A Romney ad opens with a picture of President Bill Clinton signing the 1996 landmark welfare reform act, which shifted the program from indefinite government assistance to one based on steering people toward employment and self-reliance.
The words “unprecedented success” flash on the screen [This, despite frequent claims from Republicans welfare programs are failures and contribute to the “nanny state”] . Clinton and a bipartisan Congress, a narrator says, “helped end welfare as we know it by requiring work for welfare.”
A leather-gloved laborer wipes sweat from his forehead.
“But on July 12,” the ad continues, “President Obama quietly announced a plan to gut welfare reform by dropping work requirements. Under Obama’s plan, you wouldn’t have to work and wouldn’t have to train for a job [Forgetting, of course, Obama’s consistent support for career change training programs and funding]. They just send you your welfare check, and ‘welfare to work’ goes back to being plain old welfare.”
The July 12 announcement, made by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, or HHS, allows states to try different ways of meeting the work requirements of the federal law. Does it really mean “they just send you your welfare check”? We decided to look further.
In a memo released along with the ad, the Romney campaign says the change “undermines the very premise of welfare reform. It is an insult to Americans on welfare who are looking for an opportunity to build better lives for themselves. And it is a kick in the gut to the millions of hard-working middle-class taxpayers struggling in today’s economy, working more for less but always preferring self-sufficiency to a government handout.”
Obama, it says, “hopes states will consider approaches that remove work participation rate requirements all together.”
The HHS letter contains no such language. In several places, it says only proposals from states that “improve employment outcomes” will be considered.
Romney’s ad says, “Under Obama’s plan (for welfare), 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 drastic distortion of the planned changes to Temporary Assistance to Needy Families. By granting waivers to states, the Obama administration is seeking to make welfare-to-work efforts more successful, not end them.