Facts show: “Liar, liar pants on fire” • Celia Murray
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has repeatedly said that President Obama has ended the welfare work requirements imposed in the 1996 overhaul of the welfare system. Not true.
States, including Georgia, receive block grants from the federal government to distribute in their Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (welfare) programs. TANF limits how long families can get aid and, in fact, never required all recipients to work. Recipients are required to participate in one of 12 specific “work activities”: jobs, job training, internships or school, to name a few. Beyond that, it restricts the number of hours a welfare client may spend at school, or consecutive months they can attend before that activity no longer counts toward the work requirement.
At the behest of several Republican governors, the Obama administration announced it will consider proposals from states that are aimed at finding better ways of getting welfare recipients into jobs. Waivers would allow for flexibility. For example, someone with a special-needs child might require different work arrangements than are currently allowed. A person who needs to improve his or her reading skills might require more time to take classes. By granting waivers to states, the administration is seeking to make welfare-to-work efforts more successful, not end them.
The Romney attacks prompted Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, a Republican who supports Romney, to issue a recent press release defending Utah’s waiver request for state flexibility to achieve work-related outcomes for TANF recipients.
Ron Haskins, a former Republican House committee aide who was instrumental in the 1996 overhaul of the welfare program, said about the Romney campaign claim: “I think - and now remember I’m a Republican - that the ad is very misleading.”
Haskins continued, “I do not think it ends welfare reform or strongly undermines welfare reform. Each state has to say what they will do and how that reform…will either increase employment or lead to better employment of recipients.” Haskins notes that historically the “Republicans are the ones who talk about giving the states more flexibility. Romney himself talks about giving the states more flexibility.”
Pulitzer Prize-winning PolitiFact checked a Romney campaign ads claim that Obama ended welfare work requirements earlier this month, giving it a “Pants on Fire” rating. FactCheck.org and the Washington Post Fact Checker have also said the claim is false.
Despite being debunked, the lie lives on. The Romney campaign has released two more ads repeating
the “gutting work requirements” line, and it's become a regular talking point for Romney campaign surrogates.
Former GOP candidate Rick Santorum said in his RNC convention speech that Obama "showed us once again he believes in government handouts and dependency by waiving the work requirement for welfare."
Romney’s campaign is absolutely undeterred by the truth. "Our most effective ad is our welfare ad," strategist Ashley O'Connor said at an RNC forum.
"We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers," added Romney pollster Neil Newhouse.
“Liar, liar, pants on fire,” goes the childhood taunt. Honest people should add a second line: “The GOP is not for me.”
Celia Murray is a member of the Morgan County Democratic Committee.
Printed in the September 6. 2012 edition.