Tripling Down on the Welfare Lie

I had naively thought that perhaps after two rounds of heavy advertisements advancing a race-baiting pack of lies about the Obama administration’s welfare policies, the Romney/Ryan campaign would pocket whatever advantage it had derived and move in a different direction before the mendacity of the attacks began to afflict even the consciences of cynical MSM political reports. But no: there’s a new ad, which dares defend its accuracy via (a) a completely empty editorial from the ever-partisan Richmond Times-Dispatch that in turn appears to rest its trust in the accuracy of the ads on (b) the opinion of Daily Caller columnist Mickey Kaus. Yes, it’s Mickey Kaus’ ultimate fantasy: being the indirect author of a multi-million dollar assault on his old enemies among social policy liberals.

If you actually go read the Kaus column that appears to have become via the Richmond papers Mitt Romney’s ex post facto justification for his ads, even Mickey admits that its central charges are “overstated and oversimplified.” His everybody’s-lying semi-defense of the ad is based purely and simply on Kaus’ judgment that the people in charge of welfare policy at HHS are known by Mickey to be enemies of the work requirement, and therefore in announcing an openness to waiver applications must have been moving towards an effort to overturn work requirements entirely. Mickey’s big aha moment–a line way, way down in the weeds of an HHS memo suggesting a possible pilot project allowing certain training programs to be counted temporarily as “work”–doesn’t provide much justification for an ad that explicitly says Obama has abolished any work or training requirement, and makes the new policy: “they just mail you your welfare check.” This is a blatant lie even if you buy Mickey Kaus’ omniscient old-ax-grinding knowledge of the inner evil intent of HHS bureaucrats.

Anyone authentically worried about the future of work-based welfare reform ought to be a bit more concerned about the Romney/Ryan ticket’s open and undisputed intent to deeply undermine all the “make work pay” supports that are essential to the success of reform, especially in a weak economy: the earned income tax credit, food stamps, Medicaid (and for many of the working poor, the Medicaid expansion provided for by the Affordable Care Act), and job training resources.

Ah, but why am I even wasting time arguing about this? The malignant heart of the Romney/Ryan campaign’s attack line isn’t any fact or piece of data, but simply the ad hominem assertion that of course Barack Obama wants to take your money and give it to those people without condition, because he’s one of them and that’s who he represents. And they’ll keep running these ads to the bitter end, particularly so long as they can count on a hackish editorial board and a “rogue” score-settling blogger to provide them a tiny shred of cover.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.