With tremendous effort, I have bestirred myself from my Station Upon the Couch to send you this dispatch from the Land of The Forty-Seven Percent. And I have to tell you, this typing thing is not easy! I’m thinking that my fingers, welded as they are to the remote, no longer have the necessary musculature for typing. But I’m so flattered to have been singled out in your comments to an exclusive group of donors that I am forcing myself to write to you.
For the last two years, I haven’t paid personal income tax. In fact, my husband and I have gotten the Earned Income Tax credit. That’s right- we got a check BACK from the government without having sent the government a dime (in income tax.) Do I have to tell you how much we love us some big fat government titties?
Why did we get those checks? Well first, it was on account of us having children, and me not earning very much money. My income was something like $10,000 in 2010 and $18,000 in 2011. Of course, all of the reasons for my low income fall under the category of Failing to Take Personal Responsibility, but just for laughs, I’ll outline them for you here.
In 2009, my first marriage ended… bummer! A few days after my first husband left, I applied for a job.
Up until then, I was sort of like your wife Ann- working hard as a stay-at-home mother of young children. I did some freelance writing on the side and supported my husband’s successful small business as an occasional secretary and marketeer.
The trouble was that in my rural, red-state corner of the country, there were very few jobs to be had. And the ones that were available paid so little that I wouldn’t be able to cover the cost of childcare while I worked, much less contributed income to our family.
I needn’t have worried about the cost of childcare, as it turned out, because competition for the few jobs available for people with my meager skill set (Ivy league graduate with community organizing, teaching, management, marketing, and writing experience) was pretty fierce. It took me two years (that’s years, not months) to land some decent work.
That pesky recession may have had something to do with it, I guess, but mainly, it was my personal laziness and lack of desire to take control of my life that caused my job search to take so long.
Another thing caused by my personal laziness was the founding of a small business, in 2010, with my new husband.
It’s a detour from my story, I know, but I up and got myself a new man! The head-scratcher was that I lost my government-funded health coverage when he and I got married. In other words, the government was saying “Go ahead and have some new guy live with you and your small children from a previous marriage- we’re happy to cover your medical expenses. But once you get married, we’re gonna cut you off.”
We couldn’t quite figure that out- our incomes had not increased. We could not pay $1000 monthly premiums or $5000 deductibles available if we bought our own health insurance (neither of us had work that provided health coverage, or any other benefits, including sick days), but as soon as we were married, we were on our own.
It was some of that good old fashioned Tough Love, right Mitt? Without adversity and deprivation, such as the inability to buy medicine or see a doctor when pesky problems like work-induced asthma showed up, we were never going to be inspired to seize the brass ring!
Back to that small business: we started building rustic furniture. It was a ne’er-do-well enterprise: we’d drive out to the forest and harvest standing dead trees by hand (once my fingers got crushed between a pair of logs but I didn’t go to the doctor for an x-ray, because that would have been a pussy move, don’t you think? And anyway, our associated costs, debts, and lack of health coverage made care for my injury unthinkable.) We would haul the massive logs back to our shitty little 1600 square foot workshop, with $15,000 in tools that we had paid for, and hone those logs into custom furniture. We were still lazy, of course, so we only worked 10-12 hours per day, six or seven days per week.
Things were chugging along, Mitt, even though our expenses outweighed our taxable income in 2010 and 2011. It was those zany tax loopholes! You know the ones: where you get to deduct the money you put into your business from the money you made. In our case it was marginal, bullshit stuff like tools, materials, and fuel, but if it’s legal, it’s legal, know what I’m sayin? Yeah, I know that you can totally relate to the legal tax loopholes thing. We got to use our big checks from the government to cover a month’s mortgage payment!
What a bummer that we still weren’t making ends meet. Mainly it was because most of our business came from subcontracting for another company. This company offered us rock-bottom prices for our work, claiming that our choice was to either sell a lot of furniture for a little money, or no furniture for a fair price. The recession, of course, was making even the wealthy into the penny-wise and it seemed that no one wanted to pay a reasonable price for custom, hand-made, sustainably harvested furniture. The company’s founder explained that we had to adopt a volume-model (just like Walmart! In the spirit of big corporate capitalism!)
He was a passionate Republican, that guy. I’m guessing he’s going to vote for you. And here’s another funny thing about him- he was a racist motherfucker. He wanted us to promise that we would not hire Mexicans to help us in our workshop. But he wanted to pay us as if we ourselves were illegal immigrants without rights. For the record, my husband told him that he was full of shit, and that we would hire any hard working person in our own shop and pay them fair wages. He told the man, “I’ll hire who I want, whether they are brown, white, or motherfucking purple.”
One day, in the fall of 2011, we were asked to deliver a piece we had built to this other company’s customer. The customer wasn’t supposed to be home at the time, but they showed up unexpectedly as we were moving a massive outdoor table. It was such a beautiful piece of furniture, Mitt! The company told us that it had been sold for just $700. We gently chided the customer about the amazing deal he had gotten on the table. He looked confused and told us he had paid $1150. That’s when we realized that we were being cheated at a rate of 20-40% per item. We had wondered why the owner of that other company had been saying to us that we were all suffering together through the recession, but had managed to buy himself a new truck, a deep-sea fishing boat, and a travel trailer in the last year. In retrospect, it reminds me of how you’d like to give millionaires like yourself an average $250,000 tax cut, while people like me pay more. My husband and I shake our heads in amazement: $250,000? To you, it’s just an extra gold-plate bidet in the guest bedroom of your third-string yacht. People like my husband and me could change our entire lives with that sum of money.
But only quitters are losers, right Mitt? So we spent money on marketing classes and website development, hoping to build our own base of customers. And then, wouldn’t you know it- the workshop we were renting got foreclosed! Its owner had been taking our rent money and spending it on beer and cigarettes instead of her mortgage, which was totally legal for her to do… but it robbed us of a workplace and a home in one fell swoop.
Meanwhile, I still owned a house from my previous marriage. I rented it out because we couldn’t afford to live in it. The bank wouldn’t refinance us to a lower interest rate (saying we didn’t make enough money to qualify to pay less!) I had tried to sell the house, but we got no offers in the dead real estate market. The same week that our workshop and rented house foreclosed, my renter bailed on his lease agreement.
We had one week to close our business and move back to a home that we couldn’t afford. My husband had to take work as a trucker. He began to work eighty or more hours per week, but at the wages he was offered, he still earned 25% less than what we had made when we were being cheated on our furniture. Oh well, that’s capitalism. Sucks to be on the losing end. If only my husband and I had worked harder!
So I got myself a second job because I was committed to paying the bank every month for a property that continued to lose value, on a loan that was more that 3.5% above current interest rates. I didn’t want my credit score to suffer, because high interest rates and/or the inability to get a loan are kind of a bummer. It’s so funny how, when you have a lot of money, you get better deals. I gotta tell ya Mitt, being poor is expensivo! (That’s Spanish for: it costs a shitton of money.)
But this time I lucked out- my second job paid pretty well (I was running a federal pass-through grant for a local school district… have I mentioned how much I love me some big fat government titties?) My two jobs plus my husband working eighty hours a week translated into us almost recovering the financial ground we had lost when our small business got crushed by other people’s greed and deceit! Having two jobs even let me cover the childcare costs that I would incur and still make enough to cover that pesky, 6.38% mortgage of mine (along with $200 per month in flood insurance, in a place that hadn’t flooded in 100 years, across town from a river that is more in danger of drying up than flooding ever again… but wouldn’t you know it? The insurance industry had FEMA redraw their flood maps after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, and viola! My property was suddenly discovered to be a flood risk!)
You know Mitt, when you’re too lazy to really grab hold of the reigns of your life, it can go some funny directions on you. That lazy, shiftless husband of mine? The one who grew up in a conservative religious community, on a farm, who idolizes John Wayne and hasn’t been out of work since he was twelve? He got a call from a ranch and was invited to return to cowboying- his lifelong passion. It was a good thing, because he is just too lazy for the trucking life. He prefers riding horses in mountain wilderness, tending hundreds of cattle, and farming a few thousand acres. Pussy stuff like that.
Now we live on the ranch. I had to leave that second job of mine, and we took a $3000 per month pay cut to be here, but we get a small salary, a small house, utilities, a beef each year, health insurance, and paid vacation. My husband arrives at the horse barn at seven in the morning and comes homes by eight at night, most days.
While he works, I still do my first job from home, so I can be here for my children while I make some money for the family. I handle marketing, ad sales, and some editing and content for a regional magazine. It’s been a rotten time to work for a magazine, because so many businesses are struggling to stay afloat that they don’t have money to place ads with us. But we’ve managed to survive and it seems like things are finally starting to improve for us. When I’m not doing my job, I’m handling all the work of the household (ask your wife’s domestic help if you’re curious about what that might entail. Yo hablo Espanol, in case you need a translator), and I also help my husband with the horses and cows too, because this ranch is a tremendous amount of work for just a few men to do, so the wives pitch in. For example, I might ride ten miles of rough country with him in the morning before I settle back into my Station Upon the Couch to catch up on missed episodes of “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.”
A few weeks ago, I was out hunting with him before dawn. He killed a bull elk with a bow and arrow at five yards. We tracked the bull’s blood trail across a mountain before we found his body. We field dressed the six hundred pound animal, and then caught, saddled, and rode our horses back to the kill site (on a steep hillside littered with dead spruce.) A bear lurked just out of view and our horses spooked a few times, but we managed to stay in our saddles. Then we quartered and loaded the elk, rode out, and hauled the meat to the butcher for packing. I went home to make dinner and wash all our bloody gear while my husband did the ranch chores in the dark. It was all in a day’s work for a couple of freeloading asshats like my husband and me!
That elk will feed our family until we get our beef in the spring. It’s a good thing, because the cost of food these days means we can’t afford to buy meat at the grocery store. I keep checking my mailbox for a package marked “Here’s Your Free Food From The Government”, but so far it hasn’t come, so it’s a good thing that my husband and I know how to shoot our bows.
Mitt? I hate to have to tell you this but my husband’s a little miffed at the way things are going. He’s wondering why the rich are paying the lowest tax rate in modern history, while folks like us took the hit in the recession. He wonders why the banking industry got radically deregulated, created a historic recession, and then got bailed out, but wouldn’t bother to lower my interest rate on a house that has lost most of its value and all of my personal wealth in the last three years. He says, in his cute, folksy way, “Don’t you think if trickle-down worked, it woulda gone and trickled down by now?” I have to say I’m inclined to agree… it’s been a rough ride for my little family.
My loving parents have helped us out through the truly awful patches. Like that day I didn’t have enough gas money to get my son to the doctor after he had a frightening reaction to a wasp string.
Those lazy old farts don’t pay income tax either! I guess it’s because they’re retired. When they’re not sitting on their asses, they run the volunteer fire department’s annual pancake breakfast, check on elderly neighbors, serve on a variety of boards of directors, visit people who are dying to listen to their stories or brush their hair. It’s the kind of self-absorbed bullshit you would expect from a man who gave thirty years of his life as a fire fighter in a rough, inner city department, and a woman who, after she stayed home with her children, went on to develop a career in non-profit fundraising and to help run a hospice organization. If there’s anything my parents have taught me, it’s to be selfish and to not give a fuck about anyone but yourself!
Which makes it kind of an awesome score that my parents are staunch Republicans, and they’ll probably vote for you! But Mitt, I have to tell you- that red-state, conservative, cowboy-hunter-redneck husband of mine? He isn’t voting for you. And me? Well, you’ve already given up on me so I don’t even need to say it.