The Romney campaign has “gone there.”
A recent ad accuses the Obama Administration of “gutting the work requirement” that was part of welfare reform. The charge isn’t even remotely true–Politifact gave it a “Pants on Fire” rating, and reporters have noted the chutzpah of criticizing Obama for granting a request by Republican governors for more flexibility to try innovative job placement programs. Charles Blow of the New York Times noted that in 2005, Romney himself, and 8 other Republican governors, had signed a letter requesting even more flexibility than the administration has now granted.
So the ad is an outright lie, but that isn’t the point. The point is to play on white working-class resentment of the lazy, unproductive (black) moochers who are living high at the expense of hardworking Americans. Those resentments, racial and economic, are closer to the surface in bad economic times, and let’s face it–the people who harbor them are much more likely to believe the charge that a black President is enabling “those people.”
Resentments don’t respect facts, unfortunately. Most welfare recipients are white, and a majority are children. Another large subset are disabled. Of recipients who are working age, most work–and most of those work 40 hours a week. They simply work at jobs that don’t pay a living wage.
My biggest gripe with the folks who get bent out of shape about welfare, though, is different. It’s their definition and lack of consistency.
By far the largest recipients of welfare are corporations–the special interests whose lobbyists have successfully argued for favorable tax breaks and lucrative subsidies. Huge and highly profitable corporations like GE pay virtually no taxes. Obscenely profitable oil companies like Exxon continue to receive immense subsidies. (As E.J. Dionne wryly noted a few months back, evidently giving money to the rich gives them an incentive to produce, but giving money to the poor makes them dependent.)
We’ve only seen one year of tax returns from Mitt Romney, but in that one year, he took advantage of tax preferences–aka corporate welfare–that reduced his effective rate to 13%.
We have heard very little from Mitt Romney about his policy proposals. We are told we have no business seeing his tax returns. All we know is that he wants to be President so badly that he is willing to say or do anything–including flat-out lying and appeals to social and racial resentments.
References to Welfare Queens worked for Ronald Reagan, but Reagan had other things going for him. I do not think they will work for Mitt Romney.