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Romney’s Three Biggest Lies (of the Week)

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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.

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541 comments

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11:18PM PDT on Aug 24, 2012

Thanks

6:22PM PDT on Aug 19, 2012

Thanks

3:23PM PDT on Aug 19, 2012

Thank-you for posting this article.

4:58PM PDT on Aug 18, 2012

Thanks for the article.

5:45PM PDT on Aug 14, 2012

Cutting spending in the midst of a fiancial crisis such as President Obama inherited would have been disasterous and resulted in a full blown depression.

Also Social Security does not "add to the budget deficit," quite the contrary. It pays for itself, has enough money now to pay full benefits for the next 21 years, and is not even part of the deficit equation.

4:55PM PDT on Aug 14, 2012

Ivy T., thank you for the civility of your response. I cannot speak to your full analysis but note that the figures you provide for the Obama administration’s contribution to existing debt differ from those of factcheck.org:

http://factcheck.org/2012/02/dueling-debt-deceptions/

Part of the difference is no doubt that your analysis seems to separate interest costs from spending. But why should it? A responsible President must consider the existing financial situation when creating a budget. President Obama’s profligate spending would be acceptable (though unwise) were our country on sound financial footing, but in the context of a significant existing debt and increasing liabilities it can only be seen as irresponsible.

You blame the bulk of the debt on Republican Presidents and say that it is no good to implicate the Democrats in Congress who voted for more spending. I will agree that Republicans, both in the White House and in Congress, bear some responsibility for the spending that has gotten us where we are. But in almost every case these spending hikes were passed with more Democrat than Republican votes. And our problems with Social Security and Medicare, which now comprise about 41% of federal spending, were created by Democrat majorities more than 20 years ago.

As to President Obama’s relative responsibility for costs in 2009 I would also note the following link:

http://politicalmathblog.com/?p=1786

11:01AM PDT on Aug 14, 2012

Ivy T. and Don H.-Please take a handful of green stars out of petty cash, my treat!

10:05AM PDT on Aug 14, 2012

David F, Just perhaps..., if the House and Congress actually didn't do the no no's on anything and everything Obama proposed, for their political gain, we might be even better off, ya think?? Did anyone notice that jobs ARE being created despite the Republicans efforts to that anything that might help? We are not losing jobs like with the Bush admin. yet the right wing news subtly titles their headlines when reporting jobs gained with "only" and tries to dismiss this fact.

9:17AM PDT on Aug 14, 2012

Ivy T. Thank you for taking the time and effort to lay out these facts. Well done!

5:33AM PDT on Aug 14, 2012

Ack, needed more room, this is 3rd part of my post continued-
Interest on $11.7 trillion after G. W. Bush: $0.3 trillion
(detailed calculation)
Grand Total Reagan-Bushes Debt: $12 trillion (as of Sept. 30, 2010).

If the Republicans had not run up this $12 Trillion debt, we could easily have pulled out of the Great Recession. Economist Mike Kimel notes that the five former Democratic Presidents (Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, Lyndon B. Johnson, John F. Kennedy, and Harry S. Truman) all reduced public debt as a share of GDP, while the last four Republican Presidents (George W. Bush, George H. W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, and Gerald Ford) all oversaw an increase in the country's indebtedness.Economic historian J. Bradford DeLong, former Clinton Treasury Department official, observes a contrast not so much between Republicans and Democrats, but between Democrats and "old-style Republicans (Eisenhower and Nixon)" on one hand (decreasing debt), and "new-style Republicans" on the other (increasing debt). David Stockman, director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Ronald Reagan, as op-ed contributor to the New York Times, blamed the "ideological tax-cutters" of the Reagan administration for the increase of national debt during the 1980s. US had been downgraded since it was originally given a AAA rating on its debt by Moody's in 1917. According to the BBC, Standard & Poor's had "lost confidence" in the ability of the United States government to make de

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