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Republicans Are Right, Fact-Checkers Wrong On Welfare

Reform Rollback:  True MeterDemocrats and “fact-checkers” claim Republicans are lying when they say that the president wants to gut work requirements. Here’s why the GOP should press on.

You heard it straight the other night from Bill Clinton — who would never lie to anyone — that Mitt Romney’s campaign is lying about welfare reform: “The claim that President Obama weakened welfare reform’s work requirement is just not true. But they keep on running the ads claiming it.”

This is the latest attempt by the Democrats to refute a charge that has become a huge headache for them because, well, it’s true.

Back in July, the administration quietly announced a new policy to allow waivers from the work requirements spelled out in the 1996 welfare reform law. The stated goal was to give states more flexibility in the programs they design to move welfare recipients into jobs.

Of course, states always want more “flexibility” (i.e., looser strings on federal money), so Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius added a condition that states would have to improve their job-placement of welfare recipients by 20%. Clinton and other Democrats cite that figure as proof that they really do believe in getting people off welfare and into real jobs.

They’re getting support in this claim from self-designated guardians of truth, such as the Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler. The fact-checkers take the Obama administration at its word and dismiss the GOP claims as bogus. But then there’s this pesky question of legality.

It turns out — and the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office confirms this — that the 1996 law expressly bars waivers of the work requirements.

The 20% rule also turns out to be all but meaningless. A small number of welfare recipients make the transition each month to jobs — about 1.5% on average. Raising this to just 1.8% would meet Sebelius’ standard. One easy way to do this is to bring more people into the welfare program so that more will move into jobs.

The administration’s word might carry some weight if it were a more credible friend of welfare reform. But the left has never liked the welfare-to-work requirement. As Republican Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, noted in July, Obama as a senator opposed legislation that tightened the law’s definitions of work and work-related activities. That his “trust us” message now falls on skeptical ears makes perfect sense.

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This article originally appeared at Investors.com on Sept. 7, 2012.