When Wyoming Governor Matt Mead was enlisted by Mitt Romney to back him up in what every fact-checker in America said was untrue, it went almost unnoticed. Almost.
Seemed odd when the Republican presidential candidate claimed a White House memo that actually said one thing said the opposite. Why would Obama end the welfare work requirement that President Clinton started? It turned out he didn’t. The President issued a policy directive saying the opposite. But who reads the documents when you can just hear about them on FOX News?
The Romney campaign made it clear their claim that Obama ended the work requirement was their story. They were sticking to it though every objective source in America said it was being untrue. Instead of throwing in the towel, Romney doubled down on the lie.
The Romney campaign is intent on using a campaign narrative portraying Obama handing out tax dollars to lazy, no-account welfare recipients. Do they have any facts? No, but who needs them? These guys know how to make square pegs fit into round holes. Don’t have facts? Make up a story, call it fact, repeat it often, and buy political ads to prove that what is false could be true.
Then solicit help from willful, partisan, co-conspirators. Since anyone with a penchant for the truth was unwilling to come to his aid, Romney found others who were willing. Enter “the governor of some of the people.” On August 15th, at the request of Romney’s campaign, Matt Mead sent a letter to the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Kathleen Sebelius. “I hope you will reconsider the intentions of the 1996 TANF law and reassess your authority to waive the work requirements for TANF beneficiaries. I request that HHS not undo through administrative action what the 1996 welfare reform law intended and has done.”
Of course, the work requirements had never been waived. According to media reports, not all GOP governors were as malleable as Mead. Ohio Governor John Kasich refused to send the letter being solicited of Republican governors by the Romney campaign. Although he sent a similar letter, “Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) has acknowledged that the presidential campaign of Gov. Mitt Romney’s current main line of attack against President Barack Obama, that he gutted welfare reform’s work requirement, is based on a falsehood.” (rawstory.com among many other sources).
Even as it became clearer to anyone interested in the truth that their claim was false, Mead’s letter was posted on the Romney-for-president website and Associated Press picked it up, running the story in many Wyoming press and media outlets in Wyoming on August 24th.
Mead (like Brownback, like Kasich, like Romney) knows better. If he just went to factcheck.org he’d learn, “Mitt Romney’s TV ad claims the Obama administration has adopted ‘a plan to gut welfare reform by dropping work requirements.’ The plan does neither of those things.” His own Department of Family Services was aware of what the HHS memo actually said. They administer the welfare programs Romney is talking about. Weeks before the governor sent his campaign letter to Sebelius, DFS received a memo from the administration on this very issue.
You can read it yourself and judge whether the intent was to end or to actually strengthen the work requirement for welfare recipients. It was posted as HHS Transmittal TANF-ACF-IM-2012-03 (www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ofa/policy/im-ofa/2012/im201203/im201203.html) from the Department of Health and Human Services starts by stating the purpose of the directive. “HHS is encouraging states to consider new, more effective ways to meet the goals of TANF, particularly helping parents successfully prepare for, find, and retain employment.”
After clearly stating the policy is intended to give states flexibility (an old GOP mantra) it says waivers will be considered only “to the work participation requirements that make changes intended to lead to more effective means of meeting the work goals of TANF.”
The memo makes it obvious that Romney and Mead are fishing a dried-up creek. Listen. “HHS is committed to ensuring that any demonstration projects approved under this authority will be focused on improving employment outcomes and contributing to the evidence base for effective programs.”
The word “work” appears at least 20 times in the Obama memorandum. Usually it refers to the continuing requirement that welfare recipients be required to work. Often it refers to the willingness of the administration to “work with” the states.
What won’t work is dishonesty. Wyoming deserves better than blatant partisanship from its governor.