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Saturday, August 11, 2012

Tale of Two Fathers, Which Art in Heaven: My Parallel Universe Sibling Paul Ryan Made Me Write This

Once upon a time – a couple years after Paul Ryan’s lawyer father died, leaving four children – Paul Ryan being the youngest in 10th grade – my public school teacher father kicked-the-bucket (he’d want me to use that line), leaving seven children behind, the oldest in 12th grade.  I was in 8th grade. 

My family towed the Reagan/Bush Republican Economics line pretty well.  We didn’t ask for government assistance.  My RN mother moved us closer to her and my father’s family.  She found a big farm house in the country – dirt cheap in the early 1990s but she’d never be able to afford that same house now.  She joked that she thought she got such a good deal on the house because the elderly Catholic farmer widow probably thought she was selling to a fellow Catholic.  Yep - we fundagelical Baptists had moved from Lutheran country into Catholic country.  Rural Minnesota – ‘the Country’ – was a member of our family and she would never have considered forcing us to remain sane in even a small town environment.  We moved from the middle of wheat fields to the middle of corn and soybean fields.

While my mom looked for flexible nursing work, she accompanied us kids on bean-walking expeditions – dirty, mud-up-to-the-knee work for a well-to-do, kind farmer neighbor.  We pulled weeds in those soybean fields as a family that first summer after my father died.  That farmer eventually hired me as a babysitter and my brothers as farm hands. 

Paul Ryan received Social Security Survivor Benefits money upon his father’s death.  He put that money in savings to pay for college. We also received Social Security Survivor Benefits upon my father’s death – something my mother didn’t know we had coming until someone told her she basically didn’t have a choice but to take it.  It was basically money our father had already paid into Social Security.   

Normally the government passes this Survivor’s Benefit on to cover the expenses of the surviving children through high school graduation.  However, thanks to living the Procreate-For-Jesus Quiverfull lifestyle, there were seven of us – and they only give those benefits for three children at a time.  The money went to pay for some living expenses – mainly health and car insurance for all of us and paying the new mortgage on a big old house that needed constant repair. 

We may have survived without that money once my mom found a decent gig as an RN.  However, when it rains, it pours.  One of my brothers got in a serious snowmobile accident that required he remain in a hospital for over a month – and then once he got out he was in a partial body cast for months that required constant care and intensive physical therapy.  The hospital was almost an hour away so my mother made the difficult decision to quit her RN gig to care for my brother.  Could she have worked full time AND visited, then care for my brother in a body cast?  

Maybe – but this is the type of situation Republicans like Paul Ryan just don’t get... or worse... don't care about.  His father’s death found Ryan in an unfortunate situation, but not so unfortunate that the money he saved for college had to be used to make ends meet.

Paul Ryan doesn’t get that misfortune often happens in spades.  Social Security and government social programs are there for people in Ryan’s situation – but also for people much worse off than Ryan’s situation, and people much, much worse off than my teenage situation.  It appears Paul Ryan didn’t understand poverty then – and he doesn’t understand poverty now. 

There is a poverty that hard work doesn’t put a dent in, but I will not expect people who are born into wealth, or even Comfort, to understand what ground zero is.  I’m lucky to know what ground zero is from the ground level.  Paul Ryan looked down at ground zero.  Too many Americans look up at ground zero. 

There is no Pride in having to rely on strangers for help – but that is in part what we as a nation guarantee through taxation – the kindness of strangers.  Churches require a 10% tithe – much of that money goes to keep the buildings open, pews dusted and pastors paid – not to support widows and orphans as the Bible asks.  No church EVER offered assistance… in fact… single mothers were looked on so suspiciously in the 1990s that you'd think they had never heard of something called 'being Christ-like'. 

Neighbor farmers can offer work to fatherless children – but these kids need transportation to get to work away from the farm.  Cars cost money.  Lots and lots of money.  The list goes on and on and on.  Social Security and government assistance programs are NOT pin money for many Americans.  And the government does NOT anymore cause or encourage poverty than wealthy people who jump through tax loop holes are job creators.

Heck, riding public transit costs money… transportation that Republicans of Rand/Ryan ilk think they should not have to subsidize with their taxes.  If they had their way, every street would have a toll booth at the end of it guarded by someone who can force payment out of you with the end of a semi-automatic.

I rejoice that I have jobs that take taxes out that go to programs that might help out total strangers less fortunate than myself.  It is a secular tithe I am grateful to offer up.  It sure beats the begrudging charity (if you're lucky) of judgmental churches and too many to count so-called Christians.

Why do people need safety nets set up by the government?  Because the government cannot discriminate based on race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, etc, etc, etc… all things private businesses can do and do do… and way too many churches do too.  In fact, I remember discussing the biblical suggestion that widows marry their husband’s brother.  Thank goodness my dad had no brothers and that my mother had already produced more than enough sons.  

Does it bother Paul Ryan that such a large percentage of non-Caucasian children rely on Survivor Benefits?  Does Paul Ryan think Social Security Survivor Benefits is pocket change that can go into savings accounts?  Does Paul Ryan not realize that in the grand scheme of things, his father’s death may not have been nearly as economically earth-shattering as the disability or death of parents starting off in a much less privileged situation?   Did it hurt his Pride that much that the government gave him money that he had coming to him?  Does his and Ayn Rand’s hypocrisy go unchallenged?  Not if I can help it.

Social Security was designed to keep people’s chins up.  Social Security is not welfare that discourages the poor from getting work.  Social Security Survivor Benefits is not something to be ashamed of.  Judging by Paul Ryan’s budget philosophies, you’d be tempted to think otherwise.

Yeah – we also got reduced priced lunches at (public) school.  Is that next on his agenda?  Probably. 

I currently work two jobs.  One is a public service job in local public libraries… my dream job… a job I went to school for and am extremely grateful and excited to have.  It pays peanuts. For the first time in my life I’m union. 

I am also a woman.  Women are more apt to take service jobs that pay peanuts.  My second job is to ensure that I can have a little money left over after I pay my minimalist bills (no car, no cable, no internet, no credit cards) and buy groceries. 

Like Ryan, I know all about frugality.  I also know that losing a father in death is fairly rare in the modern America… and fairly difficult to process.  Like Ryan, I too have a father which art (not) in heaven.  Unlike Ryan, I have no desire to return to the corrupt, Victorian days of Charles Dickens’ England where whoring widows and street orphans abounded and public schools were barely heard of… where schools were run for profit by close-minded men and the bread of charity was doled out in exchange for conversion.  I’d like to think that somewhere in our parallel universes Ryan also read “David Copperfield” around the time of his father’s death….

No wait! If he had read Charles Dickens, he’d have likely turned into the bleeding heart, sob-story liberal that I am.  He read Ayn Rand.  Never the ‘Twain shall we meet. 

In the end, Paul Ryan is one of the most dangerous candidates the GOP has ever produced.  Unlike Romney, he BELIEVES in slashing of government resources under any and all circumstances.  Ryan is Romney’s way of sucking up to the men and women who glamorize the culture of Victorian times… who are unable to understand that we (women, children, workers, minorities) are much better off for having left those times behind us.

Paul Ryan’s world is not a world I want to live in.  I will not stand idly by and let Paul Ryan’s parallel universe become my world. 

Please help me stand strong against him.

Social Security Survivor Benefits


Anonymous said...

Just have to comment on your post. First of all, I think things have changed since Paul Ryan's family received social security benefits. Now if you're mother or father die, you only receive benefits until you are 16 years old. If your parent becomes disabled that goes on until you graduate from high school (latest being a few months past turning 19). We do get these benefits for our family as my husband is disabled and has been for the last 7 years. He was only 49 when he could no longer work due to a severe condition. However, we get a letter every year asking if there is any money left over from the childrens portion of our disability check. We would NOT be allowed to save this money for college or anything else. We would have to give it back to the government. We basically live in poverty and use it all to pay our bills. We receive some help with food and health insurance for which I am so grateful as I have a child with severe asthma as well and it scares me to think of not being able to seek treatment. I have hope that my children will be able to get some education beyond high school so that they do not have to live their adult lives in poverty as they have their childhood. It would be impossible for them without any help from the government. When I hear these politicians talking about cutting programs for low income people, it makes me ill. How can people have hope of getting out of their circumstances without training or education? There are so many that fall through the nets and I believe just give up. People who have no one to advocate for them, who are too sick or too downtrodden. It also bothers me, as a Christian, that my very christianity is questioned when I tell others I'm voting for Obama. It's so Christ-like to not care for your neighbor or the poor, right? I think there are other areas that government waste can be addressed other than declaring war on the poor. Again, thanks for writing this and I'm not the best writer but hopefully, I've made some sense.

Christine Vyrnon said...

#1. Thank you for sharing your experience and frustrations. Telling your story is half the battle, and the more courage you have to do so, the more likely someone who needs to hear you... liberal or conservative... will HEAR and Learn. So thank you for taking the time to share... and no one needs to apologize about writing around here. Believe me.

#2. It bothers me too, to no end, that a person's faith is questioned based on their support of a liberal... any liberal... but Obama in particular... and he isn't even that liberal. It bothers me that conservatives have pushed us so far to the right that Obama is viewed as a long haired hippie. Ridiculous. And ridiculous that your fellow Christians have less problem with him than the other option. Argh. We live in a very surreal world.

#3. You make an ineresting point about 16 versus 18. I had to double check, but the cut off age for Survivor Benefits is still HS graduation/19 or 18... whichever comes first. I'll include a link to the page at the end of the blog post above. But you are right... other places it says something about the age 16 so this is still a bit murky. Very interesting to learn about how the Gov takes back what isn't used in your case. If Paul Ryan, as likely the sole child beneficiary, received as much as he probably did upon his father's death... good for him... but that is a HUGE chunk of change because it would not have been divvied out between other siblings. HUGE Ca-Ching for someone who didn't need to use it to help keep a roof over his head. It also would be more because his father very likely made much, much more than my father... or your husband. Which again... is FINE!!!! as long as you don't take that kind of safety net for granted when you gain power... He seems to be ashamed???? about it??? I can't tell. Catholic guilt??? Once again. I don't know much about guilt as an ex-born-againer. Maybe we can blame it on Ayn Rand... but it probably is much more complex than that.

#4. Somehow TeaParty Libertarians believe that government assistance holds people back from gaining wealth. That philosophy also makes me sick. Yes there are occasional abuses of government funds, but they can talk about abuse of government funds directed to the poor once they are willing to talk about abuse of government funds to fund war and tax loopholes for people who can afford to pay less in taxes percentage-wise than most Americans. I'm not interested in their obsession with "welfare queens" who use government food assistance stamps to buy Haagen Dazs ice cream. Damn. That line from the 1990s still pisses me off.

#5. Take the very best care of YOURSELF that you can. I hope you find strength from others who will not pass judgment on your situation. Those who do pass judgment on your legitimate needs ... i guarantee... are NOT happy people. Keep YourSelf strong AND

#6. THANK YOU!!!!!!

krissthesexyatheist said...

I totally hated my country upbringing. could have been a lot worse, but i really wanted to have sidewalks-really, that is how I measured happiness. Still, wish we had that big house, the red barn and all the prob=perty right now. I'd start a hippie atheist commune thingy. awesome buddy,


Christine Vyrnon said...

Sidewalks.... yes!!!! Our bikes were not made for gravel roads either and pavement was sooooo rare... now I bike everywhere... which is a good way to measure happiness. I of course will join your hippie atheist commune thingy. Thanks for stopping by, Kris :)