paid that went to the owner of the property who used it to pay property taxes. The also must have forgot that now that I am off of those programs I am still paying taxes to the government. I am paying back and paying to help those in the same position.
I am a liberal because liberals understand that people sometimes need help, that those people who need assistance are not bad people, that they are not looking for a handout, but that they are just people like anyone else who are trying to get by. It is not always easy to get by in America, despite all of the picking yourself up by the bootstraps some one does. Imagine what life would be like for thousands of families if they did not have to worry about stretching every penny to the limit. If gas prices did not dictate whether they could make it to work that day, if the minimum wage was a living wage, if healthcare were a right and not an expensive luxury. Imagine if daycare were not so expensive that parents make the choice to leave young children at home alone unattended or work two jobs to pay for it. For some reason conservatives talk about family values but do nothing that values the families who are struggling every day in this country. The child is important to them when it is in the womb but when it comes out, it can go without healthcare, never see its parents who need to work more than one job to put food on the table, it can go to a school that is under funded and dangerous, and it can live in communities where the factory that employed half the city moved its jobs overseas and closed.
I am a liberal because I care about people. Liberal programs helped me better myself, my family, and hopefully my community. The government was able to help me when I needed it and I want it to be there when it can help someone else.