Romney opens attack on Obama over welfare law

ELK GROVE, Illinois Tue Aug 7, 2012 3:51pm EDT

1 of 2. Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney speaks to supporters during a campaign event at Acme Industries in Elk Grove Village, Illinois August 7, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Jessica Rinaldi

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ELK GROVE, Illinois (Reuters) - Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney opened a new line of attack on President Barack Obama on Tuesday for waiving parts of a landmark welfare-to-work law, but Obama's team argued Romney had backed a similar move as Massachusetts governor.

Romney targeted Obama's plan to let states seek a waiver from the work requirements of a 1996 welfare law that was a signature bipartisan achievement of former Democratic President Bill Clinton's administration.

Romney's attack, laid out in a new television ad and a topic he addressed at a campaign event in Obama's home state, is aimed at bolstering his charge that Obama's solution to many of America's problems is to rely on government.

At the campaign event in Chicago, Romney vowed to reverse a July directive by the president's Health and Human Services Department that his campaign said was tantamount to gutting the welfare law.

"We will end a culture of dependency and restore a culture of good, hard work," he said.

The White House, which tends to leave it to Obama's campaign team to react to Romney attacks, was quick to leap into the fray, suggesting this is a sensitive issue. White House press secretary Jay Carney called Romney's charges categorically false and "blatantly dishonest."

"This administration's policy will strengthen the program by giving states the opportunity to employ more effective ways to help people get off welfare and into a job," said Carney.

The directive from the Health and Human Services Department allows states to ask for a waiver from the work requirement of the welfare law in order to test alternative strategies that would help needy families find jobs. The aim is to give states some flexibility in how they carry out the welfare law, just as some Republican state governors have advocated, rather than sticking to a rigid formula.

But the health department's decision has generated strong opposition from many Republicans. In the House, 76 Republicans complained in a letter to Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who sought to assure them that states will have to move at least 20 percent more people from welfare to work.

In a bare-knuckled presidential campaign, such nuances are quickly cast aside, and Romney went after Obama on the issue.

"Obama guts welfare reform," says the video script of the Romney ad, while a voice 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."

The attack fits in with Romney's strategy to paint Obama as a big-government liberal unable to take the steps he thinks are necessary to tackle the 8.3 percent U.S. jobless rate.

The Obama campaign fought back, arguing Romney had sought even greater flexibility from the welfare law when he was governor of Massachusetts. Obama's campaign circulated a 2005 letter Romney signed along with 28 other Republican governors in support of Senate legislation that would have permitted increased waiver authority.

"The truth is that the President is giving states additional flexibility only if they move more people from welfare to work - not fewer," said Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith.

But Romney's campaign team said the 2005 letter was a comment on a Senate reauthorization of the welfare program that was pending at the time, and would have increased work requirements from 50 percent participation to 70 percent and would have given states increased flexibility in administering the welfare law.

"But it did not provide a waiver of the core work requirement and the governors were not requesting a waiver of that core work requirement and Governor Romney in fact had vetoed legislation that would have weakened Massachusetts' work requirement," said Romney deputy policy director Jonathan Burks.

The Republican is trying to stay on the offensive after the wealthy former private equity executive has labored to defend his decision not to release more of his tax returns.

The welfare attack, to be played out for the rest of the week, came as the campaign toward the November 6 election intensifies. Romney goes on a four-day bus tour on Saturday that will take him through the battleground states of Virginia, North Carolina, Florida and Ohio.

At the end of the trip, Romney may announce his vice presidential running mate.

(Writing by Steve Holland; Editing by Jackie Frank)

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Comments (93)
paintcan wrote:
What do the Republicans expect? In this state the job ads are practically non existent. I don’t think employers bother anymore to even advertise for help wanted.

The wealthy are not investing in job creation and I think they know there is very little they can do anymore in the face of low wage competition from other countries. And yet politicians like Romney make vapid speeches about the work ethic.

Fascist states need slaves. But the slaves will still have to live with some kind of assistance because they cannot afford the cost of living; especially the rents that still prevail.

The value of real estate was the foundation of so much consumption during the past two decades, and any undercutting of the average wage will further erode that value.

Maybe it’s impossible to create a consumer driven fascist state? If the Republicans and the Tea Partiers want a true low wage work force they will have to invest in public housing, affordable public health, and day care etc. And they tend not to want abortion either. Look what China has to control to maintain their low wage, low consumption work force.

BTW – By the time of Nero – the Roman Senator made a law that limited the number of slaves a man could free each year. They knew that slaves were expensive, dangerous and not very productive. Early in Nero’s reign, the Government slaughtered over 100 members of a senator’s house because they had created a law that said – all slaves in a household would be killed if even one had murdered the master. The executions of everyone – men, women and children – were carried out in the street in spite of the wails and protests of the neighborhood. All of the members of that household would have been well known to everyone. The logic was that no slave could possibly act without everyone in the house knowing. I also says that they would rather die than say who had killed the master. It could have been a kind of Masada of domestic servants.

Masters before the time of Nero were jealous of their personal prerogatives as the Pater Familias and had the right to kill slaves if they were disobedient and didn’t know their place. In the later empire, the government took that right from them. It was a very “liberal” move on the part of the government.

Aug 07, 2012 8:42am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Susanbsbi wrote:
At least the President is keeping it , better than the GOP who no longer will fund it. The GOP forgets that has helped a lot of people through this depressions started by the GOP.

Aug 07, 2012 8:51am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Mainspring44 wrote:
Cannot put it more gently than “nuances are quickly cast aside.”

In actuality, flexibility to adapt state by state was an original feature, as I recall. Very possibly the “we have all the answers” Bush people constricted things to make the feds rule imposers on all.

Not that reality bothers the Romney campaign team or, it seems more and more, the candidate himself.
What repeatedly issues from the Romney campaign complainers with intensifying stridency is some familiar Republican theme onto which some topic of the moment is hammered into shape, like forming sheet metal on a buck or a dress on a mannequin. Welfare costing too much is too shop worn to rehash, and this time the Romney spinners have managed to concoct a way to blame President Obama – to no one’s surprise. Blame him for respecting States Rights, of all things.

Aug 07, 2012 9:27am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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