The Joplin Globe recently published a guest column written by a right-wing extremist, Marilyn Beasley. Now, that’s normally nothing to get excited about, since the paper often prints the rantings of local reactionaries. But this particular piece was based on a demonstrable lie:
On July 12, 2012, President Barack Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services released an official policy directive that undermined the welfare reform law of 1996. The new policy uses an old bureaucratic device called a Section 1115 waiver to declare the actual work standards written in the law null and void.
Before we get to the heart of the matter and uncover the unholy lie in that paragraph, let’s look at a brand new ad released by the Romney Hood campaign:
If you watched that ad, you saw this:
Here is the way Beasley put it in the Globe:
In other words, this administration is sending a message to all welfare recipients that they no longer need to make the effort to find work. The government will be more than happy to send them a monthly check for doing nothing.
All this coded language is familiar to anyone following Republican politics at least since Ronald Reagan’s infamous Welfare Queen Campaign, in which conservatives first found it politically fruitful to pick on alleged welfare cheats and the Democrats who “enable” them.
Taxpaying folks naturally don’t like to think there are those out there taking advantage of them and the issue is ripe for exploitation by morally challenged folks like Marilyn Beasley and Mitt Romney (both religious zealots, to boot!), who apparently don’t have a conscience when it comes to telling lies about Obama.
Here’s the truth, as explained by Steve Benen:
Romney’s lying. He’s not spinning the truth to his advantage; he’s not hiding in a gray area between fact and fiction; he’s just lying. The law hasn’t been “gutted”; the work requirement hasn’t been “dropped.” Stations that air this ad are disseminating an obvious, demonstrable lie…
Some Republican governors this year asked the Obama administration for some new flexibility on welfare standards — the governors had some ideas about moving folks from welfare to work and needed the White House to sign off. Obama agreed — existing work requirements would stay in place, but states, if they want to, can take advantage of new flexibility when it comes to experimenting with existing law.
At the time of the flexibility change, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said this about the requirements under welfare reform passed in 1996:
Those requirements are fundamental to gains made in the past 15 years for moving people from welfare to work. This administration opposes any effort to undermine work requirements. The changes proposed by the Department of Health and Human Services are designed to accelerate job placement by moving Americans from welfare to work as quickly as possible.
There will be no waivers of the time limits in the law, and only waivers with compelling plans to move more people off of welfare to work will be considered. This policy will allow states to test new, more effective ways to help people get and keep a job.
Carney also pointed to past Republican governors—including the one now running for president!—who before Obama granted them didn’t have a problem with waivers:
I have been surprised by it, by the hypocrisy of our critics. Many of them have in the past supported and even proposed such waivers. Gov. Romney. Gov. Barbour. Gov. Huckabee. Secretary Tommy Thompson and Sen. Grassley who have all supported these kinds of waivers for states in the past.
In a 2005 letter to the Senate, Republican governors, including then Gov. Romney, requested such waivers. Under President George W. Bush, HHS Secretary Thompson put forward a proposal that would allow quote ‘super waivers.’ The Senate, under Republican control at the time, passed a bill authored by Sen. Grassley with broad waiver authority.
Just last year, states led by Democrats and Republicans, called for these very waivers so they could have more flexibility in putting more people back to work faster. Given this long, documented history of bipartisan support, it is surprising to say the least, to see this kind of flip flopping on the part of Republicans.
Surprising that Republicans would flip flop after Obama embraced one of their ideas? Hardly. It has become commonplace. But it should still be uncommon for candidates to brazenly lie about such things and for television stations to broadcast the lies and newspapers to publish them as if they were facts. As Steve Benen asked:
How are we to respond to a campaign that deliberately deceives the public without shame? This lie about welfare policy comes on the heels of Romney’s lie about voting rights in Ohio, which came on the heels of Romney’s lies about the economy; which came on the heels of Romney’s lies about health care; which came on the heels of Romney’s lies about taxes.
The Republican nominee for president is working under the assumption that he can make transparently false claims, in writing and in campaign advertising, with impunity. Romney is convinced that there are no consequences for breathtaking dishonesty.
The test, then, comes down to a simple question: is he right?
The cynical response to an ad like this is that the lies are routine — it’s just something “everybody” in politics does. That’s wrong. An ad this dishonest is a genuine scandal and it’s time for political observers treat it as such. Reporters within earshot of the candidate shouldn’t ask, “What about the gaffes?” They should ask, “Why are you lying about welfare policy?”
And as far as the Joplin Globe is concerned, before it prints and promotes such trash as offered by Marilyn Beasley, it ought to at least ask itself just what kind of journalistic standards does it have?