Republicans Vote On Welfare Reform Lie

Isaiah J. Poole

Republicans won’t abandon the Obama’s-gutting-welfare-reform lie, no matter how often it is discredited.

Today Republicans took the lie to the House floor, in the form of a resolution that would block the implementation of a Health and Human Services memorandum that would give states more flexibility in how they move welfare recipients into meaningful jobs.

We were among the first to blow the whistle on the claim that this memorandum would destroy the work requirements that were at the heart of the 1996 welfare reform law, by merely pointing to the plain language of the memorandum itself: “The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) is interested in more efficient or effective means to promote employment entry, retention, advancement, or access to jobs that offer opportunities for earnings and advancement that will allow participants to avoid dependence on government benefits.”

The memorandum is peppered with phrases such as “improve employment outcomes” or “superior employment outcomes.” Yet a House Ways and Means committee report on the resolution assets that the legislation “would have the effect of allowing States to opt out of TANF work requirements.”

Never mind, as Leo Gerard explained on our blog earlier this week, Republican governors, including Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney when he was governor of Massachusetts, were pressing for the kind of regulatory waivers that would be granted under the memorandum House Republicans were voting to nullify.

But as Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., said on the House floor today, this is not about defending the integrity of the welfare reform work requirements.

“This is to manipulate the truth to try to appeal to the worst instincts” and to “provide a smokescreen for an ad that has been called a ‘pants on fire‘ ad,” he said.

He was of course referring to Romney’s ad that claimed that President Obama was eliminating the welfare-to-work requirement. The ad features images of hard-working white people juxtaposed with an ominous-looking President Obama as a voice says, “Under President Obama’s plan, you wouldn’t have to work, and you wouldn’t have to train for a job. They just send you your check.”

It is one of the most outrageous presidential campaign claims since Ronald Reagan’s fictitious “welfare queen” fable of his 1976 presidential bid—and just as pernicious.

But, just as Reagan rode the racial resentment stirred up by the welfare queen stereotype all the way to the White House, the Romney campaign and House Republicans expect the meme that “the food stamp president is giving lazy people government money to sit around and do nothing” will give them the unfettered control of government that they crave.

“The attacks play on a deep sense of resentment with the benefits received by the “undeserving” poor,” wrote Nate Cohn of The New Republic in August. “Some polls point toward an uptick in anti-assistance sentiment since the recession. According to relatively recent Rasmussen surveys, 71 percent say that too many people get welfare and 47 percent of adults think the government spends too much on poverty programs.”

Romney has not only sided with those who believe we spend too much money on the poor, but in a private fundraiser voiced disdain for those who he said felt “entitled” to such basics as food and shelter. The alliance of Romney and House Republicans against the mythical poor who would rather get government checks while saying home all day and watching the exploits of Snooki is yet another manifestation of a heartless, clueless and intellectually bankrupt strain of conservatism that is incapable of addressing the problems of real poor and unemployed people.

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