Scott Pickard disagrees with Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's claim that nearly half of American voters oppose him because they're dependent on government spending and bereft of personal responsibility.
"I don't think he has a clue," Pickard said.
Pickard, 50, spent more than three years unemployed before landing a job as a staff training specialist at a university in Long Beach, Calif., in April. He said his long jobless spell was not fun at all, as it brought bouts of depression he coped with one hour at a time. "I was not having very healthy thoughts," he said.
Pickard said he persistently sought work and only maintained his sanity by networking with other unemployed people, and that the suggestion he mooched off of society is false.
"I slogged through it and made it work," he said. "I made sure I was not a drain on society –- and there are many people who do that."
Romney told attendees at a private fundraiser earlier this year that 47 percent of voters will cast ballots for President Barack Obama no matter what, partly because they pay no income tax, partly because of government dependency.
"There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent on government, who believe that that they are victims, who believe that government has the responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing," Romney said in the video, obtained by Mother Jones this week. "And so my job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."
Romney's comment is a mix of two common conservative laments. One is that nearly half the country doesn't pay federal income taxes (though almost everyone pays other kinds of state and federal taxes), and the other is that nearly half of Americans receive some sort of government benefit. Some conservatives have suggested the bad economy is partly caused by the failure of unemployed people to take available jobs because they are deliberately coddled by Democrats pushing unemployment insurance, food stamps, and disability benefits.
During most of his first two years of joblessness, Pickard paid federal income taxes even though he wasn't working, since unemployment compensation is taxable. In the year-plus of joblessness during which Pickard did not receive unemployment insurance, he paid no federal income tax.
Pickard said he turned to his family for support, not the government. He resents the notion that not paying federal income tax means he had been personally irresponsible, saying he attended several networking meetings every week until he found a job.
"In fact, I think my participation in the networking environments is proof I actually took responsibility," Pickard said.
His new job pays less than his old one, but he's happy to have returned to the portion of the population that pays federal income taxes -- affirming Romney's comment on Tuesday that "I think people would like to be paying taxes."
Pickard said he is registered to vote without a party affiliation, and that he has never been a Romney supporter. He also said he thinks Romney will say anything to win the election. "Mitt Romney has never at any time said anything that was truly of his own conviction," he said.