Our guest blogger is Melissa Boteach, director of Poverty to Prosperity at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
To distract the public from their plans to funnel additional tax cuts to the wealthiest one percent, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan — the GOP’s presidential ticket — are engaging in one of the oldest and most cynical forms of class warfare: using a manufactured welfare fight as an wedge issue to foster resentment among voters.
The Romney campaign has spent the past several weeks hammering the airwaves with an ad that claims that “President Obama Ended Work Requirements For Welfare” telling voters that he just wants to “hand them a check.” The implication? That while you’re working hard to make ends meet, Obama wants to enable freeloading and give lazy people your tax dollars. We’d be naïve to ignore the racial implications of such an argument.
The claim is blatantly false. The Obama administration has actually proposed to strengthen work requirements by empowering states to innovate on strategies to move 20 percent more of the caseload into sustainable employment. It’s also silly — both Republican and Democratic governors have requested such an action from the administration because the current system is not leading to sustainable jobs for struggling families. Providing greater room for states to experiment with bipartisan ideas could help move the debate in the right direction by providing more information on what strategies work and should be replicated. In fact, as governor of Massachusetts, Romney himself requested similar flexibility and Ryan has worked for similar reforms as a member of Congress.
Unfortunately, the Romney/Ryan campaign appears to have made the calculation that rather than have a debate on the merits about how to expand economic opportunity for our most vulnerable citizens, they would be better served by using false welfare ads as a distraction from the fact that the policies championed by the ticket would provide greater tax cuts to the top 1 percent while slamming the middle-class and increasing poverty.
Our country desperately needs a substantive debate on how to create good jobs and how to better connect the most disadvantaged workers to them. Many low-income workers on TANF are unable to access the child care they need to make work possible and ultimately end up spending nearly half their income on care for their children. Low-wage workers are constantly facing the threat of a layoff because more than 80 percent lack access to a single paid sick day to take care of themselves, a sick kid, or an elderly relative.
Romney and Ryan have been silent on these issues, in part because the budget plan they champion would gut the work supports, such as childcare, job training, and Head Start, that provide greater economic opportunity for working and middle class voters alike. Contrasting these proposed cuts to their tax cuts for the wealthy is not a debate they want to have with the public. Insert shiny (and false) welfare ad as a distraction.
The public should see this strategy for what it is — a crass political tactic to distract voters from Romney’s plans to provide additional tax cuts to the wealthy and dodge the real debate we need to be having about how to create jobs and move struggling families into the middle-class.