Entries in Welfare (5)


Welfare Argument Sparks Debate

Medioimages/Photodisc/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, the journalist who champions human rights around the world, wants the government to stop giving welfare checks to poverty-stricken children with disabilities.  It’s a stance that inspired solidarity with conservatives and fiery criticism from liberals -- not Kristof’s usual reception.

In an op-ed published in the Sunday Times titled “Profiting from a Child’s Illiteracy,” Kristof argued that Social Security and welfare benefits are perpetuating the cycle of poverty in America.

It’s an argument that goes back decades, and it has generally been favored by conservatives.  Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan used it to condemn President Obama’s social policies throughout the presidential election, saying such benefits lead to dependency, not self-sufficiency.

Speaking with Kristof on MSNBC Monday, Republican Joe Scarborough praised Kristof’s idea that the benefits are perpetuating a cycle of dependence.

“Whether you’re in Midtown Manhattan or at the Capitol in Washington, you now have generations of Americans that have been raised with this as a way of life,” Scarborough said.  “And the great question is, how do we break the cycle?”

Kristof’s op-ed suggested reinforcing learning programs that work with children to overcome illiteracy.  He quoted conservative scholar Richard Burkhauser, saying today’s welfare programs give parents an incentive to encourage their children to do poorly in schools.

“I hope that the budget negotiations in Washington may offer us a chance to take money from S.S.I. and invest in early childhood initiatives instead,” Kristof, 53, wrote, referring to Supplemental Security Income, a U.S. Treasury-funded program that gives stipends to low-income children and elderly or disabled adults.

Such a suggestion is rarely heard from liberals, and it was not well received.

“Oh, dear god, have I seen this movie before.  You have the heartbroken local bureaucrat without any specific examples, just ‘many people.’  You have the statistics-free analysis of programs, and you have the pet ‘scholar’ from the American Enterprise Institute who, in a stunning coincidence, writes a book concluding pretty much the same thing about social-welfare programs that everyone else at AEI believes,” Charles Pierce wrote in Esquire magazine’s politics blog.

“And, of course, there is the anguished liberal conscience of the Times columnist.  What’s missing, of course, are any of the actual people who allegedly are getting fat on disability payments,” Pierce continued.

Kristof, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, supported his claim that parents benefit from their children’s failure on a quote from the head of a literacy program in rural Kentucky, who told him parents were preventing their children from learning to read.

Jonathan Stein, a lawyer at advocacy firm Community Legal Services, countered that low-income children who are illiterate don’t automatically qualify for disability benefits.

“Illiteracy is NOT and has never been a ground of eligibility to obtain SSI child disability benefits,” Stein wrote in an email.

West Virginia literacy specialist Judy Azulay was shocked to read Kristof’s op-ed.  She said the Times columnist “usually is right on the mark,” but in this case she found him way off.

“Parents want to see their kids succeed,” Azulay said.  ”Sometimes parents who are not educated and who have had terrible experiences with the school don’t know how to help their kids, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t want their kids to succeed.  It’s a different issue.”

Azulay has worked in West Virginia schools and with individual literacy tutoring for almost three decades.  In the rural areas where she works, Azulay said, the problem is not SSI but a lack of access for families to the resources available.

“Even if the families have money from SSI or other sources to use for transportation to get them to after-school or tutoring programs there is no transportation that they could even spend money on,” Azulay said.  “There’s no public transportation, and there’s no taxi cabs.  There’s no way that you can get a kid access to services.”

Rep. Tim Murphy said he sees this, too, in rural areas of his Pennsylvania district.

“In instances like that it’s important to have transportation to a program part of the time but also programs going to children’s homes, which is probably a greater benefit,” Rep. Murphy, R-Pa., said by phone on Wednesday.  “But it’s also important that the child goes to the programs where they can see there’s a world out there that they can aspire to learn more from and be better in what they do."

“It isn’t just enough to give them a check.  They need to have hope,” Murphy said, paralleling a line in Kristof’s op-ed that argued U.S. families have modern conveniences but “what they don’t have is hope.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Fact Check: Obama ‘Gutted’ Welfare Reform, Gingrich Says

Jessica McGowan/Getty Images(TAMPA, Fla.) -- Newt Gingrich, speaking alongside his wife, Callista, Thursday night in Tampa, Fla., revived the Romney camp’s claims that the Obama administration had “gutted” welfare reform by offering waivers for states seeking more flexibility in meeting federal work requirements.

On Aug. 7, Romney released an ad claiming that “under Obama’s plan, you wouldn’t have to work and wouldn’t have to train for a job.  They just send you your welfare check.”

But as Gingrich himself told CNN just two days later, “We have no proof today, but I would say to you under Obama’s ideology it is absolutely true he would be comfortable sending a lot of people checks for doing nothing.”

On Thursday night, Gingrich doubled down.

“Tragically, President Obama gutted this achievement and, like Jimmy Carter, over four years he produced little effective legislation that brought the two parties together,” he said.  “Waiving the work requirements in welfare reform is just one example of his direct repudiation of President Reagan’s values.”

The language from the memo in question, though, belies much of the Republican claim.

The Health and Human Services department “will only consider approving waivers relating to the work participation requirements that make changes intended to lead to more effective means of meeting the work goals of [the 1996 reform legislation],” it says.

In effect, the Obama administration has stated it would be willing to give states the option to propose more efficient ways to get welfare recipients back to work.  Any such plan would require the state to increase the number of people moving from welfare to work by 20 percent.

Among the states to file for the waivers so far are Utah and Nevada.  Both have Republican governors.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama Ad Invokes Bill Clinton to Rebut Romney Welfare Attack

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/GettyImages(WASHINGTON) -- A new Obama campaign TV ad in seven battleground states invokes former President Bill Clinton to directly rebut claims by Mitt Romney that the administration has a plan to “gut” welfare reform.

The 30-second spot, titled “Blatant,” highlights Clinton’s response to a recent Romney TV ad alleging Obama plans to drop the work requirement that was a key component of the 1996 welfare reform Clinton helped champion.

The 42nd president said in a statement earlier this week that Romney’s claim simply is “not true.”

While both sides have been playing fast and loose with the facts in their advertising, several independent fact-checkers have called the Romney ad highly misleading.

Its central allegation is at best an exaggeration, ABC News concluded, since the administration is offering states the opportunity to experiment with new ways of implementing the welfare law in order to boost employment, not reduce it.

Several states, including those with Republican governors, had expressed support for the increased flexibility.  But the administration says no states have yet formally applied for waivers from the current rules, therefore none have been approved.

“Blatant” will begin airing Friday in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Ohio, Nevada, North Carolina and Virginia -- the same states where Romney has been airing his ad.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Romney Accuses Obama of Taking Work Out of Welfare

J.D. Pooley/Getty Images(ELK GROVE VILLAGE, Ill.) -- Mitt Romney today accused President Obama of "taking the work requirement out of welfare," a reference to the administration's recent decision to allow states more flexibility in how they award welfare.

"President Obama in just the last few days has tried to reverse that accomplishment by taking the work requirement out of welfare," said Romney, speaking right outside Chicago, Obama's old stomping grounds. "That is wrong. If I’m president, I’ll put work back in welfare."

“There is nothing better than a good job to help lift a family, to allow people to be able to provide for themselves and to end the spread of a culture of dependency. We must include more work in welfare," said Romney.

Romney, who earlier this year was criticized for suggesting in an interview that he wasn't "concerned about the very poor," a comment he later clarified, reiterated today his desire to help people in need.

"I vetoed that and then fought time and again to get more work requirements, to raise the work requirements in my state, not because I don’t think people who need help should be helped," said Romney, speaking of his record as governor of Massachusetts.

"I very much agree that those who are seriously disabled or are unable to work need to have help of the rest of us, but those who can work ought to have the opportunity for a good job, and if they’re getting state assistance, they ought to have the requirement for a good job," said Romney. "We will end a culture dependency and restore a culture of good, hard work."

Lis Smith, a spokeswoman for Obama's reelection campaign, called Romney's assertion "false" and "extremely hypocritical."

"The Obama administration, working with the Republican governors of states like Nevada and Utah, is giving states additional flexibility only if they move more people from welfare to work – not fewer," said Smith.

"But as governor, Mitt Romney petitioned the federal government for waivers that would have let people stay on welfare for an indefinite period, ending welfare reform as we know it, and even created a program that handed out free cars to welfare recipients," she added.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Upending Welfare Reform? Obama Criticized for Giving States More Flexibility

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- After the Obama administration announced this week that it is opening up waivers to states from the work requirements contained in welfare reform, Republicans began to speak out against the move, complaining it completely undercuts the law.

“The success of bipartisan welfare reform, passed under President Clinton, has rested on the obligation of work,” Gov. Mitt Romney wrote in a statement Friday. “The president’s action is completely misdirected. Work is a dignified endeavor, and the linkage of work and welfare is essential to prevent welfare from becoming a way of life.”

Under the 1996 law, able-bodied adults have been required to work, seek employment, take classes, or undergo drug and alcohol counseling in exchange for taxpayer-funded payments known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF. About four million Americans currently receive TANF payments.

The Department of Health and Human Services believes the waivers would help parents “successfully prepare for, find, and retain employment.” The department encouraged states to begin testing a range of new strategies, policies and procedures designed to improve employment outcomes for the needy.

The move gives states the ability to apply for waivers, but those applications would still have to be approved by the secretary. Two states with GOP governors -- Utah and Nevada -- have submitted requests for a waiver so far, while three additional states -- Connecticut, Minnesota and California -- have asked about the potential for waivers.

“This new flexibility will strengthen welfare reform rules and the effectiveness of state efforts to connect families with work. Waivers that weaken or undercut welfare reform will not be approved,” George Shelton, an assistant secretary at HHS, wrote in a blog. “Waivers that seek to avoid time limits or other federal restrictions on when assistance may be provided will not be approved. “

But Congressional Republicans decried the move as “a blatant violation of the law” and contend the waivers will actually cause harm to the impoverished Americans because beneficiaries will come to rely on the handout with little motivation to seek employment.

“By waiving the law’s requirements, President Obama will make it harder for Americans to escape poverty,” Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, wrote in a statement. “He is hurting the very people he claims to help.”

Rep. Dave Camp, the chairman of the House Ways and Means committee, and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, the top-ranked Republican on the Senate Finance committee, wrote HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius jointly demanding an explanation of the decision and also questioned her authority to do it, contending that the law indicates that states cannot waive TANF work requirements.

Camp, one of the original authors of the legislation, called the move “a brazen and unwarranted unraveling” of the law that “ends welfare reform as we know it.”

“Welfare reform provided states a simple deal: fixed federal funding and enormous flexibility in exchange for a requirement that they engage welfare recipients in work and related activities,” Camp, R-Mich., wrote in a statement. “In response, states helped record numbers of low-income parents go to work, earnings soared, and dependence on welfare and poverty plunged by record levels.”

“It is akin to a child who doesn’t get what he or she wants, so they take their ball and go home,” Rep. Tim Scott, a freshman Republican from South Carolina, stated. “You don’t improve people’s lives with handouts, you improve people’s lives by showing them, as I learned growing up in the inner city in a single parent household, that you can think and work your way out of poverty.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio