Paul Ryan is the gift that keeps on giving. As some of you may have heard, Mitt Romney's main message the past week or two has been that President Obama is going to gut welfare to work requirements. It is based on a memo written that would strengthen welfare to work requirements, so it's a pretty weak argument. By weak argument, I mean it's a lie.
Here's the interesting part: In 2002, the House of Representatives tried to create a super-waiver that would gut welfare to work requirements. In other words, Obama is being accused of doing something that he is not doing and that the Republicans tried to do. Their bill, H R 4737, was supported by Paul Ryan.
I am not going to get into the current mess, since enough people have already gone there. Let me go back to 2002.
The bill in question is HR 4737. The vote took place on May 16, 2002. The bill included something called a super-waiver. A super-waiver would allow a state to receive a waiver from requirements dealing with
Child Care, TANF, SSBG, the food stamp program, housing programs except those under Sections 7 and 8, the Labor Department's Wagner-Peyser Act and the Department of Education's Adult Education and Family Literacy Act.The key item in that list is TANF, which stands for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. That's the program which Obama is being accused of removing requirements from. Republicans voted to make it easy for states to rid themselves from those requirements. States would apply for a super-waiver which would remove those requirements among many others, and the super-waiver would be approved by the Secretaries of Health and Human Services and Labor without oversight from Congress. If those states did not want to require families on welfare to look for work, then families in those states would not need to look for work.
What would the impact be? According to Michael Tomasky, who talked to Ron Haskins, the Republican who played a major role in getting the 1996 Welfare Reform bill passed:
Finally, he sounded amused that Republicans are getting worked up about waivers. "Republicans are the party of waivers," he said. He told me that in 2002, when he was in the Bush White House, the Bush administration proposed the idea of what they called "super-waivers," which were designed to offer flexibility to the states not just on TANF (welfare), but on "a broad range of social programs." The Bush administration pushed this, "and they were pushing on an open door with Republicans." It was the Democrats who were opposed.That's right. The Republicans voted to waive welfare to work requirements. Their bill passed the House on a partisan vote but not the Senate, which was controlled by the Democrats at the time.
If you look at the Republicans who voted to gut the requirements, you'll see several names you recognize: Boehner, Camp, DeMint, Hoekstra, Issa, Rehberg, etc. You'll also see Ayn Rand fanboy and Bush apologist Paul Ryan.
It turns out that Ryan was for stripping welfare to work requirements before he was against it, just like he was for more debt before he was against it. I'm sure that his views have changed--this was before Romney shook Ryan's Etch-A-Sketch. It's probably true that Ryan is retroactively against the bill. However, when he had his chance to strip welfare to work requirements, he took it.
I don't know if this is a big political liability for Ryan. After all, even though Ryan voted to strip the welfare to work requirements, it's going to be difficult to portray Ryan as an Angry Black Man or as a lazy Negro. Also, no matter how hypocritical Ryan is, he'll never be able to match the man on the top of his ticket.
All that being said, however, let the word go out. There are four people running on presidential tickets, and exactly two of them tried to strip the welfare to work requirements. One of them, who joined a group of governors in 2005 to ask for waivers, is Mitt Romney. The other, who joined a group of Congressmen in 2002 to introduce super-waivers, is Paul Ryan.