Debate Left, 10/02

T he Leeches – by Dr. Seuss

By Ben Tomkins

– Now, the Star-Bell Sneetches had bellies with stars. The Plain-Belly Sneetches had none upon thars. Those stars weren’t so big. They were really so small. You might think such a thing wouldn’t matter at all. – Dr. Seuss

The 47 percent are exactly who Mitt Romney said they were. Anyone who depends on government assistance to stop from being homeless, to deal with their disability, and anyone who thinks that their government can be used as a tool to help everyone out for the common good.

The Leeches.

Here’s an example.  I have a family in my program that lives on a small and precarious income.  Their daughter is on a huge scholarship to ensure she can participate in the same musical experience as any other child who wants to learn to play a stringed instrument.  Without our assistance this would never be possible.

She has no star.

The reason their family is on the edge is because her mother has advanced multiple sclerosis.  The cost of treatment is massive and ongoing, and without government assistance they would either be put out of their house or the hospital. She lost her job and their second income.  Where the Romneys are able to afford the best healthcare money can buy and a few thoroughbreds with little shoulder flap IDs so they can take them on their private planes, this family falls … somewhat short of that mark.

The Romney’s have a star.

None of these things are their fault.  Not one.  They were doing everything right, they were raising two wonderful little children, and out of the sky comes a terminal disease, mom can’t work, and now they are, according to Mitt Romney, the “47 percent…who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it.”

I find that shitty.

Are they dependent on the government?


Do they pay taxes?

Probably not.

Do they believe they are victims and are entitled to these things?


Do you have any idea how many times I’ve heard them thank us for giving their daughter an instrument?  Do you know how many times I’ve heard them say they feel blessed that the government can help them from dying under an overpass because of their medical bills?  And most of all, I can see the wavering look in their eyes because they are a proud family that, through impossible circumstances, has to accept charity from the state to get by while their wife and mother slowly dies.


These people aren’t tattooing stars on their bellies.  They need help.

I think that’s why Mitt Romney’s 47 percent comment has hit so hard.  He’s publicly telling us that he wants to help the lower classes, and as soon as he gets into a private room with $50,000-a-plate donors he says they don’t have stars on their bellies because they are lazy and morally bankrupt, and the solution is for them to work harder.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it’s because the Romneys are bad people.  I think it’s because they just don’t get it.

They both grew up with silver spoons in their mouth, through no fault of their own, and they have never seen the other side. They are totally unaware of what it’s like to be born without that star.

That’s why we hear him saying things like “borrow money from your parents,” which is something more appropriate for a Princeton commencement speech than a political address.  It’s Ann Romney telling us that she understands what economically strained families are going through when she sees a working mother who only has time to put a sandwich in a paper bag before she goes off to work … just like every perfectly happy middle class family in America.  Yes, Ann, I get that your husband was gone a lot and how hard it was not to see him all the time.  But your husband wasn’t a long-haul trucker.  He was flying all over the world making millions of dollars.  If he wanted to see his kids more he could have been the president of the bank of his choice in your hometown, so suck it.

That is the danger of the 47 percent remark.  It is the same precarious cliff over which many successful people dangle themselves when they compare their success to the failures of others.  It is the belief that their success was achieved purely on their own merits, and therefore the failings of others are due to their inferiority.  It’s easy to do when you are successful, and is even easier when you are involved in a religion like Mormonism that believes in a personally intervening deity, because then it’s not just you but God who put that star on your belly.

Tragically, they’ve forgotten about all the help along the way.  I had a star.  My parents helped me with college.  They bought me a violin.  They paid for private lessons.  They took me to youth orchestra.  The list goes on and on.  Of course I worked hard, but without that star, solely through the lottery of my birth, things would have been very different.  The star my student never had.

She is the 47 percent.

Benjamin Tomkins is a violinist, teacher, journalist, and critically acclaimed composer currently living in Denver, Colo. He hates stupidity, and generally believes that the volume of one’s voice is inversely proportional to one’s knowledge of the issue. Reach Ben Tompkins at

Tags: ,

Ben Tomkins is a violinist, teacher, journalist and critically acclaimed composer currently living in Denver, Colorado. He hates stupidity and generally believes that the volume of one’s voice is inversely proportional to one’s knowledge of an issue. Reach Ben Tomkins at

One Response to “Debate Left, 10/02” Subscribe