President Obama’s effort to call criticisms of his decision to offer waivers to states on the welfare work requirements, in contravention of the express language of the statute, “lies” has failed. For one thing, the criticisms are well founded. For another, the criticisms are working.
[T]he oft-cited CNN-”fact check” of Romney’s welfare ad makes a big deal of HHS secretary Sebelius’ pledge that she will only grant waivers to states that “commit that their proposals will move at least 20% more people from welfare to work.” CNN swallows this 20% Rule whole in the course of declaring Romney’s objection “wrong”:
The waivers gave “those states some flexibility in how they manage their welfare rolls as long as it produced 20% increases in the number of people getting work.”
Why, it looks as if Obama wants to make the work provisions tougher! Fact-check.org cites the same 20% rule.
I was initially skeptical of Sebelius’ 20% pledge, since a) it measures the 20% against “the state’s past performance,” not what the state’s performance would be if it actually tried to comply with the welfare law’s requirements as written, and b) Sebelius pulled it out of thin air only after it became clear that the new waiver rule could be a political problem for the president. She could just as easily drop it in the future; and c) Sebelius made it clear the states don’t have to actually achieve the 20% goal–only “demonstrate clear progress toward” it. . . .
Turns out it’s not as big a scam as I’d thought it was. It’s a much bigger scam. For one thing, anything states do to increase the number of people on welfare will automatically increase the “exit” rate–what the 20% rule measures–since the more people going on welfare, the more people leave welfare for jobs in the natural course of things, without the state’s welfare bureaucrats doing anything at all. Raise caseloads by 20% and Sebelius’ standard will probably be met. (Maybe raise caseloads 30% just to be sure.) So what looks like a tough get-to-work incentive is actually a paleoliberal “first-get-on-welfare” incentive. But the point of welfare reform isn’t to get more people onto welfare.
It has been the case this political season, as Kaus points out, that “the MSM’s fact-checkers often don’t know what they’re talking about.” Their errors, of course, invariably run in liberals’ favor. But now that a fuller picture has emerged of both the legislative history and potential impact of the change, shouldn’t these truth-tellers be checking themselves?
Both sides in the presidential race seem to think the attacks on Obama are working. Republicans have been encouraged to run more ads and make their attack a regular fixture in the nominees’ stump speeches. Democrats also think it is imperative for Obama to address the issue.
The difficulty for Obama is two-fold. First, he is on record opposing the 1996 welfare work requirement. And second, if he wanted to remove any doubt that the work requirement will be a permanent fixture in our welfare system, he could have clarified or repealed the change and then gone to Congress to properly amend the statute after a full hearing on whatever problem he thought needed to be fixed. Democrats might have convinced themselves that shouting “Liar!” is a cure-all; it’s not and Obama better be prepared to explain his action. In the simplest form, if it wasn’t broken, why “fix” the work requirement?