At 28 years old, Skyler Robinson lives with his grandparents and struggles to make ends meet between a part-time cashier job at Target that pays $400 a month and his $100-a-month food stamp allotment.
He finds himself so consumed with looking for full-time work that he has no time to enroll in classes to finish his associate's degree. He doesn't have enough money for school anyway -- loans wouldn't cover the entire cost -- and he finds himself unqualified for many jobs because he doesn't have a degree.
So when Robinson saw the video released this week of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney saying that 47 percent of the country depends on government handouts, Robinson said he was aghast. Romney also said in the video that most people who will vote for President Barack Obama are "dependent on government" and "believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing."
"Yeah, you work hard and get a payoff, but there's only so much you can do to ensure your survival," Robinson said. "I think he is ignoring the fact that you can't prepare for every circumstance in life, especially in a recession that affects everyone. When you're saying half of America is a lot beyond repair, what does that mean for a potential president?"
As somebody who grew up attending a nondenominational Protestant church every Sunday and today considers himself an unaffliated "theist," Robinson said he is baffled by politicians who publicly profess their faith do not seem to "abide by the general rule of religious teaching about people helping each other."
"It's really odd thing that most people who identify as Republican also identify as religious people, but they are often opposed to things like government assistance or anything that would be set out to help others," said Robinson, who does not earn enough to pay income tax, but does pay payroll taxes. (In Romney's leaked speech, he hinted at a popular but overly simplified talking point that 47 percent of Americans do not pay taxes.)
Robinson, who lives in Walnut, in Southern California, has been going between part-time work, unemployment and attending school for a decade. He has three certificates in business management and international business, and his goal is to eventually own his own publishing company. But right now, after the 40-minute daily commute to and from work that sometimes requires him to take up to four buses, and the 16-to-20 hours behind the register each week, his time is committed to sending resumes to potential employers. He's looking for anything, but has an eye toward being an assistant or secretary in an office.
He wants most to get back on his feet and survive on his own. If he had a chance to speak with Romney, Robinson -- who said he is voting for Obama -- knows what he would say.
"It comes from a place of somebody who has never been in a situation of desperation, someone who has never faced homelessness or poverty," Robinson said. "It lacks experience or critical thinking that people who are on government assistance have the assumption that they like being on it and what to be on it for the rest of their lives, rather than looking at it as people who want to improve their lives."