On August 22, the “sweet 16th” anniversary of President Clinton’s welfare overhaul, the welfare program came under scrutiny in the wake of an ad released by Mitt Romney, which continues to air and garner attention and criticism alike. NPR reports that Mitt Romney presented the attack ad on President Obama’s supposed treatment of the welfare system two weeks ago.
The ad opens with a picture of President Bill Clinton signing the 1996 landmark welfare reform act. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the centerpiece of the 1996 legislation, established work requirements and limited the amount of time welfare recipients could receive benefits.
Clinton and a bipartisan Congress “helped end welfare as we know it by requiring work for welfare,” the narrator says.
A memo from George Sheldon, the acting assistant secretary at U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said the department has only proposed ways for states to try meeting the work requirements of the federal law in different ways.
“States are running less-effective programs than they might be, because they are so driven by performance measurement as it’s set forth in the federal law,” Schott said in the memo.
The proposed waivers would allow for flexibility within certain state-based pilot programs based on individual needs. For example, according to NPR, “someone with a special-needs child might require different work arrangements than are currently allowed. Or a person who needs to improve his or her English skills might need more time to take classes.”
“It’s really about the underlying program,” Schott said. “The real starting place is: What’s the most effective program to get this person to work?”
Major fact-checking organizations have united in saying Romney’s attacks are completely false:
*PolitiFact reports that Romney’s claims are “pants on fire”.
*The Washington Post‘s fact checker awarded four Pinocchios, its highest rating.
*Annenberg Public Policy Center’s FactCheck.org also reports that the facts are false. FactCheck.org explains:
“A Mitt Romney TV ad claims the Obama administration has adopted ‘a plan to gut welfare reform by dropping work requirements.’ The plan does neither of those things. Work requirements are not simply being ‘dropped.’ States may now change the requirements — revising, adding or eliminating them — as part of a federally approved state-specific plan to increase job placement. And it won’t ‘gut’ the 1996 law to ease the requirement. Benefits still won’t be paid beyond an allotted time, whether the recipient is working or not.”
Despite the facts not lining up with the ad, Romney’s campaign released a memo on August 22 repeating its claim about Obama gutting the Clinton-era welfare reforms. In addition, the Republican National Committee released an ad on Wednesday noting the 16th anniversary of the law, stating: “If Barack Obama had his way, this day would have never happened.”
Republican supporters have commented that they do not trust Obama and that they always question fact checking websites, according to NPR.