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I've never really taken anything from the government in my adult life, although I consider myself lucky to be able say that - it isn't anything that I consider a badge of honor. If I was in a situation where I needed the social safety net, I would want it and take it. I believe in it (I've paid the 1040EZ form every year, even if maybe I could have saved a few dollars by sweating deductions), and have contributed into it when I haven't needed it.

However, I am also wise enough to know that my life could have turned out much differently. It took me three years after college to get a full-time job with benefits - before that it was a cycle of unpaid internships, working as a temp, freelance writing, sorting my life out kind of things. I didn't get sick or get in an accident then, but I easily could have. It wasn't like I was thinking about my benefits much - I was healthy and naive.

After my parents were divorced when I was nine, my Mom worked a couple of minimum wage jobs until she finished her degree, scraping by. Our family got through it, and I do remember blocks of government cheese in the refigerator. My Mom also said she bounced checks one year so my brother and I could have Christmas presents. I was oblivious to all this back then, but what if my Mom had gotten sick and couldn't finish her education? Or what if my brother or I had gotten sick as kids, and my Mom had to stop working her minimum wage jobs to try to take care of us? Would it have ruined us?

I also could have had a different situation financially trying to afford college - my parents were divorced and they split the tuition, with each finding their own creative ways to pay their half. My Mom sold our house and we moved into a cheaper, more convenient one, took out a few loans, and I think there was a Pell Grant mixed in with the loans. But what if we never had that house in the first place? Or what if my Mom needed to sell it to pay for medical care back when we were scraping by? Would I have been able to get the same education? Probably not.

My Grandmother ran into a multitude of health problems after she was already on Medicare. She's doing fine now - she doesn't have much money at all, but her daughters are nearby to take care of her and she'll tell you she has nothing to complain about. But what if her health problems came a couple years earlier, before Medicare kicked in? I was getting ready to go off to college then, but I know I couldn't look my family in the eye and tell them that my tuition was more important than my Grandmother's life.  

Instead I was able to go to college, graduate in four years without needing anything more than a work study job, and made it through my "figure it out" years unscathed. I found a career path with middle-income pay and will never be rich, but my job is stable and has excellent benefits. Had I hated this career path, and gone out on my own to do freelancing or consulting work and gotten sick, maybe I'd have needed some government help. Maybe I'd be personally thankful for Obamacare, so that I couldn't be denied benefits when they became available. Instead I am not personally affected by Obamacare, but I appreciate what the legislation does for many others (and I wish we could go further and take the profit motive out of healthcare entirely).

See - what Mitt and his ilk don't understand is that you don't have to need the Government's help to appreciate the value of the safety net. It didn't happen to me. But maybe my neighbor isn't so lucky. I don't want to see him and his family having a bake sale to try to pay for chemo. Or maybe my kids someday want to do what I did and spend a couple years after college figuring out their lives, and DO get in a car accident or get sick before they have benefits. Or maybe it's somebody else's kids I've never met - those kids are important too. Maybe if I get sick pre-Medicare, I don't want to be a burden on my family financially.

I mean, maybe I'll make it from cradle to grave with only some blocks of cheese and a Pell Grant from the government, and pay much more into the system than I get out of it.  But I am 100 percent fine with that. And I'll never vote Republican as long as that party holds the belief that those who do need the hand up are somehow lesser people, and that they should be left to fend for themselves, instead of getting a hand up from what is supposedly the richest country in the world.

So make it 47.0000001 percent, Mitt.
   

Originally posted to Summers on Mon Sep 17, 2012 at 03:47 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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