I generally try to avoid politics and discussions about politics because I know that not everyone thinks the same way I do and I don't like to offend my friends. Actually, the main reason I avoid talking about politics is because I don't feel like I have enough knowledge to defend my opinions in the inevitable discussion which follows.
So. That being said, I saw this on a friend's Facebook wall a while ago and the discussion I read in the comments was one that I was reluctant to chime in on because I wasn't sure I was understanding both sides. I decided that my own little corner of the blogosphere was a better place to share the video and clarify my understanding of what is being said, as well as sharing my own story.
So first, watch this:
And now for my questions.
Why does it matter what 5,000 people (a pretty tiny percentage of US citizens) think the distribution of wealth is? It is what it is, right? People thinking it's different doesn't mean anything significant, does it?
What exactly does "redistribution of wealth" mean? I picture Robin
Hood, taking from the rich and giving to the poor. That doesn't seem
right to me. I understand that some people think that the wealthiest Americans should make less money and the poorest Americans should make more money. But how? I don't understand how this would happen or who should get to decide how it would happen, if it ever did. Isn't that something we choose based on the decisions we make?
Here is what I know.
I was born into a family where both of my parents were Deaf and ended their formal education after high school. They both worked hard for most of the years I was at home in order to provide for our family of 6. Mom was a seamstress and did data entry. Dad worked as a pipefitter, custodian, plumber, and anything else that helped him to support our family. I had two older siblings and one younger brother. Times were often tough but we were mostly happy and always found a way to provide for each other. My siblings and I were never encouraged to attend college because my parents never felt it was necessary.
When I left home I was the first in my family to do so. I drove from California to Utah in a 1976 Dodge Aspen that my parents helped me pay $500 for. The day I arrived I went to the local university and community college and found myself two jobs as a sign language interpreter. I worked 60 hours a week and provided for myself. It was empowering.
Allen comes from a family of sixteen kids who were raised by two supportive parents that cared for their family on a school teacher's salary. His mom never worked outside of the home. They always had what they needed because his parents knew how to budget their money and taught their kids how to save. They never felt poor. The kids all learned to work together. His parents encouraged all of their kids to get good grades and move on to college after graduating from high school, so they did.
When we got married, Allen and I both worked while we were going to college. I continued to interpret while Allen worked wherever the pay was decent. At first he worked on campus. In the summers he painted houses. After a while he got a job at a food manufacturing company, and then for a company who produced high-end speaker systems. He did janitorial work. At one point between jobs he worked at Jiffy Lube because it was the only place that was hiring. We had a couple of kids and took care of our little family. It wasn't always easy, but we made things work. I shopped for clothes at thrift stores. I planned my menus according to what items were on sale at the grocery store. I stopped attending school so I could be home with the kids more. I worked days while Allen worked nights. I took jobs at restaurants and golf courses when interpreting work wasn't available. Things always seemed to work out with thoughtful planning on our part.
We dreamed of buying a house but couldn't afford it. One day we went
for a long drive and found a little town that most people haven't heard of, about 90 minutes away,
where houses were very affordable. We put a small down payment on an $18,000
house and Allen commuted an hour and a half each way to work for a year. Allen fixed up the yard and remodeled the house on weekends. After a few
years we were able to sell the house for enough of a profit to make a
down-payment on a house back in the place where we wanted to raise our
When our third child, Thumbelina, was only 8 months old she had to have major cranial surgery due to cranial synostosis. Allen was out of work when this happened and had to continue his job hunt in the middle of it all so he wouldn't miss any opportunities that might come. Thankfully I had insurance through the school district I was working
for, but we still had a large portion left to pay after her long
hospital stay. We worked hard and paid what we could each month until we finally took care of that debt. We took out student loans when we needed to and paid them back on our own. We had yard sales and even sold a few things to a pawn shop. At one point I taught accordion lessons on Saturdays to bring in a little extra cash.
School was sort of an off-and-on thing for Allen, which was part of the reason his jobs weren't the most high paying. We recognized that this needed to change and we decided to work together to make school a priority for him. Allen carefully chose his field of study and after many years of determination and juggling schedules he got his degree. It was not always easy but we knew that in the end Allen could better provide for the large family we hoped to fill our home with.
Allen graduated with a bachelor's degree in 1999 and found a job with the company he is still working for today. (Pretty much the best, most family-oriented company on the planet. I wish everyone I like could work there.)
Did we have to work hard to get where we are? Yes, we did. And we continue to do so. So here's the part I guess I don't get. Wherever we are on the scale of Poor to Rich, isn't that where we deserve to be? And if the guy who makes more money than he even knows what to do with chose his profession or lucked out or worked like crazy to get there, doesn't he deserve it, too?
I really would love to hear what you think about this, whether you agree with me or not, because I am trying to understand both sides. I really am.
The floor is yours.