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An Open Letter to Governor Romney

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Dear Governor Romney,

I hope you don't mind my writing this letter to you in a public forum, but to tell you the truth it's the only way I know to reach you. I'm writing because I had some questions after watching you on the YouTube clips (I skipped the debate because my television is broken and paying U.S. wages to fix it is way more than paying Chinese wages to make me a brand new one, which I know you get completely).

First, let me start off by saying I feel comfortable writing to you because we're practically family, you, me, Michael Moore and Madonna. Like you, I grew up in Michigan, and like you, my dad was employed by the auto industry. Your dad was a CEO, and my dad was a security guard. Your dad became governor, my dad lost his job four months short of retirement, along with his pension when Diamond Reo went bankrupt. But I did get to shake your dad's hand one time when he came to my school (because my classmate Brian Hutchinson's dad was your dad's bodyguard, so we had personal connections).

At any rate, I know you've been taking a lot of flak about that binders full of women comment, and I've even told a few jokes at your expense myself, but let's face it, we all say stupid things sometimes and that doesn't mean we're stupid people. So don't take all the teasing too seriously, it's just that sometimes something is just really, really funny. Like the time Bill Clinton said he didn't inhale. You gotta use it. So I get that you really meant to say it sincerely, and I get that you have known and even worked with a few women you know are bright and capable and educated, and some of them even had children.

But here's my question. What about the women who didn't make it into your binders? What about the women who don't have Harvard degrees, who aren't qualified for gubernatorial cabinet positions? What can you do for them? (Or for me; I'm out of work but have a Ph.D. Can I jump into your binder? I'll even change my party if the paycheck covers the rent. Speech writer would be my first preference, but I'll do research and/or cook you dinner -- but Paul cannot touch my dishes, since mine get really dirty.)

But no, seriously, here's the thing. Most women in America wouldn't make it into your binder because, like most men in America, they aren't qualified for cushy jobs with the state. I don't mean like being a social worker and encouraging dependence. I mean, the really, really cushy jobs with the state, like working for the governor. Most of us aren't born to wealth and don't know those kinds of people. And college is really expensive. And some of our public schools are just awful, what with being funded with property taxes so the kids of the poor go to really crappy schools. And do you have any idea how much daycare costs these days? I know in your case it's a rhetorical question, but just pretend. Do you know what percentage of the average working person's paycheck is required just to pay someone to watch one child?

According to The National Association of Childcare Resource and Referral Agencies, in Mississippi (where child care is the cheapest in the nation), it costs an average of $3,900 for daycare for a four-year old (more for a baby and four times that in DC; good thing your kids are grown). Now I know that's just the cost of a night on the town for you and your lovely wife, but according to the U.S. Census (you may just want to scrap them), the median annual income in Mississippi last time they checked (2010) was just over $19,000 (but soars to 27K for the U.S. as a whole). Now, think about it. That means someone is working all day long and bringing home less than four hundred dollars a week and still has to come up with food and clothes and mortgage and gas and car repairs (it's always something), and then pay for the daycare.

So that's why the binder thing leaves me wondering -- what can you do for the women who don't have university educations, or the women who aren't qualified to work for governors or have those golden-handshake connections? Can you promise them that if you scrap the Lily Ledbetter Act, that their employers won't screw them over? Because I'm here to tell you, when an employer screws you over and you're over 50, the future's kind of ugly. Can you promise them that if their employers aren't "flexible" and let them go home before their daycare closes, that they won't end up with no way to pay for housing once they're fired?

I know, Governor that you believe we'll all be safe, and I know that you believe our employers will do the right thing. And I know that you believe that sometimes what's the right thing for the employer may not be the right thing for the employee, but that the employer gets to win. And I know that you believe that the right thing might not feel right to us at the time but in time we'll realize it's the best thing that ever happened to us even if it gets us unemployed or beaten down so bad we'd rather clean some rich guy's toilet (but not yours, governor, I know yours never gets dirty).

I'm not writing to get you to answer these questions, of course, because we know you'll lie and you know that too. It's not just you, its politics. I'm writing just to plant a little tiny idea inside your heart, however microscopically small, the idea that just because you believe it, Governor, it doesn't mean you're right. Not factually, not humanely, and not spiritually.

I know that you've got a lot staked on this election and it's really important that you win; so you'll say and sometimes believe anything to help you get there. And if you don't, you go back to your mansion and your millions. But if you do, and you do what you've promised to do--get rid of the Lilly Ledbetter Act, close Planned Parenthood, be sure no one can tell us we can't -- or can -- have the right to contraception, and be sure we can't have abortions (and have you said anything about the EEOC, are you closing them down too?) -- if you do all those things, some of us may lose our homes, may not be able to feed our kids much less pay for daycare, may get cancer and not be able to go to get chemo because it's not an E.R. thing. Our employers may treat us badly or go broke, and we might lose our jobs. We might not be able to find others. We might not have safe places to send our kids. We might never get educations in our lifetime or even be able to pay for our funerals.

What can you do for us who don't fit in your binders? Just asking.

From one Michigander to Another,
Janice Harper