CAMDEN, N.J. -- John Hoskins is not proud of his dependence on government. He scrapes by on a $900 monthly check from the Veterans Administration and $16 in food stamps. Sometimes he struggles just to pay his utilities and keep food in the fridge.
Hoskins, 67, enlisted in the Army's elite 101st Airborne division in 1963 and saw two harrowing years of combat in Vietnam, where his reconnaissance unit was repeatedly air-dropped into the jungle behind enemy lines. Today he is disabled, suffering from diabetes and confined to a wheelchair. A month ago, his left foot was amputated due to a blood infection.
He readily admits that he is among the 47 percent of Americans that pay no federal income taxes and rely on government assistance -- a group derided as freeloaders by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in comments secretly recorded at a high-priced fundraiser in May.
"I guess I'm one of the leeches on the system," he said. "But look at me. What can I do?"
But Hoskins rejects Romney's contention that he will vote for President Barack Obama "no matter what" to keep his benefits flowing. He is sour on politicians of both parties.
"I'm not in the bag for anyone," he said. "I'm not voting for either of those guys."
Hoskins thinks Obama talks a good game, but that he failed to deliver on his campaign promises. Romney, meanwhile, simply does not seem to grasp the profound difficulties many Americans face, he said.
"He is not in touch with the cold, hard reality of life," he said.
Hoskins has not always been disdainful of politicians. He greatly admired John F. Kennedy, who visited his Army base three times in the months before he was felled by an assassin's bullet in Dallas. During one visit, Hoskins shook Kennedy's hand.
"He was a hell of a man," Hoskins said. "If he didn't die, the country would be in a lot better shape."
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