Mitt Romney's 'Welfare Queen'
Whose side is he on?
That opened up an opportunity for his challenger
Since the 1996 Welfare Reform Act, anyone seeking cash assistance has faced strict work requirements and a five-year lifetime limit. But "(u)nder Obama's plan, you wouldn't have to work and wouldn't have to train for a job," says the narrator in the Romney ad. "They would just send you your welfare check. And welfare-to-work goes back to being just plain old welfare.
But the directive's aim is to improve welfare-to-work, not gut it. Major fact-checking organizations tend to agree. PolitiFact gave the ad a "Pants on Fire" rating, calling a "drastic distortion." FactCheck.org gave a similarly low rating. The
Yet Obama's waivers might well have been greeted as sound conservative policy, returning power to the innovative laboratory of the states, if they had come from a Republican president. But Obama is a Democratic incumbent, which would give him special vulnerability on the welfare issue even if he were not a mixed-race man of African descent.
Politically, welfare reform is a potent political wedge issue. It brings up images of able-bodied adults sitting around collecting public assistance. It touches all the hot buttons of race, class, culture, poverty and morality, as exemplified by the near-mythological "Welfare Queen" against which
It took the great triangulator
The result: Welfare dependency went down, along with child poverty, as employment of welfare recipients went up, helped along by the 1990s economic boom. Even in today's sluggish economy, the
Enter President Obama. Team Romney insists that the new Obama policy opens the door to a weakening of work requirements because it allows states to give a higher priority to the type of work recipients take than to their participation rate. "If I am president," Romney said in suburban
At least five governors, including Republicans
Now Romney has put his fellow Republicans in the awkward position of defending their requests to reporters without stepping on his claim that Obama's directive hurts welfare reform.
In fact, state governments have little incentive, especially in this economy, to load up their welfare rolls with nonworkers. If the states have good ideas to make welfare-to-work more efficient and turn more tax users into taxpayers, let them try.
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Mitt Romney's 'Welfare Queen' | Politics
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