Romney’s Welfare Lie: A Betrayal of Conservatism

Bill Scher

Mitt Romney released a new ad today about welfare reform. It’s a stone-cold lie.

The ad’s narrator 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.”

That’s a wild fabrication. As my colleague Isaiah J. Poole and I have both detailed, Obama’s HHS department merely heeded the concerns from a bipartisan group of governors and established a waiver program so states could experiment with different ways to help welfare recipients transition to work.

Conservative propagandists like the Heritage Foundation and Dick Morris led the smear campaign by claiming the waiver program completely junks the work requirements of the 1996 welfare reform law, the basis for the Romney camps assert that “you wouldn’t have to work” or “train for a job” any more to receive a “welfare check.”

But HHS makes plain that any state request for a waiver from those requirements needs to prove it has a plan to “improv[e] employment outcomes,” and if it doesn’t make progress, the waiver would be revoked.

The state waiver program is all about giving states the flexibility to craft their own solutions to poverty, which is supposedly what conservatives have wanted to decades.

It was then-Speaker Newt Gingrich who said in 1995:

We are committed to getting power back to the states, we are committed to breaking out of the logjam of Federal bureaucrats controlling how we try to help the poor, and we believe you can trust the 50 states and the 50 state legislatures to work together on behalf of the citizens of their states.

And it was then-Governor Mitt Romney who asked the Bush administration to offer a state waiver program for welfare, just like the Obama administration finally did.

Instead, Romney and his fellow conservatives, instead of applauding this attempt to use the states to alleviate poverty, are trying to seize control of the federal bureaucracy in order to tie the states’ hands.

Which raises the question:

Were conservative Republican leaders ever really interested in finding solutions of poverty?

Or do they just waive the state’s-rights flag whenever it suits their political purposes?

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