Republican National Convention 2012: Santorum does Romney’s dirty work on welfare

Rick Santorum at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida on Aug. 28, 2012. SOURCE: GOPConvention2012.com

COMMENTARY

During last night’s primetime speech at the Republican National Convention, former GOP presidential contender and Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum assailed the Obama administration on welfare, reinforcing a lie that the Romney campaign has spent millions televising. 

Rick Santorum at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida on Aug. 28, 2012. SOURCE: GOPConvention2012.com

“[Obama] showed us once again he believes in government handouts and dependency by waiving the work requirement for welfare,” said Santorum. “Under President Obama, the dream of freedom and opportunity has become a nightmare of dependency with almost half of America receiving some government benefit.”

Santorum and Romney’s statements on welfare are not just misleading; they’re false. And in Romney’s case, his attacks are simply disingenuous and hypocritical when voters take into consideration Romney’s record on welfare work waivers:

Here are the facts:

The so-called welfare work requirement “waiver” was actually a guideline on how the federal government could give states “more flexibility to innovate in the [Temporary Assistance For Needy Families] program with the goal of helping more families find jobs and move toward self-sufficiency.”

This was done in response to state governments’ complaints about the bureaucratic red tape and burdensome paperworks that took away time that states could be spending on helping welfare recipients find jobs.

In fact, back in 2005, then-Massachusetts Gov. Romney – along with 28 Republican Governors, including Mike Huckabee, Jeb Bush, Tim Pawlenty, Jon Huntsman, Mitch Daniels, and Rick Perry – wrote a letter to then-Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist asking for welfare waivers and loosening work requirements for welfare recipients.

“Provide states with the flexibility to manage their TANF programs and effectively serve low-income populations. Increased waiver authority, allowable work activities, availability of partial work credit and the ability to coordinate state programs are all important aspects of moving recipients from welfare to work,” wrote Romney and his Republican gubernatorial colleagues.

The Obama administration’s guideline, issued on June 12, would actually take the first step in accommodating the states’ requests for more flexibility, which Romney had asked for back when he was Governor.

The TANF guideline stated that the Health and Human Services Secretary [Kathleen Sebelius] is willing to consider waivers on certain welfare work requirements if states can show in a “compelling fashion why the proposed approach may be more efficient or effective” in helping parents get employed and off welfare. To be considered for federal waivers, states must produce a “high quality evaluation plan” for their proposed work programs and identify “performance targets that will be used to hold states accountable for improving outcomes for families.”

Some of the programs the HHS is willing to consider waivers for include state projects that combine work and college or vocational training for welfare recipients to develop new skills that meet the demands of local employers and projects that help people who are disabled learn new skills that would improve their long-term employment prospects.

The guideline also made clear that the welfare waivers cannot be applied to extend the time limit of government aid, which is capped at a 24-month lifetime maximum.

So Romney and Santorum’s attacks have nonsensically equated giving states more flexibility in carrying out a federally-funded program to promoting a culture of dependency on government handouts. Either these two seemingly intelligent men didn’t know what they’ve been talking about (and didn’t bother to read the HHS guideline on welfare waivers) or they simply decided to lie. Given their credentials in public service, the latter is more likely.

In fact, Romney’s welfare waiver attack ad has been widely discredited by reputable and independent news media citing clear evidence proving the inaccuracy and falsehood of Romney’s claims. But that didn’t stop Santorum from perpetuating Romney’s lies; he took the spotlight and did Romney’s dirty work.

 

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