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In a down economy, with high unemployment, you would think that Mitt Romney would have plenty to wag his finger about. So why does he spend so much energy making stuff up to falsely accuse President Obama? Alec MacGillis of the New Republic ponders this bizarre phenomena:

(Romney in Ohio)

“I want you to know I heard something the other day that really surprised me… What I heard is that the president is taking the work requirement out of welfare. (Boos.) Yeah. We value work, our society which celebrates hard work, we look to a government to make it easier for jobs to be created and people to go to work. We do not look for a government that tries to find ways to provide for people who are not willing to work. And so I’m gonna put work back into welfare and make sure able-bodied people can get jobs.”

Romney proceeded straight from this into a retelling of Obama’s “you didn’t built that” line, but even that did not get the applause the welfare riff did. After the speech, several in the audience told me that their favorite part had been Romney’s calling out Obama for weakening welfare work requirements. Yes, one of the more depressing parts of the job of being a political reporter is watching an audience fully absorb a blatant and knowing lie. Which is, of course, what this is. Countless factcheckers—here is one of many—have unequivocally rejected the assertion that Obama has ended the work requirement. His administration has instead granted more leeway to states, including several with Republican governors, to explore new ways to get people onto welfare into jobs, with the proviso that their new approaches must increase the share of recipients with jobs.

But this has not stopped Romney (the son of a pro-safety net former HUD secretary!) or Paul Ryan, who is also using the line on the trail. Meanwhile, the campaign has launched two ads with the welfare charge, which are running in heavy circulation. Clearly, the campaign has reason to believe the attack is working, and why not? It’s no secret that working-class Americans deeply resent those just below them on the economic ladder whom they see as getting undeserved assistance; it’s also no secret that politicians have been especially effective at stoking this resentment among white working-class voters, such as the all-white audience in Beallsville, toward an unseen nonwhite other.

But at least in the glory-days of welfare-bashing, the attacks had some grounding in reality—the system had grown rapidly was in need of some sort of reform. Now, at a time of drastically reduced welfare rolls, the attack is utterly unfounded. And Romney just keeps using it, at stop after stop, in ad after ad.

It’s almost like there is no thou shalt not bear false witness in the Book of Mormon, huh?

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2 Comments

  1. Well I thought this was going to take work to refute. Turns out Breitbart.com has made it easy for me: http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Journalism/2012/08/21/Fact-Checkers-Flak-For-Obamas-Gutting-of-welfare It appears that Romney’s nose is nice and short and that Obama and the liberal media’s is growing daily.

    • Let me get this straight. Conservatives are now bent out of shape that Obama is granting state governments more autonomy over how they administer the welfare program. I thought you guys are for states’ rights?


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