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.
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"That's not the way I view the world. As someone who grew up in tough circumstances, I know that being on public assistance is not a spot that anyone wants to be in. Too many people today who want to work are being forced into public assistance for lack of jobs," Scott said in an email to <a href="http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/senate-races/250157-sen-scott-brown-denounces-romney-comments" target="_hplink">The Hill</a>.
"He was obviously inarticulate in making this point," Ryan <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/18/paul-ryan-mitt-romney-video_n_1895403.html" target="_hplink">said</a> during an interview with a Nevada television station.
"This could be the opportunity for Romney, and for that campaign, to finally take the gloves off and take the fear off and just start explaining conservatism, start explaining liberty to people and what it means," <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/18/rush-limbaugh-mitt-romney_n_1893882.html" target="_hplink">Limbaugh said</a> Tuesday. "And explain that they don't need to be in that 47 percent. There's no reason for them, for everybody to be -- essentially having given up on their future in this country. There's no reason for it. This is, to me, such an opportunity to espouse conservatism."
"Mitt Romney probably could have better explained himself. I think he was a little clumsy in doing this," <a href="http://thehill.com/video/house/249975-rep-allen-west-romney-a-little-clumsy-with-47-percent-comment" target="_hplink">West said</a> on Fox News.
"Sure, there are some government programs that cultivate patterns of dependency in some people. I'd put federal disability payments and unemployment insurance in this category. But, as a description of America today, Romney's comment is a country-club fantasy. It's what self-satisfied millionaires say to each other. It reinforces every negative view people have about Romney," <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/18/opinion/brooks-thurston-howell-romney.html?ref=davidbrooks" target="_hplink">Brooks wrote</a>. "He's running a depressingly inept presidential campaign. Mr. Romney, your entitlement reform ideas are essential, but when will the incompetence stop?"
"It remains important for the country that Romney wins in November (unless he chooses to step down and we get the Ryan-Rubio ticket we deserve!). But that shouldn't blind us to the fact that Romney's comments, like those of Obama four years ago, are stupid and arrogant," <a href="http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/note-romney-s-arrogant-and-stupid-remarks_652548.html" target="_hplink">Kristol wrote</a>.
"He has to not apologize, because we've seen enough apologizing already, and he cannot apologize," <a href="http://thehill.com/video/campaign/249993-trump-romney-cannot-apologize-for-inartful-comments-at-fundraiser" target="_hplink">Trump said</a> on NBC News. "What he said is probably what he means." Trump also said that Romney's words were "inartfully stated."
"The Romney campaign should double down on what he said. They should own it. The trouble for the left and media (but I repeat myself) is that most Americans agree with Mitt Romney. Most Americans consider themselves part of the 53% and it is not a winning proposition for Barack Obama to convince Americans they are less than they think they are when most Americans already recognize he has made them less than they were," <a href="http://www.redstate.com/2012/09/17/treat-the-press-as-enemy-collaborators/" target="_hplink">Erickson wrote</a> in a blog post on RedState.com.
"[Romney] believes that every American has got to have skin in the game...he doesn't want what the president wants," <a href="http://www.politico.com/blogs/burns-haberman/2012/09/christie-romney-wants-to-empower-people-135893.html" target="_hplink">Christie said</a> on Fox News, adding that Romney wants to "empower individuals...and that's what he's really talking about."
"The idea that you're declaring, 'Well, the race is over. Mitt Romney doesn't care about people,'" <a href="http://www.mediaite.com/tv/laura-ingraham-fired-up-over-romneys-47-tape-its-ridiculous-this-is-getting-airtime/" target="_hplink">Ingraham said </a>on Fox News. "Meanwhile, you have a president whose policies have undermined the 47 percent. ... I'm very pumped up about this. I think it's ridiculous that people are seizing on it and that we're even giving all that much airtime to it, frankly."
"I disagree with Governor Romney's insinuation that 47% of Americans believe they are victims who must depend on the government for their care. I know that the vast majority of those who rely on government are not in that situation because they want to be. People today are struggling because the government has failed to keep America competitive, failed to support job creators, and failed to get our economy back on track," <a href="http://www.lindaforsenate2012.com/news/press-releases/2012/09/18/linda-mcmahon-response-to-mitt-romneys-remarks/" target="_hplink">McMahon said</a> in a statement.
"To read many of the reactions on Twitter, you'd think Mother Jones had just found video of Mitt Romney strangling a hooker with her own pantyhose," <a href="http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/322394/quick-thoughts-freeloaderdammerung-jonah-goldberg" target="_hplink">Goldberg wrote</a>. "Indeed, many people understand what Romney is getting at here, even if he's saying it badly."