Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney took some heat for his ad that claimed that “President Obama quietly ended the work requirement -- gutting welfare reform.” It relates to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Information Memorandum sent out by the Department of Health and Human Services last month.
The policy directive uses shifty logic to end the federal requirement that welfare recipients work or prepare themselves to enter the workforce in order to receive TANF assistance. This stipulation was put in place in 1996 with the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, which was passed with bipartisan support from President Bill Clinton and the Republican-controlled Congress.
The key component of that bill was getting people back to work, rather than just sitting around accepting welfare checks. Rewarding laziness is generally not a good idea when trying to get someone off his or her hiney to become a productive member of society.
Obama’s White House ended the work requirement for welfare, effectively gutting the successful 16-year-old reform. Mitt Romney pointed it out. The media called him a liar. At least they refrained from calling him a racist ... this time. Only can a Democrat call a Republican a liar for stating the truth. Can you see my eyes rolling from over there?
For a peek into how removing strings from receiving welfare checks does nothing but keep the poor impoverished, let’s take a look at California, the nation’s welfare queen. A full one third of the welfare recipients in the U.S. live in California -- a state that has sidestepped some of the federal work requirements by citing the Safety Net Program. When adults are ineligible to receive welfare, the checks go straight to their kids. Three quarters of California’s welfare recipients are minors.
But they’re kids! They’d starve otherwise! The real unemployment rate in California is over 20 percent, so shouldn’t we try to help these poor unemployed people out? Especially the kids!
Except that people could get jobs if they wanted to. Don’t believe me? There’s a huge shortage of laborers in California right now -- to the point where fruits and vegetables are being left in the field to rot, because there is no one to pick them. Don’t even try to give me the whole Mexican migratory theory, or I’ll ask you why it’s beneath an American to pick produce but not a Mexican. They’re people too, you know.
Here’s a crazy thought: Maybe Americans aren’t taking those jobs because it’s easier to collect a welfare check than to go out in the hot sun and perform manual labor. This isn’t about taking care of the destitute children; this is about paying people to not work.
Mitt Romney is neither wrong nor a liar for calling Barack Obama out for effectively ending the welfare work requirement. If you think requiring an able-bodied person to work or train for a job in order to receive welfare is wrong, you should probably reexamine your priorities. This is one issue that a majority of Republicans and Democrats have been able to see eye-to-eye on; let’s not ruin it.
What do you think of this change?
Image via Magnus D/Flickr