As a seminarian at the Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, Brandon Lazarus wants to make tending to the poor and homeless his life's work. He decided to live in an intentional Christian community -- a collective-like home where bills, food and faith are shared -- in a poor area of the city in order to learn about poverty and how to address it.
While he knows he can always depend on his middle-class family in Columbia, S.C., Lazarus has been living on a meager income of scholarships and stipends during his three years of graduate studies. Last year, his tax return tallied his adjusted gross income at $3,000. He paid no federal income taxes.
Watching the fallout over the controversial video released this week showing Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney saying he cannot appeal to 47 percent of voters because they "dependent on government" and "believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing," Lazarus said he was inflamed.
Lazarus said Romney's comment that he could "never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives" was what upset him the most.
"I think it's easy to say that for someone who, if they were ever in need, could reach out to family or friends," said Lazarus, 24, referring to Romney's wealthy family.
As a member of the Epworth project, a group of six Christian collectives in the Dallas area, Lazarus spends his time outside of classes ministering to the residents of East Dallas, one of the poorest areas in the city.
"We invite the community into our home to eat and pray because we want to be close not just our own friends in the house but also our neighbors. Once you get to know someone more intimately, you get to think of them as a brother or sister and their needs become your needs," Lazarus said.
Most of his work is with the homeless in the area, who he said are often on government support and don't have friends or family who can help them.
"To say that people are entitled to food, I would agree. My Christian beliefs tell me that we should care for those who are hungry, without shelter, those who are in prison," he said. "But I don't think that's a uniquely Christian view to have. I think every religion and people without religion have ideas about what it means to care for individuals."
That said, Lazarus doesn't think Romney is entirely wrong about people feeling entitled.
"I do run into people who say, 'Yeah, I want government housing or assistance,' but I don't think that's the majority. The majority come to me and say, 'I have made a bad decision in my past and I have had bad relationships and I want to fix that,'" Lazarus said. "In our society, in order to have a house, you need a job; and in order to have a job, you need a house. So they are stuck."
Earlier on HuffPost:
"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."