Election 2012

(AP File Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Political campaigns require perpetual travel that sometimes makes cities blur together into one giant conurbation, and conversations along the way seem like a continuous thread. But last week, as I was heading to yet another city on behalf of the Romney/Ryan campaign, I had a conversation that shook me out of election fatigue and crystallized for me why all this political rushing around was worthwhile. Twenty minutes speaking with an anonymous taxi driver in Washington, D.C., did more to steel me for the final push to Election Day than the Republican Convention and all the debates combined.

I wish I knew his name. He had a cross hanging from his rear view mirror and a cheery demeanor uncommon among rush-hour drivers. I was busy double-checking that I had not left anything behind when he struck up a conversation:

“Where are you from?” he shouted over the radio. I replied Massachusetts, to which he exclaimed, “The home of Mitt Romney! Do you know him?”

I laughed and said yes, that I had worked with Mitt Romney and he was a good man. Then I asked the taxi driver where he was from, in part to change the subject. I still try to follow the antediluvian rule that it is impolite to discuss politics or religion with strangers. But I was about to do both.

The driver, I learned, was from Pakistan, a member of the Christian minority community, and he matter-of-factly ticked off the hardships of being a practicing Christian in a state where apostasy can be punished by death and church burnings don’t merit a report in the news. He said he came to the U.S. in the mid-1990s with the help of a friend and became an American citizen five years later.

He had begun life here working at McDonalds for $4.50 per hour, but soon added more and higher-paying jobs, saving his money until he was able to buy a gas station of his own. He was enormously proud of his time as a small business owner. His income from the gas station had allowed him to bring his elderly parents to the U.S. so that he could care for them, and eventually he sold the gas station in order to raise the money necessary to return to Pakistan to marry.

Today, he and his wife, their two young daughters and his parents live together here in the U.S. He’s back working for others, as a driver, but is looking forward to the day when he can start another small business. He knows it will happen. Every step of the story was punctuated with, “Bless America!” He noted that while he had initially been registered as a Democrat, he recently changed parties and was planning to vote for Mitt Romney because of Romney’s outspoken commitment to religious freedom and our nation’s entrepreneurial spirit had touched a chord.

It has become almost received wisdom that the American Dream is endangered or even just a discredited myth we must now learn to live without. The idea that opportunity exists for those willing to study and work hard is losing ground to fatalism that our children may not have the upward mobility and options previous generations enjoyed. That fear is made more real when more than half the young people leaving college today are unemployed — or stuck in temporary or part-time jobs — well into their 20s and too many are burdened with heavy student debt. Clearly, something is wrong.

I have always defended the existence of the American Dream because my own experience taught me that hard work, public education and a measure of good luck can result in opportunity. My parents were of modest means and I attended struggling public schools in Daytona Beach, FL, including one where my mother was a teacher. When my father suffered near-fatal cardiac arrest at age 56, he could never work again. So at 15, I began to work: first for minimum wage as a clerk in a souvenir shop, then I added a better paying job programming computers at the local newspaper.

When I was admitted to Harvard, it was not only a cause for celebration, but also another financial challenge. In the end, my mother’s sacrifice and financial prudence, my various jobs, Harvard’s generosity and a Rotary International scholarship got me through my education. I have good reason to believe that anything is possible in America and am deeply grateful for the opportunities I have had. I want that kind of opportunity to be there for everyone.

A chance meeting in a taxi on the way to the airport last week gave me renewed hope that the American Dream is still out there for those willing to work hard, to pull together with one’s loved ones, and to take a chance. I still want to believe in that dream of opportunity, but I fear we are heading away from it if we stay on our current course.

I have cause for concern. I know that many small businesses, like the one the taxi driver dreams of starting, pay the individual income rate and stand to be crushed under the weight of higher taxes if the Bush-era tax cuts are allowed to expire. I know that small businesses are already postponing hiring or can’t get off the ground due to the uncertain cost of complying with federal healthcare mandates. We are careering toward a “fiscal cliff” of higher taxes and draconian automatic budget cuts that is projected to throw our tepid economic recovery into reverse. I worry that if these Obama-era policies are allowed to stand, small businesses won’t have a chance — and neither will the dreams of their owners.

There is no opportunity without jobs, and entrepreneurs must be set free to create them: they are ready and waiting. I know there are millions of American Dream stories out there still waiting to be written, so I’m heading back to the airport. I’m inspired to hit the campaign trail twice as hard, both for Mitt Romney and for all Americans who worry — with cause — that the American Dream may be slipping away. It’s not too late to turn it around.

LISTEN to Kerry Healey discuss this piece on Radio Boston:

Tags: Election 2012, Mitt Romney

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  • jefe68

    This is such a load of propaganda, and hogwash. Mitt Romney’ tax breaks, like the Bush tax breaks, will do nothing for this man or his family. By the way the Affordable Care Act will help this man and his family get affordable health insurance. One has to wonder why he lost his gas station?

    I wonder how much Kerry Healy benefited from government’s both local, state and federal. She went to a public school which employed her mother that was based on local taxes to fund. I wonder how they dealt with the health care issues, but I bet her mothers health insurance was a huge help in this regard.

    What I find amazing about the GOP today is how regressive, and in this case patronizing, they are.

    • John Y.

      The “Affordable Care Act” is accurate name only. The federal government cannot even run the post office efficiently. It will cost us all plenty, unless they delay and restrict health care like is done in England and Canada.
      There are none so blind as those who will not see.

    • rocinante2

      RTWT, jefe. “…he sold the gas station in order to raise the money necessary to return to Pakistan to marry.”

      ACA hasn’t completely taken effect yet, but it will definitely increase both my taxes and the cost of my family’s health insurance. How does that “help”?

  • wareinparis

    Does anyone hearing that gagging sound? It’s me gagging on Kerry Healey’s hogwash.

  • wareinparis

    Kerry Healey is another GOP puppet who is not smart enough to fool anyone but herself with this nonsense.

    • Guest

      At least she isn’t taking helicopters everywhere anymore ;)

      • Sinclair2

        Actually, you have the wrong person. It was Acting Governor Jane Swift who was accused of using a helicopter for personal use.

  • BBview

    She is still bitter about loosing to Governor Deval Patrick. The governor said it best “come down of your high horse”.

  • J__o__h__n

    Did Mitt pick her out of a binder?

  • Linglese

    I am very surprised that this piece is included in Cognoscenti. It does not strike me as journalism, rather like an election pamphlet distributed by the Romney campaign. I did not see any similar contribution to Cognoscenti from the Obama campaign. It could be that I missed it. Regardless of the campaign (Romney or Obama), I don’t believe it belongs here. It is not a profile of the facts, analysis of the facts, or questioning of the facts presented by the campaigns. It is campaigning. I have really enjoyed Cognoscenti, and love WBUR. I hope future contributions to Cognoscenti stick to journalism.

  • John Y.

    I cannot believe that people can read this article and not be impressed. My mother used a biblical expression that said that “there are none so blind as those who will not (do not want) see”. That is really true in this case for the preceeding commentators.
    I myself am impressed that WBUR would publish this article, given their political beliefs.
    John Y.

    • Sinclair2

      I agree that her writing style is impressive. It’s the content that gives so many of us problems. She could be a good novelist if she had the time. See my comments above. Kerry Healy and Mitt Romney have a lot in common. They’re both masters when it comes to impressing people in the short term. It all catches up to them later on. Is there a biblical expression for this? I’m sure there is.

  • James

    Kerry Healey is so rich that she is completely out of touch with ordinary Americans. I live near her and she really does think she is better than most people. Plus I think she made up half this story because I have caught her embellishing before. Her husband also loves to make sure everyone knows how elite they are. His neo-con ways are ruining the culture of the PEM. There are people who work there that are scared for their positions if they show any sign of being “liberal.” And it’s a museum, which usually attracts a liberal crowd. Romney was the worst governor in my lifetime and she was his little stooge, a disgrace to her gender.

  • James

    And Kerry, for the record, all Americans are paying less in taxes than under Bush, including this “mythical” taxi driver. And there have been 18 tax reductions for small businesses under Obama. You forgot to read the facts. This Pakastani driver is better off under Obama than Romney and you know it!

  • Frannie Carr

    EDITOR’S NOTE: One of Cog’s primary goals is to foster robust conversations about issues that matter. To that end, we want you the reader to take part, engage our commentators and each other. But remember, please be civil. Read WBUR’s community discussion guidelines:

  • concerned

    Excellent article, thank you. jefe68, the article states that the driver sold his gas station to raise money to return to Pakistan to marry. Regardless of one’s political views, it’s clear that with fewer tax payers and more residents dependent on government handouts, there will be less for everyone.

  • L. Slobodin

    Shame on you WBUR!!! This amounts to an unpaid political advertisement. It is certainly not newsworthy or balanced.

  • SnarkyEyeCanB

    YAWN. Soviet style propaganda. We’ll be seeing more of that from Romney and his billionaire cronies when he’s elected. The Obama camp is conducting one of the stupidest campaigns in modern political history.

  • Lois Denneno

    My concern is that people like Romney no longer care if they have customers. The fewer people they need to hire the higher their profits. They only answer to their share holders a few of whom may be middle class but most are not. Without federal help our cities and towns may be unable to honor pension benefits. Poor children living in poor towns will not be properly educated. Some of it may be because we are no longer an industrial economy and not yet an IT one…thus creating upheaval and transition pains. Kerry God bless you but U R over simplifying.

  • Sean McElroy

    I very much admire Healy’s cab driver’s ability to succeed in the US. Healey herself doesn’t appear to have done all that bad either. But I fail to see what this has to do with electing Romney for President. “Religious freedom” is a concept enshrined in the US Constitution and although I’m sure Romney would love to claim credit for this bit of genius, his great-great-great-… grandfather wasn’t even born at the time of its conception. Further, I doubt very much that Romney has ever been employed at a minimum wage job and certainly not one for which he may have been asked to support a family.

    I too share the concern that the “fatalism that our children may not have the upward mobility and options previous generations enjoyed” has asserted itself. But that still isn’t a case for Romney. It takes only a moment or two of browsing the “Generation Stuck” column on this web-site ( ) to realize that many of “our children” turn out to be “adults” being 20+ years old. This seems to indicate that the “fatalism,” if it does in fact infect our children when they are children, has been around since at least the previous Republican administration headed by George Bush.

  • NamePick

    Small business used to worry about problems called monopoly and anti-trust. They will be rediscovering those problems after they vote for Romney-Ryan. They also might learn enough economics to understand that demand is not generated by cutting government social programs. Customers can tell if you hate them.

  • babyface

    I’ll concede that having the talent and fortitude to get yourself to and through Harvard is laudable, but that is so unattainable for the vast majority of Americans I can’t believe our former Lt. Governor floated it here. As for the final two paragraphs: demand creates jobs… the NFIB(the link) is clearly a pro-corporate(not small business) ‘word-salad’ enterprise and is funded by Karl Rove and Crossroads GPS… Demanding economic austerity(“fiscal cliff”, etc.) instead of stimulus or before the economy rebounds sufficiently is, frankly, moronic economic policy…

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  • BillSpinner

    Kerry Healey Misleads about Small Business!
    “I know that many small businesses, like the one the taxi driver dreams of starting, pay the individual income rate and stand to be crushed under the weight of higher taxes if the Bush-era tax cuts are allowed to expire.”
    She is wrong. There’s no good data on how many of companies that pay income tax at the individual rate are
    small businesses. But clearly most are NOT small! Fact-check failure by ‘BUR. UNfortunate….
    is the same GOP malarkey that NFIB and the U.S. Chamber have been
    peddling — even getting it through fact checkers at the Associated
    Press [] and the Washington Post [–but-both-are-correct/2012/10/12/d71f9e20-1407-11e2-ba83-a7a396e6b2a7_story.html ].
    Here is the correct fact check on this assertion when made Ryan made it in the VP debate:
    [ ]
    Excerpt: ”

    Republicans have been using and distorting
    this figure for years. It goes back to a 2010 study by the nonpartisan
    Joint Committee on Taxation, which examined the amount of business
    income — not necessarily “small” business income
    — that is taxed at individual rates through what are called
    “pass-through” entities, such as partnerships and “S” corporations. And
    the JCT was quite clear in warning that literally thousands of these
    businesses are in fact multimillion-dollar enterprises.

    Joint Committee on Taxation: These figures
    for net positive business income do not imply that all of the income is
    from entities that might be considered “small.”

  • linda

    Why does neither side come up with the logical response: Changing the tax codes to protect truly small business?
    Of COURSE a definition would be required, rather than both Obama and Romney blithely spewing out “small business” as if it didn’t apply to everyone from the taxi driver scraping by and holding down other jobs while building the biz to companies with the “small biz” CEO with a million dolllar profit and hundreds of employees.

    Answer: Romney certainly has no interest in protecting ONLY the truly small business, tho’ he uses the term to death. His concern is precisely for the already ‘successful’ — highly profitable — businesses and if the truly small fall under that umbrella they get protection too.
    Otherwise, he would be the one to suggest: lLet’s start with tax breaks for business open less than 2 years, making less than X profit whose owner is earning less than X in income on the business. Apparently, Obama is aware of the problem of lumping them all together, yet failed to suggest the simple obvious solution. Why? Perhaps he too cares less for the truly small business than he projects, or they are both incapable of the simplest problem solving. Their attitudes are: Identify problem and:
    Don’t give truly small businesses a better break than a highly profitable business (with which it may be in competition; which larger business may be spending its tax break on destroying all truly small competitors)
    Describe the problem

    And why has no one anywhere suggested putting taxes on millionaires, multimillionaires, billionaires and multi-billionaires back to Reagan era levels and THEN offering taxREBATES at tax time for all the jobs the created in the US : showing they spent X dollars on a vacation in the US, spent so much on products made in the US, services provided wholly and only in the US, hired so many Americans to work in the US, had solar cars designed and built for themselves in the US, bought X dollars worth of produce, food products and meat raised and processed in the US, of jewelry made in the US, furniture made in the US, clothing made in the US, spent so much on Truly Small Businesses like Joycee’s Diner, Kaylin’s Beauty Salon, Ahmed’s garage, so that any US goods and services made or provided in the US they actually trickle down on IN ADVANCE would be eligible for exemptions. The more spent, the greater the exemption, just like one can’t get food stamps, or an EIC tax credit without proving beforehand that one qualifies.

    You might say all taxpayers deserve that. Maybe, but all taxpayers aren’t claiming their tax rates should remain at pre- 9/11 2001 Bush-tax-cut levels because otherwise they won’t be able to provide jobs, aren’t CLAIMING that they are providing jobs with the savings. It is the Romney Richies, not all wealthy, who are crying victim, feel entitled, feel “punished” (Romney’s characterization), feel persecuted, feel life is unfair because they might have to pay taxes as they did before.. This should satisfy them. If they are really creating the tax difference worth in US jobs and US spending, they will have no problem proving it and getting a well-deserved and well-documented rebate for it.

    The above plan, since I’ve never seen it proposed, must be the Kent MillBillionaire Tax Rebate For Advance Trickle-Down Expenditures.

    • linda

      Please note. There is nothing to prevent a Romney Richie or any other from taking a vacation in the Swiss Alps instead of Colorado or as well as Colorado. But they’d get the tax break only for the Colorado vacation. I do understand that some people will say their money equals freedom of speech. But just as the wealthy can “say” something incomprehensible by donating millions to both opposing parties and candidates’ campaigns, so they can express their admiration for both the Alps and Rockies, or say they don’t like the Rockies and forego the tax rebate. After all, none of us gets a tax rebate simply for “saying” something by spending money on a second ot third TV for our home.

  • Sinclair2

    Well I’ll be darned. Kerry Healy’s father taught school according to this story.
    While campaigning, she presented herself as the daughter of a “career army officer” who had to relocate often. Actually, her father was an army reservist (part timer) and they obviously did not have to move because of the army. I’m sure her father received disability payments as a teacher and with her mother working, life did not have the financial difficulties she tries to present.

    Why is it that Republicans have a hard time being truthful about their lives? Scott Brown recently told us that he had a “tour” with the National Guard in Afghanistan when in fact it was a two week visit. He also met kings and queens and prime ministers.

    The reality is, Healy’s husband was the son of a career Marine officer which included relocating often. That’s where she got her ideas.

    Kerry Murphy Healy: You write well but you should avoid writing non-fiction. Your style would do well in a novel where you can say anything and no one will fact check.

    • rocinante2

      “My parents were of modest means and I attended struggling public schools in Daytona Beach, FL, including one where my MOTHER was a teacher.” (emphasis added).

      What’s with the lack of reading comprehension on this thread?

      • Sinclair2

        I’m sorry about the remark mistaking your father as a school teacher.

  • Bill

    I like Kerry Healy but I really don’t know how any woman can
    say they’re a Republican or for the Republican Party in general.

    I’d like Mrs. Healy to talk about how government, white
    middle aged men, know more about her body and what’s good for it then she does.
    Does she not understand that the party she belongs to does not think she’s
    smart enough to make her own healthcare decisions?

    Mrs. Healy is doing the woman of Massachusetts a great disservice
    promoting Mitt and the Republican Party.

    Please vote personal freedoms first, vote the Democratic

  • endunamis

    I enjoyed this read very much Kerry. Just what I needed.. . Thank you for sharing.

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