A Letter To Mitt Romney

Dear Mr Romney,

I heard about your remarks to a group of wealthy folks, about how half of Americans are dependent upon government but pay no taxes. Call it cognitive dissonance, but I simply don’t understand what country you’re describing. Sure, there are some folks living below the poverty line whose income is so low there is no point to collecting tax from them, but it can’t be half the country. I really can’t imagine the IRS would allow half the citizens of the country to pay nothing in tax while continuing to derive benefits from government programs. I know you’re not big on fact checkers (or facts), but the rest of us need something to rally behind, and your word as former governor just isn’t enough.

Facts are helpful, especially when they’re true. You see, facts are what small business owners collect in order to make smart decisions about how to improve their business. I know you mostly worked with large companies who had long forgotten how to make smart decisions by the time you met them, but it’s true. You’re welcome to take my word for it, but I imagine you have a similar attitude about my word as I do about yours. So, to help with that little problem, I happen to have some facts right here. Let’s take a look, shall we? I think we’ll all learn something.

When I was in high school, my step-mother gave me $2 each week to buy as much ground beef as I could from our local market. It was enough to make burgers for me and my step-brother. The rest of the week, we mostly ate lentil soup and corn flakes. Some nights, I was lucky enough to have dinner at a friend’s house. I had great friends that treated me well. I walked to the bus to get to school, a science and math magnet school that my parents fought hard to get me into. After all, I was just a punk-ass redheaded kid from some backwoods county in Maryland. In Baltimore, the city schools use the city bus system, which is subsidized by tax money. I worked hard, got good grades, and secured admission into several engineering schools. I didn’t have a seemingly unlimited supply of money to spend, so I was forced to go to a state school, supported by state programs largely funded by tax revenue. I had to take out loans to cover my tuition, and I’m still paying them off more than ten years later. I don’t mind; the interest is really low. My loans were subsidized by the federal government, so the interest was paid while I was in school. I really do appreciate that.

Once I graduated, I did what any self-respecting capitalist does. I set out to make as much money as I could. Turns out, I’m pretty good at that. I tripled my salary within 5yrs, reaching a respectable low six figures within 8yrs of graduating college. Most of what I did during that time was contract work for the government, with my salary paid in full by grant money, funneled through the Navy and special forces. While I’m decently good at making money for myself, I seem to be really good at making money for others. In 2008, I contributed significantly to a project for IHG that has since made them $1B. Now, we’re speaking your language. I can see your ears perked up. We must be talking about numbers in the scale you’re accustomed to working with. After that, I did a little work for Veterans Affairs, helping put to rest a doomed project that wasted hundreds of millions of taxpayer money. Saving money is like making money, right?

Well, after all that waste and bureaucracy, I started my own company. Why should they make all that money and I make such a small fraction of it? So, I set out to find small companies who needed my services. I would partner with them for some cash and some ownership in the final product. The first one was a bust. I had to sue them. They went bankrupt, and I never saw more than 25% of the reward for my labor. The next one, though, went on to publish one of the most popular and successful iPhone apps on the market. In fact, they were so successful they won $1M prize earlier this year at an influential conference. They’ve also never taken a single dollar in investment capital, but they did receive some grant funding from a state university to bootstrap their initial product development. After that, I built another company that is growing faster than we can keep up with it. Then another. Then another. Now, I’m working on something that might be worth $5B in 10yrs. Or maybe it’ll fall on its face and go nowhere. (Hopefully the former)

I am not financially wealthy, at least not yet. I will likely never see as many commas in my bank account as you do. And it isn’t a contest, at least not to me. I see problems in the world, and I feel compelled to solve them, not because they are easy, but because they are hard. I do not sacrifice my nights and weekends because I believe I may be able to make money for myself or someone else, but because I couldn’t live with myself if I saw people in need and did nothing to help them. I am not a capitalist. I am just a man, a citizen of this great nation who believes that no one builds anything of lasting value alone, without any help from others. Often, it comes in the form of a government assistance program, such as a Pell grant or a small business innovation grant. I spent most of my life benefiting from government programs, and almost all of my first million has come, in one form or another, from a government grant initiative.

So, to you, Mr. Romney, I say congratulations on being born into wealth, but you’re sorely mistaken if you think all that wealth came from your family’s blood, sweat, and tears. Somewhere along the line, and probably often, your money came from a federal grant or a state program. You’re no better than anyone, just because your daddy paid for your education and healthcare. From where I’m sitting, you’re just a chump who thinks he’s entitled to the presidency. It’s ironic, really, given the emphasis on your use of the word “entitlement” in describing those of us who truly deserve government benefits. Please, for the sake of all the decent, hard-working folks who have graciously accepted government funding to build something for themselves and their communities, just give up now. You can’t save face, and you can’t lie your way out of this. It’s over.

Fuck you very much,