Zibron Harden is too busy attending school full time and raising three sons to pay much attention to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, but she disagrees with any notion that her family, at least, isn't trying hard enough to succeed.
"I know I am working extremely hard," Harden said in a phone interview on Tuesday from an office at Metropolitan Ministries, a homeless shelter in Tampa, Fla., where she and her family have lived in a tiny apartment for the past nine months. "Trust me when I say that we try every day to find a way to improve our situation."
Harden and her husband, Miguel Colindres, didn't pay any federal income taxes last year, and though Colindres recently got a job after a long period of unemployment, they likely won't pay any taxes this year, either. As such, they are part of the 47 percent: mostly poor and elderly Americans who don't earn enough each year to pay federal taxes (though many contribute indirectly through business payroll taxes).
As seen in a video obtained by Mother Jones, Romney told attendees at a private fundraiser earlier this year that these voters are "dependent on government," believe that they are "victims," and believe "they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing."
"I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives," he said.
But Harden, who is 40, thinks she is taking plenty of responsibility. She is taking an accounting course at a local technical college and has a 4.0 grade point average -- a point of pride that she makes sure to mention twice. She is raising three boys, ages 13, 7 and 5.
In the year before they found a spot at the homeless shelter, Harden took responsibility for finding a roof to put over her family's head each night.
In the nine months since, she took responsibility by taking classes -- offered by the shelter through its "Uplift U" program -- in budgeting, resume writing and interview techniques.
"The way the economy is, I need to load up on the tools that I need to stand above and beyond [other job seekers]," she said.
She also takes responsibility for mistakes her family has made. Before her husband lost his job as a paralegal at a small law firm forced to close its doors during the recession in 2010, her family did a poor job of financial planning, she said.
"You never think that it will happen to you," she said. "For us we always thought that next paycheck is coming. We talked about savings and retirement but never got around to it."
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