Dear Mitt Romney, Here’s My 47% Story

In 2003, I was unexpectedly pregnant. But, oh, I was in love with my child.

I began working at a low-paying job, at all kinds of stupid hours, so I could provide for my child, for myself. I did sign up for Medical Assistance through state assistance because my employer did not offer (affordable) insurance, but I didn’t sign up for Food Stamps or Cash Assistance through the state of Pennsylvania because certain groups of people made that a shameful action. I believed I was stronger and better than people who needed such things. I was going to Make It in the world, without help, without assistance.

Ah, how pride cometh before the fall.

At 18 weeks pregnant, I was at work when I started to feel a little woozy. My back hurt horribly, and not in an “I’m Pregnant and Achy All Over Way.” I wasn’t even showing yet, so it wasn’t even an “I Gained Too Much Weight Already And My Back Hurts.” I knew it was different. I felt whiny, but I left work early, ate a sandwich, and took a nap in my modest, self-funded apartment. I woke up with a fever of 104. After calling my doctor, I went straight to the Emergency Room.

What follows is a story that no young mother expects to live. I went through an emergency surgery on my kidney. I was placed on Level III bed rest, suddenly unable to work or even get out of bed to shower everyday. I had to go on Cash Assistance to make my rent. I had to sign up for Food Stamps in order to eat. I was kicked off assistance three times during my pregnancy because I couldn’t get out of bed, couldn’t drive myself to appointments to keep that assistance. I had to fight to keep enough money coming in to eat food — food that I couldn’t get out of bed and prepare for myself.

Due to that craziness that ensued because of an undiagnosed kidney disorder and the panic of not being able to work, not being able to keep assistance, I relinquished that baby — my only daughter — for adoption.

Needless to say, I did not earn enough money in 2003 to be required to pay federal taxes, like the 47% you chastised and called entitled. I also didn’t spend all of my Food Stamps that were allotted to me in that year. Nor did I use all of the Cash Assistance. I simply couldn’t go out and spend the money. It was a year of bare necessities, a year of bare minimum. I only gained 19 pounds that pregnancy, partly because of my health and partly because I couldn’t get up and get food, make food, find the energy to consume food.

As for my “entitlement” to the health care that I received during that pregnancy, I felt no such entitlement. I simply needed it. I felt shame then, and it angers me that you are still shaming me now, nine years later. Without that medical coverage, Mr. Romney, I would have died. Plain and simple. My life was on the line twice during that pregnancy. But you see, I paid taxes before that pregnancy and have paid taxes every year since that pregnancy. I have worked my ass off. And, even if I hadn’t, even if legislation and economy failures and poor choices I could have made would have kept me from finding stable employment and building my life — even if I hadn’t wanted to do right by my daughter and prove myself to be more than a failure — I believe that my living, breathing self was worth your tax dollars. I believe that the doctors working hard to save my life, to help keep my unborn child safe from my own toxic body, oh, I believe we were both worth it. Especially her.

I will vote for a President who doesn’t make me feel guilty for signing up for Medical Assistance when I needed it. I will vote for a President who doesn’t villainize me for a health condition that we didn’t know about, that landed me flat on my back and in need of help from others. I will vote for a President who doesn’t make me out to be the bad guy for accepting that help. I will vote for a President who doesn’t throw me under the bus in the name of campaigning. I may not have paid taxes in 2003, but I can assure you that I will stand with those who need assistance, who need help, and vote for Obama in 2012.

Obama Plate


This post originally appears on The Chronicles of Munchkin Land, my now defunct adoption blog.


This post was syndicated by BlogHer on September 18, 2012.


56 replies on “Dear Mitt Romney, Here’s My 47% Story”

What is really amazing is how fast he is running away from the only true great achievement he had as governor of Massachusetts – Romneycare. He had his gubernatorial portrait painted with the law on his desk! There was a great article about that in this month’s Esquire.

I have to respond. I applaud you for getting assistance. There are a bunch of people too ashamed to ask when they need it, BUT there are others that will ask when they DON’T need it. I was married young, and immediately was asked “when are you going to start having babies?” My response was always “When I can afford them.” I am not kidding you with this next part. A lady told me one day, “Just do what me and my husband did. We didn’t put down how much we really make when they ask how much we make at the assistance office.” The husband has his own business so he neglected to claim the cash payments, etc. So these people who make well over 100k a year, are on SNAP (food stamps then) and she got WIC for the first 5 years. WTF, I ask, does this tell others who don’t want to work or can lie and get assistance. It takes away from people who really need it. I am proud of you for taking it when needed, but some do abuse the system and that only hurts people who NEED it.

Casey, by using the “some abuse it” argument it shifts the focus from why we NEED these programs (which Jenna’s story clearly illustrates) to how we can make sure these programs aren’t abused (which hasn’t really been discussed much politically). Different issues, different solutions. Cutting social programs because they are misused sometimes is like cutting off your foot because you have an ingrown toenail. Leaving them as the status quo means that yes, some people will misuse them, just as people misuse and abuse any system they interact with, legal, social or political.
Ever since Reagan’s fictional “welfare queen” story in the 80’s there has been an undertone of “those people” (read low class baby factories) don’t “deserve” (aren’t tax paying good citizens) help. And that undertone needs to be addressed, brought out into the open and debunked as a falsehood, because I was on welfare as well as a single mom. I got kicked off multiple times, my benefits cut or denied because I hadn’t turned in the correct form or gotten to a meeting when I didn’t have transportation.

Thank you for this important comment about the shift of the discussion. That’s why I shared my story, and I can already see that in some cases, some people aren’t willing to listen to the story at hand.

I am sorry you were kicked off as well. The more I talk about my story — which I haven’t really, for many reasons — the more I find stories like these.

Sorry, but I have to call BS on all these stories about 100k earners getting food stamps, WIC, etc. There are always a few who will take advantage of any system, but the vast majority of people getting help in the US do actually need it.

I didn’t say a bunch. This is one example and I know for sure that this happened as I watched it play out. It happens. I know. However, this isn’t the norm, I’m sure, but it does happen.

FYI. My household is one of those terrible examples people like to talk about. I don’t make 100K, but I definitely make a fair amount of money. And I use medicaid and wic for my foster children. Am I abusing the system?

@Casey what you describe is fraud. People who are determined to act dishonestly will always do so.

I absolutely think that you are doing what you need to do for your family. You are doing something wonderful by taking in foster kids. Any help that is available to you, you should use. As should everyone as long as they need to use it. I didn’t post that comment to upset anyone, I wanted people to know that I have witnessed the most horrible abuse of the system and I also see my grandmother struggle every month because she gets $35 in SNAP assistance… What can you get with that little amount of money? Can you live a month on $35? The people who abuse it make me sick and the people who need it often times can’t get it. It is a horrible cycle. @Jenna, the fact that you were made to feel bad about it proves that there are misconceptions that need to be addressed and fixed. It is not shameful to need help.

I obviously take very personal offense when people abuse the system because they are the groups of people who give people like me — who needed help — a bad name. Then again, I’m pretty sure Mitt is giving rich people a bad name right now too. It’s unfortunate that the extremists of any demographic or belief have to make things difficult for everyone else.

I am 100% sure that abuse of the welfare system exists. What process it will take to solve it is beyond me. It could be something as simple as a whistleblower system where people like Casey who see legitimate fraud can report and the process of review would hopefully uncover that fraud. Or we can take it as a necessary cost of having a civilized society, that in order to support those among us most in need, we will be scammed, we will be fleeced.

I consider it a draw. I am one of the people who gives to the panhandlers on the side of the road. I sometimes make up bags with granola bars, nuts, water bottles, wipes, clean socks, local info for shelters and a $5 bill. Will some use the money for booze or drugs? Yes, but some will buy a sandwich or some deodorant, some might make it to a shelter and find a way to better life. Is the trade off worth it? Always, in my opinion.

And that trade off, helping those who need it most while knowing that some will misuse it, is at the heart of what it means to be truly generous.

I agree Casey. I absolutely believe in helping people when they need it. I also can’t help but feel angry about the people who abuse the system and take help when they really don’t. For Romney to make the remarks he did was just plain ridiculous.

And you are not who he is talking about. Governent assistance is there for when you fall on hard times. To assist you back on your feet. Romeny was referring to the 47% of people who don’t pay income tax. The 47% who live off of the government, and are happy to do so. I’m sure you are going to argue that people don’t want to live like that, but I see it everyday as a section 8 landlord.

I didn’t pay income tax that year. That’s what I said in the post, and that’s who he was talking about in his speech. You can’t make a sweeping generalization about everyone of a certain type. You can’t. You don’t get to and not hear from those that take offense.

@ Alicia “but I see it everyday as a section 8 landlord.”

You are collecting rent payments from a government program – your rental business is being subsidized by the taxpayers.

Jenna’s story is an example of how much these programs are needed. I’m glad she shared it here. I only wish she hadn’t lost her daughter to adoption because of her illness.

I don’t pay income tax. My husband is a doctor, but still in residency. He works 80 hours a week and if you broke down his pay by the hour he would make barely half of minimum wage. I just finished graduate school and am now a working Physical Therapist. Together, for our doctorates, we owe 500k in student loans, which we are working our asses off for. We don’t pay income tax yet because our income is too low, but we work incredibly hard.

So when a candidate says, “I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives” I can’t help but laugh. Because I may not make enough to pay for income taxes yet, but I can guarantee that I work every bit as hard as Mitt, in a field that is actually helping people every day instead of tearing them down or outsourcing their jobs.

Thank you for sharing your story as well. It’s another important component to this discussion.

Also, high five for working your butts off. Also, without my Physical Therapist, I would still be basically immobile. I love her!

Jenna, thank you for being willing to share your story. I’m sorry you had to experience it. I hope people will read it and better understand we are actually talking about when we talk about safety nets and assistance.

Oh Jenna. My heart is so so so full with love for you and your family right now. Sharing these stories is the only way people will see that there are PEOPLE attached to numbers and statistics. xoxo

When my oldest daughter was born, I also went on assistance. I was also kicked off of assistance. I was required to attend a program that found you a job, or helped you get into college. I had a job, and I was enrolled in classes at our local community college when I went to the first meeting for the program.

They had no idea what to do with me, because I had helped myself.

It was six frustrating months, when my daughter was six months old, I quit school and began working full time to support her and to ensure that she had medical care. I couldn’t jump through the hoops anymore.

Granted this was 20 years ago, there are still parts of the welfare system that are broken, but I would have been in big trouble without assistance those first six months with my daughter.

I was determined to make it on my own after that, and I did.

No, you will vote for a President who is hand picking a group of 14 individuals who will be tasked with deciding who gets the medical care they need, how much funding will allocated to certain age brackets and what tests/procedures are viable.

BTW, these folks are unelected and do not have medical backgrounds. Quite likely if things keep going as they are, you would not have received the care you so critically needed. You would have been assessed by committee and placed on a list, for future care if you were so fortunate. As to the additional support you needed, please remember that at the end of the day, someone, somewhere, will need to repay the debts this country is wracking up at an alarming rate.

There is no such thing as a free lunch. Not really. And please note that my family once was on assistance too; this is different. Now I hear and witness able bodied folks choosing not to work because they can live workfree and still garner an income. They can stay home and live off the largesse of others. It has sadly (for some) become a way of life NOT a short term stopgap for ture emergencies.

Please don’t mistake a short term need for a fundamental shift in our country. And remember my comment of somewhere, someone must pay, someday? That will be our children or grandchildren fullfilling that debt, if at all possible.

Just offering a reality check of both sides.

Also, Romney/Ryan, war on women? There are now more women below the poverty rate than ever before. More women have lost jobs under this admimistration than any other. And a war on women? Have we stopped to think what will happen to the women of Iraq when we finally pull out? THAT is a true war………and the women of that country are in grave danger as are many women around the world. Every. Single. Day.

I voted for this current President, but now am looking very carefully beyond the rhetoric and paying close attention to the real issues.

Just my 2 cents and I thank you for letting me share.

I don’t know if my comment will make it through moderation, but: Lora, you do realize that your first two paragraphs (about panels that will make medical decisions for you) is a blatant falsehood, right? The government is not taking over healthcare, is not creating panels that will approve or disapprove healthcare. That is not what Obamacare is about. Arguably, the health care insurance industry already wields that power, and something that Obamacare is seeking to end (by making it a law that you can’t be denied insurance for a pre-existing condition, for example).

There are people who abuse the “welfare” system, and that irks me. But you know what makes me even angrier? People, like Romney, who earn 6, 7, 8 or more figures each year, but find every way they can to avoid paying their fair share of income tax. My husband and I paid more, percentage-wise, in income tax than Romney did last year. That’s not right.

This year, he lost his job. We have been taking advantage of some programs offered by the state so we could live while he found a new job. We paid into those programs for 7 years, after all. We needed help, we asked for it. That’s why these programs exist. Are some people going to milk that? Yes. But perhaps they wouldn’t feel the need to if some politicians didn’t think it was a good idea to hold up the “Jobs Bill” or cut education to the bone.

Lora, I think you’re talking about the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), a group of 15 people, confirmed by the Senate (as many positions are, including justices), who would be “charged with helping to reduce the rate of growth in Medicare spending” and making “broader recommendations about controlling health costs.” You can find more here:

I couldn’t receive care I needed because I have a pre-existing condition, and insurance companies will not insure me. Thankfully, my husband found a new job and we have insurance – though they’re taking their sweet time in approving a medication that allows me to function, a medication I’ve been on for 7 years, and one that they approved the last time I had insurance with them. So, tell me more about a handful of people without medical knowledge who deny people care.


I agree with 250% the “system” is there for people who need it. However, as I have always said: between the very rich and the very poor, it’s the working and middleclass who carry the “burden” of both groups. Look at it this way, the very rich take care of themselves and the very poor will always be taken care of- while the middle and working class get nothing. I work with young adults, and there was once a young lady who was faced with an unexpected pregnancy. She did not know what to do and asked me what would I do? Being that I was not her parent, I could not tell her BUT I did ask her to explore the three options that she had: parenting, adoption or abortion. She was turning 21 and about to age out of the foster care system and just recently graduated from HS. She thought about the PRO/CONS of the situation and I later asked her” if there were no welfare, would you keep this child?” She said “no”.

Long story short, welfare is there if you need it-not to raise a child or making a living out of it. You and your hubby, like countless of Americans, have paid into the system but yet cannot get help when needed. While others, who have not contributed to the system can and that includes people like Romney and the habitually non-working very poor.

This is where I’m confused.

If we want women NOT to abort babies, if that’s a main goal of conservatives, what are these mothers supposed to do?

We can’t have one goal that is unattainable because of another. You either have to allow for help or you have to allow for abortion numbers to increase.


I disagree.

If you know aren’t ready or able to parent a child, then you need to double up on birth control. I am all for helping people who need help and who have paid into the system (worked) or cannot help themselves ( disabled), but welfare is not there for you to raise a child, or till you get back on your feet because you’re pregnant.

Do you know how many people take precautions to avoid being parents because they cannot afford to be or not ready? They are being responsible. Look at it this way, why should I (general) foot the bill for you (general) because you’re pregnant while I waited? My POV is coming from the working and middleclass people footing the bill for the very rich and very non-working poor-it’s got to stop!

What has to stop is the attitude that we only need to worry about ourselves, our immediate people under our own dilapidated roof.

I’m glad I don’t live in your black and white, everything set in stone world. I’m glad I help people. I’m glad my tax dollars are used to help people. I’m glad I had sex and created my daughter. I’m only sad that people with your mindset will continue to be in her world, that she will have to make sense of the nonsensical hatred and general lack of compassion.

This whole punishing the sex-based-sinner is bullshit. By your same token of thought, we should also let those who end up with lung based illnesses rot because, hell, they knew that they ran the risk of that when they worked in the coal mine. Give me a break.

Your story is one of true need and is heartbreaking. I know what it is like to have no medical care or to be dependent on medical assistance, something that I honestly would not wish on my worst enemy because throughout my childhood I received subpar care. I was just one of the poor masses living in NYC.
I would hate to meet with someone who argues against helping our citizens in their darkest hour. The reality is any society is that there is going to be a percentage of the population who needs help at some point. This terrible economy has truly brought that home.
With all that said, we need to separate those who have a true need from those who abuse the system. I am not talking about the “welfare queens” but rather the people who create a cycle for themselves, and their families, of dependency on the government. I grew up with people like this. I know people like this. Women who dont practice a form of birth control because they know if they have a child, they will receive benefits so what is the big deal. Men who wouldnt be allowed to rent in section 8 housing due to criminal record but just have their girlfriends apply and then break the rules. People who work under the table and then claim benefits. We should all be angry about abuses like this but especially those of us who had legitimate hardships and had to beg and plead for help and live in fear of assistance not coming through or it being cut off. We need to stop punishing poor mothers who try to work and go to school and still need some help. We need to deal with an overwhelmed social services network, we need to revamp our laws and we need to be honest about the situation.
I think Romney was an idiot and a snob when he talked about the 47% but I also think Obama doesnt want to deal with the realities.

Thank you, Jenna, for sharing your story. It’s very powerful, and I hope people really listen to it and think about it, and consider what the next election means for them and/or people whom they love. **hugs**

Wow! A very sad story, and a very sad situation! While I agree completely that having to give up a child is a heartwrenching experience I think everyone hopes that your child has a wonderful life and is blessed with loving parents. I was very sad to never hear you speak of your own parents and family, where was the support you needed from your own family? One of the greatest tragedies we face is the breakdown of the family. I was a young pregnant single woman but I never felt that I was alone. I was in school on student loans and scholarships I worked for, I worked from the age of 16, and I would have done Anything to support my baby. I know I never had the health issues you experienced, but I am not at all surprised at the anger you feel. Someone has to be responsible for your sacrifice….might as well be anyone…especially someone who is successful, right? A pregnancy at an early age is tough, but the pregnancy was yours, so what if you went on aid or made a sacrifice, people work hard and make sacrifices everyday without blaming someone else. Those doctors that treated you put their lives on hold and incurred huge debt to be the caring professionals that they are. We need more people caring and saying thank you and less people blaming a politician for their circumstances. Mitt Romney did not embarass you, he reminded you of a time in your life when your personal responsibility was tested. Be proud you made the right decision
for your child, and hope that your family can be there for you in the future, because that’s who we need in our lives everyday, not a politician that is telling you that someone else is to blame for your problems.

Oh please. Wherever did Jenna blame Romney for having to surrender her child? I think you are reading things that aren’t actually there. And shame on you for telling her to be thankful and proud. Shame. On. You.

Jenna, you might not remember me, but you may remember my wife Amy DalBon. Thank you so much for your story. Thank you, thank you, thank you. It’s a reminder that these issues are not about numbers and dollars but real people who experience real brokenness in the world. Thank you for being a witness to that.

Just to clarify or rather restate: in fact, when/if Obamacare is enacted there WILL be committees tasked with deciding who/what gets care and to what to extent bills will be reimbursed to doctors and hospitals Already women of a certain age are being told not get yearly exams and Mamos due to poor outcomes/prognosis if cancer is detected for women of certain ages. Fact.

Its not myth; its already taking place. My father who is on Medicare (but lucky enough to have supplemental insurance) recently was hospitalized for an irregular heartbeat. Medication ultimately was/is able to control this condition but tests and an overnight stay were required to make a diagnosis.

When his hosptial bill came back almost 80% of was denied by Medicare as unnecessary. This is monies the doctors and hospital will not recover or wouldn’t if not for his own out of pocket expenses and supplemental insurance payments. When he inquired about this to his regular Primary Physician, he was told this is the new Obamacare wave and it will force many doctors to deny Medicaid/Medicare patients or only allow so many due to unreimbursed or allowed expenses. Don’t believe me? Ask your own Physician. Please.

The government is ALREADY making these decisions. Deciding the quality of care Seniors and others deserve and receive. In fact my father didn’t receive 2 tests at the hosptial ( tests ordered by the doctor) due to this; these were later paid for privately by him as they were deemed important by his local physician.

He is 65. Who should get decide what he needs or what the rest of his life span will be or is worth?

I agree that aspects of our health care need reform. But turning over these decisions to our government is not the full answer

I also point out that if our current legislators truly believe in this Health care system, why did they vote to exempt themselves from it?? Instead retaining their own private and well funded insurance?

I share this because Jenna is making a correlation between her story and the care she needed both medically and otherwise short term. Again, the care she needed may not have been given had someone deemed it unnecessary or valued her condition as less vital than another’s.

I wish I was wrong but this is a true and recent experience and facts shared by both a hospital and doctor.

Thank you.

Did I say she blamed Romney for having to give away her child? No, I said she should not (let me repeat that) not blame Romney for her own guilt in giving up her baby. After all, she chose to have a baby and she chose to give up the baby, and if she has regrets or guilt she should deal with that. Not blame someone who is completely removed from the situation. Jenna should be proud that she made a decision to give her child away, or as she says…’relinquish’ her only daughter. No where in her post does she say she gave her child away hoping that she may have a better life, or a family that could provide for her. Its a self serving diatribe about herself, and where is she now and what has she succeeded at since then…? Who knows, because all she wants to do is pass guilt to someone else and have a group of strangers say, poor Jenna. I say poor baby, but a lucky baby…to have found a caring family.

Where on Earth did I pass blame? Where? Please point to it. And listen, you know nothing about my daughter, her family, me, who I blame, where my family is/was/will be and the like, so if you want to come in here, point fingers, and all but call me a slut because I got pregnant, then take YOUR self-serving diatribe somewhere else. I’m over it.

I play nicely and allow for a free exchange of ideas — which is why I didn’t reply to your first comment — until you start handing out insults. My daughter would not be worse off with me as your last statement indicates. “Lucky” baby still has me in her life, still has my love and undying devotion, no thanks to people who carry assumptions like yours that she is better off in an adoptive family.

I really wish all these people who think something bad will never happen to them would just move to a remote island and prove to the world how each and every individual can fend for themselves. I have a suspicion that the most brutal and corrupt would quickly rise to the top and hoard all the fresh water while those at the bottom would be grateful for being allowed to drink an occasional drop or two. And they would never dare question the “successful” for hogging all the water – it would surely be their fellow bottom feeders who would get the blame.

You implied it in your replies. If you don’t think she was blaming Romney why would you even bring up to not blame him for her own guilt. The post was about finding herself in a situation where she needed medical assistance and still couldn’t make it. And being in financial ruin unexpectedly while pregnant she was made to make some very very tough decisions. She chose right by her child by finding a way for her child to be cared for. That much is obvious. She shouldn’t have to go into the adoption story itself. If she didn’t care for her child she wouldn’t have gone through the medical procedures. I think you were very insensitive in responding to her. I noticed you didn’t say a word about dragging the man in for his support. Just the female and her family. You might consider she doesn’t have the support system be it they just aren’t there, could have passed away, could have had their own financial issues, etc. As for Jenna, I am deeply sorry for the cards you were dealt. I wish I knew what else to say to you. I just pray for things to work out in the end where everyone is cared for and happy. My regards.


The other poster does have merit, in my opinion. Welfare is for people who have worked/contributed to the system and have hit a “bump” in the road of life. It’s NOT for raising peoples children ( or if you find yourself faced with an unexpected pregnancy). In a way I “get” what the poster was saying: if you find yourself in a position due to your own fault-then why should the American public “foot” your bill? I have seen many people throw caution to the wind because they know there will always be a “safety net,” while many working poor and middleclass people foot the bill.


Thanks for telling your story. I’m a divorced mother recovering from financial ruin — and just climbing out of the few forms financial assistance I had to apply for. My kids were on free healthcare (I’m in PA, too — they’re on CHIP) and now I’m finally making enough money to have to pay every month. I was so proud to write that first check. I told myself I was going to be on for one year, and I met my goal.

Mitt doesn’t understand because he doesn’t have to. Period.

Great post. Really appreciated it.

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