Tuesday, August 07, 2012
Romney Hits Obama On Gutting Welfare Reform
One of the signature achievements of the Clinton Administration and a GOP dominated House was legislation reforming welfare to include work requirements along the lines of the highly successful legislation pioneered by Wisconsin governor Tommy Thompson.It was called the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).
Back on July 12th, the Obama Administration issued a directive that essentially made TANF meaningless by allowing individual states a free hand with requirements for their welfare-to-work programs, which are federally funded.Essentially, it amounted to a waiver, and one that a lot of Blue states are going to implement with a nod and a wink.
The latest Romney ad attacks that policy, saying that the new Obama directive allows people to 'stay on welfare forever'.
That of course isn't necessarily true, but it certainly gives Blue states carte blanche to do so if they want to . And as a denizen of such a state, let me assure you that most of them will want to, for obvious political purposes.
Needless to say, White House spokeshole Jay Carney was quick to respond, claim that Mitt Romney as governor of Massachusetts signed a letter with a number of other governors from both parties asking for certain changes to the TANF federal requirements:
"The ad is particularly outrageous as Governor Romney himself with 28 other Republican governors supported policies that would have eliminated the time limits in the welfare reform law and allowed people to stay on welfare forever. Those are not standards the president supports."
Ah, but the devil's in the details.The difference in the 2005 letter Romney and 29 other state governors signed and Obama's 2012 directive is that the letter merely called for specific changes in policy to create more flexibility in crediting different types of work and coordinating work credit with existing state programs, like Wisconsin's:
"Increased waiver authority, allowable work activities, availability of partial work credit and the ability to coordinate state programs are all important aspects of moving recipients from welfare to work,", the letter read.
Romney's campaign Policy Director Lanhee Chen fired back at Carney writing that the Governor has in fact been consistent on this issue:
"Because Massachusetts had implemented reforms of its own shortly before the federal reforms of 1996, it was actually exempt from many of the federal requirements when Romney took office as governor," Chen wrote. "But nevertheless, facing an overwhelmingly Democratic legislature in one of the most liberal states in the country, Romney vetoed efforts to weaken work requirements and he pressed repeatedly to instead strengthen them and bring them in line with federal standards."
She also mentioned the inconvenient fact that a certain Illinois state senator named Barack Obama was outspokenly opposed to welfare reform:
“Unfortunately, not everyone was enthusiastic about welfare reform,” Chen writes. “For instance, a man named Barack Obama took to the floor of the Illinois State Senate to announce his opposition. A devoted believer in old-school, big-government liberalism, Mr. Obama had no interest in embracing the welfare reform package that linked welfare to work. Now as president, with an economy struggling, an election looming, and a dispirited liberal base in need of encouragement, he has decided to turn back the clock.”
The real problem with welfare is that it creates a culture of dependency in some people. And culture is the operative word.
I've known some people who were forced by circumstances to go on welfare, food stamps and AFDC for a time and absolutely hated the idea.They treated it as a very temporary and embarrassing phase in life that they eliminated as soon as possible.
There are a number of others who regard what was always supposed to be a temporary leg up and part of a social safety net as something they were entitled to, as 'free money' from the government, a 'gimmee'.
It's the second, growing class that is the problem, as well as those committing outright fraud by going on multiple programs in blue jurisdictions where arcane privacy rules effectively keep them from being caught in most instances.
President Obama's new directive just enabled those politicians looking to pander to the second class.
It's hardly the worst problem we have to deal with but it's a symptom of what's wrong, and Governor Romney was correct to point it out.