Republican challenger Mitt Romney has reached for an old Republican favorite in his latest attack on President Obama: welfare. In a new line of criticism yesterday, Romney accused Obama of fostering a “culture of dependency” by removing the work requirement for welfare recipients.
This is a familiar attack by Republicans against a program that has long been used in this country as a symbol of liberalism gone awry, the federal welfare program—now know as the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. During the Republican primary, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich caused a stir in the black community when he called Obama the “welfare president” because the number of recipients has risen in his administration during the recession.
Romney, sensing an opening that would resonate with his conservative base, said that Obama has changed the federal welfare-to-work policy established in 1996 by President Clinton “by taking the work requirement out of welfare. That is wrong, and if I’m president, I’ll put work back in welfare. …We will end a culture of dependency and restore a culture of good, hard work,” he said.
The Romney campaign followed up the attack with a new ad running in states such as Colorado, Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio and Virginia, where the race is close.
“Under Obama’s plan you wouldn’t have to work and wouldn’t have to train for a job. They just send you a welfare check, and welfare to work goes back to being plan old welfare,” the announcer says in the new Romney commercial. “Mitt Romney will restore the work requirement.”
What Romney is referring to is the Obama administration’s recent announcement that it would issue waivers to states that wanted “to test alternative and innovative strategies, policies and procedures” to improve employment among needy families. This decision came after the feds had been receiving requests from governors—including Republicans in Utah and Nevada—seeking the waivers.
White House press secretary Jay Carney called the allegations “blatantly dishonest … hypocrisy knows no bounds.” He added that Romney, while serving as Massachusetts governor, had once petitioned the White House to loosen employment rules for those on welfare.
The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program sends money to states and encourages the states to require some sort of employment search in exchange for providing funds to individuals. It also imposes a five-year lifetime limit on cash assistance. In 2009, the racial breakdown of the program was 31.2 percent white families, 33.3 percent black families and 28.8 percent Hispanic families.