Obama is Going to “Gut Welfare Reform”
For those of you who are either too young to remember the late 20th century (or for those of you who’ve chosen to block it out), welfare reform was once a great Republican bugaboo, the “immigrants are stealing your jobs” of the Reagan era. Ronald Reagan himself once decried the “strapping young bucks” who used welfare to buy “t-bone steaks,” and if that sounds incredibly racist, you’re right.
In 1996, President Bill Clinton helped Republicans achieve their goal of slashing — er, reforming — welfare. The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act made it harder to get public assistance, especially for women who were seeking post-secondary degrees. While the act did have the effect of kicking a lot of people off of assistance, the initial reports of its significant benefits in reducing poverty were primarily due to the roaring economy of the tech boom.
Why do I mention this? Because Mitt Romney’s base is made up of people who were well into adulthood when the PRWOA was signed into law, people who remember welfare reform as a salient issue. Romney is attempting to appeal to those voters with his second-biggest lie of the week, the lie that President Obama wants to “gut welfare reform.”
Romney’s lie hinges on waivers that the Obama administration is issuing to states that want flexibility to adjust work requirements in the face of the current recession. As the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein wrote last month, “The actual language is rather strict and rules out a number of potential waiver applications.” Job requirements are not going to be eliminated; rather, states will be able to use increased flexibility to help move recipients toward long-term employment.
Given the Republican love of giving the states more power, this may seem like something they would support the president in doing, or at the very least, have trouble arguing against. Romney makes the argument simpler by lying; in the ad, the campaign says, “Under Obama’s plan, you wouldn’t have to work and wouldn’t have to train for a job. They just send you your welfare check and welfare to work goes back to being plain old welfare.”
Incidentally, if you’re wondering where Barack Obama could have gotten the idea of giving states more flexibility on welfare requirements, it may have come from this 2005 letter from the Republican Governor’s Association requesting exactly that from then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. The second signature on the request was then-Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who was for Obama’s welfare rule changes before he was against them.
Image Credit: Donkey Hotey
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