Op-ed: A Student Among the 47%

By Alejandra C. Salinas

Originally published on Advocate.com October 02 2012 4:00 AM ET

Who is Mitt Romney talking about when he says 47% of Americans don't take responsibility for their lives and want to be dependent on government?

He’s referring to our grandparents who worked their entire lives to provide a better future for us and now live on a fixed income. The soldiers and veterans who can now proudly serve this country without hiding who they are and whom they love. And college students like me who are seeking a higher education to pursue a career in public service.

Mitt Romney has had a few words of advice for college students. When we’re deciding the best way to finance our education, Mitt Romney recommends to just shop around or borrow more money from our parents. I, along with the vast majority of college students, don’t have that luxury. Instead, we have to make the tough choices whether to take out student loans and to work jobs to help put ourselves through school.

The truth is, I don’t believe my pursuit of a quality higher education makes me a victim or a freeloader. And I don’t believe the vast majority of young people in this country want a handout either. Yet Mitt Romney still believes we think of ourselves as victims. What does this say about his understanding of our generation?

He has accused us of not paying our fair share in taxes. However, most students pay plenty in taxes. We pay Social Security and Medicare taxes if we have a part-time job to support our education. We pay state taxes, local taxes, sales taxes, and gas taxes. In fact, most of us pay a higher percentage of taxes then the 14.1% Mitt Romney paid on the $13.7 million he earned in 2011.

Students like me aren’t taking out student loans because we want a handout. Quite the opposite. We are trying to create lives for ourselves. President Obama believes in equality and fairness for all Americans. That’s why he’s made college affordability a priority by doubling the amount of student loans so that 9.5 million students are able to obtain a college education. He’s given 9.4 million families like mine a $10,000 tax credit so that we can afford college and enter the work force with the knowledge and skills to be a productive contributor to our economy.

After law school, I hope to pursue a career as a criminal prosecutor. President Obama is dedicated to public service and creating opportunities for young people who take responsibility for our loans and make our monthly payments by providing student loan forgiveness after 10 years of public service work. Our president understands that young people who will one day teach our children, protect our communities, and fight for us overseas make our country stronger. On the contrary, Mitt Romney has publicly said that we don’t need to hire more cops, firefighters, or teachers.

President Obama understands what it’s like to be in our shoes and had stood up for the causes that matter most to our generation. And as a member of the LGBT community, I could not be prouder that we have seen more progress under this administration than ever before.

The Affordable Care Act will ensure that all Americans have access to affordable, stable health insurance, and because of the law, insurers will no longer be allowed to turn me away because of my sexual orientation. If my partner or I were to ever become ill, President Obama has ensured that we have visitation rights at nearly every hospital in America.

President Obama overcame years of partisan gridlock to sign the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law, which extends federal hate-crimes law to cover attacks based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

And on May 9, 2012, millions of LGBT Americans and allies will never forget where they were when President Obama affirmed his personal support for same-sex marriage and in doing so sent a profound message that the love I have for my partner is no less than the love between and a man and woman.

The choice couldn’t be more clear for Americans this November. So while Mitt Romney may disregard 47% of the country, we have a president who believes in equality and opportunity for all. President Obama’s got our back, and I know young Americans are going to work to make sure we’ve got his.

 

Salinas is a law student at Boston College.