Dear Governor Romney,
I’m writing to invite you to come visit New Orleans.
Why, you might ask? Well, for starters, you’ve had a tough week of “inelegant statements” coming to light, such as your assertion at a Florida fundraiser in May that “my job is not to worry about” the 47 percent of Americans who don’t pay federal income tax because “there’s nothing I can do to convince them to take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
Get away from all those pesky reporters and fact-checkers and do what so many Americans do when they want to escape: Come to New Orleans! Put on dat magic underwear and strut down Bourbon Street. You can even do some fundraising with the kind of people you missed the first time around (at that $50k-per-head dinner at Joe Canizaro’s house in Old Metairie). I know plenty of people who would pay to see Paul Ryan dance … on the bar … at the Corner Pocket, Oz, or the Pub (though I’d suggest he steer clear of the Rawhide and Phoenix).
I’m also inviting you because I think you might learn something. You see, while there’s no question you are a good husband, father, grandfather, and Mormon, there are a lot of questions about whether you understand how much of this country lives — 47 percent of our country, to be precise.
We can change that if you come to New Orleans. And we can start in my neighborhood of Treme.
Here in Treme, you can meet people like Miss Jessie. She’s my elderly neighbor living on the Social Security she accrued during her career as a school janitor. Miss Jessie may not pay income tax, but I sure wouldn’t call her a “victim” (as you labeled the 47 percent) because, (a) she might run you down with the Chevrolet she still drives and (b) there is nothing “victim” about a woman who worked all her life, raised a family, owns a house and, at 90, still lives on her own.
I’d also like you to meet my friend Glenn. He’s working an overnight shift in the Quarter and just started college at UNO. Due to low wages and grants, he’s not likely to owe income tax this year. The good news is that you don’t need to “convince” him to “take personal responsibility.” He already has. By going back to school.
Finally, I hope you can join me one morning while I walk my dog. (I know, that may sound weird, but in New Orleans our dogs’ preferred method of travel is walking on their own four paws vs. riding in a carrier on the roof of a car. Call us crazy!). If you do join me, we’re bound to run into this great guy who lives on St. Philp. He has a big white pick-up truck. I don’t think he loves anything in the world more. Except, of course, his kids, all girls.
A few weeks ago, he had to make a tough choice. You see, he uses that truck to do his job as a contractor. He had to miss a day of work because the truck was in the shop. Then he got the bill. It was a big one. Unfortunately, at the same time, he got another big bill: his daughter’s tuition came due. He couldn’t pay both. I think you know which one he chose. Now, this man probably won’t pay taxes this year because of tax credits, such as the child tax credits Newt Gingrich championed as Speaker. Meet him, Governor Romney, and I think you might change your mind that 47 percent of the people in this country don’t “care for their lives” (or their children’s lives).
Most of them do care. Most of them do take personal responsibility. Precious few of them would say they are victims.
Now, of course, I say “most” and “few” because, let’s face it, there are a few bad apples in every bunch (like those 4,000 millionaires in the 47 percent who don’t pay federal income taxes).
But, you know, the good people I want you to meet, they know about those folks. They know about the people who always put on airs and go around all cock-of-the-walk. The ones who, regardless of who or if they worship, always seem to forget the wisdom in the words “whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”
But my neighbors are smart. And patient. They know that karma just loves to saunter up to the small minority of folks who truly are entitled, tap them on the shoulder, and say “gotcha.” The expression on their faces is downright priceless.
Which is why, Governor Romney, there might be a segment of Americans right now who are waiting to see your face. On November 6.
Brett Will Taylor is a southern Shaman who writes Love: NOLA weekly for NolaVie. Visit his site at ashamansjourney.net.