I am the 47 percent

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When I was in high school, a few friends and I went to our school board meeting to speak up about an important issue. One of the issues on the agenda was how much money the school board would spend on the students. We wanted the best for our schools and thought money was the answer, so we confidently asked the board members “fund to the cap.”

I am from Alaska, a conservative state, where the majority say they stand for smaller government, fewer taxes and less spending. I felt perplexed. Why was I, a young conservative, so willing to use tax payer money and why were the school board members so willing to spend it? I realized that what I was asking for and what I believed in were not the same.

Recently a video was released in which Mitt Romney spoke to a room full of high-end donors about his strategy. In this meeting he said what has now become headlines all across the country.

“There are 47 percent who are with (President Obama), who are dependent upon government,” Romney said. “These are people who pay no income tax.”

Without hesitation, I was ready with fists in the air to defend Romney’s statements to whoever disagreed with me. If anyone questioned his motives, I was ready to drill them until they apologized for thinking ill of my beloved candidate.

But, then a question popped into my head, “Are BYU students part of the 47 percent and, if they are, does that mean they are dependent upon the government and will vote for Obama?”

Although statistical data is not available, the following groups at BYU who file as married, married with children or single-independent most likely do not pay federal income tax, according to Dr. Sven Wilson, a political science professor at BYU. If you fall under one of these categories then you may be part of the 47 percent and, according to Romney’s statement, you are dependent on the government.

Now let us take a look at this for a moment.

In order to pay for college, many students apply for government loans and grants. Government loans do not constitute dependency on the government, because you have to pay them back after you graduate.

Pell Grants, however, are different, because the money does not have to be repaid. On the BYU financial aid website, Pell Grants are even called “gift aid.”  This gift aid is given to single and married students for free if they meet the financial requirements.

From 2010 to 2011, there were 12,029 BYU students who received a Pell Grant, which came to a total of $51,118,995, according to the United States Department of Education. These students depend on the financial aid to pay for college and are therefore part of the 47 percent.

These students may be dependent, but many if following the BYU stereotype will still vote for Romney. Just as I reflected on my conservative principles after the school board meeting, students need to reflect on where they stand. Is Romney right that many BYU students are secretly liberals who will vote for Obama? Is being both conservative and dependent on government wrong?

I believe we, as students, stand somewhere in the middle on the issue of government involvement, but, because of our parents, peers and the media, we never truly ask ourselves what our fiscal principles are. Obama can have solutions to problems. Romney can be wrong about issues. It is not black and white.

It all comes down to one important question: “Can I be part of the 47 percent and still be fiscally conservative?”

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