Welfare, Truth and Politics: Ad War

Mitt Romney’s claim that President Barack Obama has quietly gutted the nation’s welfare overhaul may be a political winner with some voters.

Yet it’s an assertion that is at odds with the views of policy experts, the Republican governor who suggested the idea of more flexible rules, and former President Bill Clinton, who signed the landmark 1996 welfare reform into law.

Mitt Romney is betting that the notion that there are vast numbers of Americans gaming the system will have political resonance.

In a new advertisement and on the campaign trail, Romney, the Republican presidential candidate, is criticizing an administration memo that would relieve states of federal welfare work quotas if they can present alternatives for moving more of the record number of impoverished Americans into permanent jobs.

See Romney’s ad released this week here. 

See Obama’s ad-response released today, here.

Romney’s ad says that under the rule, “you wouldn’t have to work and wouldn’t have to train for a job,” a claim rejected even by some members of his own party. The Obama ad closes with Clinton saying: “It’s just not true.”

“People who didn’t know the details might be likely to believe it,” said Ron Haskins, a Republican and onetime legislative aide who helped draft the welfare law. Even so, “this could be a very effective thing for Romney to do.”

The line of attack speaks to concern among white working class voters, a crucial constituency for Romney, as well as independents that the government is catering to the highest and lowest rungs of society at their expense, said Larry Jacobs, a political science professor at theUniversity of Minnesota.

It also involves welfare-to-work requirements that enjoy broad public support and plays into a Romney campaign charge that Obama wants to promote a culture of dependence.

“It creates an episode that vividly demonstrates the Republican criticism of Obama as a big-spending liberal,” said Jacobs, adding that any detailed rebuttal by the administration wouldn’t be as potent. “It’s going to take you five or six paragraphs to neutralize a one-sentence attack ad.”

See the full story on the truth of welfare and work, and the politics of it all, at Bloomberg.com.


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