Friday, August 10, 2012

Welfare change: Spin or real issue?

Just when Harry Reid's allegations about Mitt Romney's tax returns were the biggest campaign story, Romney unleashes a barrage against Obama's consideration of waivers for the welfare work requirement. The obvious partisan ways to view this news story are:
  • Dems: This is lazy mendacity on the part of Romney since the waivers were requested by Republican governors. They're trying to smear Obama as a dependency-promoting socialist.
  • Repubs: The welfare reform bill fixed the problem of dependency without accountability that was a huge drain on public finances. His proposed changes gut the law that was passed to combat the problem, and that is overreach. Changes should enacted, not declared unilaterally.
I think the GOP has some good points here. Obama has been stepping beyond his powers. However, when he can't get the Congress to grant him reasonable powers, he often still has to act. Decisions have to be made about where to put resources regarding immigration enforcement. The civil war in Libya was happening, and sitting on our thumbs has consequences.

Changing the rules on a major piece of legislation is a different situation. Obama wouldn't unilaterally mess with Social Security rules, and he shouldn't be doing it with welfare reform either.

But the GOP is going overboard when they say Obama is gutting welfare reform, and will go back to welfare the way it was--just collecting checks.The message isn't that this might happen, that you shouldn't trust Obama, but that it's happening. It's the 'death panels' approach again.

There are probably real issues here. What issues are driving the changes to work requirements? Are the work requirements too much in this economy? Do we want states to have more leeway for experimentation? Are there going to be public reports about the results of these changes?

This real second-tier issue is being treated in a superficial way. And really, what would Romney do differently? Maybe he wouldn't do waivers, or maybe he would but he'd be able to get congressional permission. Frankly, I have more questions than answers, and the media and political ads weren't clarifying the issue. Well, that's a big surprise.


Fox, gutting or tweaking?
Slate/Weigel  an analytical overview
Mickey Kaus is angry, but has the best arguments
Gingrich on CNN makes some strong GOP arguments
Huffington gives more nuance to GOP rep involved
Seattle Times is tough on Romney, some criticism for Obama

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