Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has launched attacks on President Obama's approach to welfare, analysts say, to deflect attention from his own budget proposals which would gut programs that make it possible for people to seek employment.
The Romney campaign unleashed a second round of attack ads this week that claim, once again, that recent changes in the federal welfare program that provide waivers to the states have removed the work requirement.
President Obama, a number of independent fact checkers including the Annenberg Public Policy Center's FactCheck.org, and even some Republicans have said the Romney attack ads are untrue.
"The budget plan Romney champions would gut work supports, such as childcare, job training and Head Start, that provide greater economic opportunity for working and middle class voters alike," wrote Melissa Boteach at ThinkProgress yesterday.
She said that to distract public attention from their plans to funnel additional tax cuts to the wealthiest one percent, the GOP's presidential ticket is engaging in "one of the oldest and most cynical forms of class warfare: using a manufactured welfare fight to foster resentment among voters."
There have been Romney ads airing for weeks now that say the president has ended work requirements for welfare and that say the president wants to just "hand out checks."
Images of white workers on the job flash across the screen implying that while some are hard at work ,Obama is helping freeloaders by handing out the tax dollars of those hard-working people. "We'd be naïve to ignore the racial implications of such an argument," said Boteach.
The Romney claims are as absurd as they are false.
It is Republican governors who joined Democratic governors in requesting the waivers, in part because the current system is not leading to sustainable jobs for struggling families.
The Obama administration has actually proposed to strengthen the work requirements by empowering states to innovate on strategies to move 20 percent more of the welfare caseloads into sustainable employment.
Republican and Democratic governors both wanted the waivers because they provide more leeway for states to experiment with strategies that might be working better than others and replicating those that do.
Romney requested precisely the same waivers he now condemns when he was governor of Massachusetts. Ryan has supported such waivers in his home state of Wisconsin and in the Congress of the United States.
Nowhere in the Romney welfare ads (and not at all since they began running) does he propose anything that would expand opportunity for working people or the poor, and he would be hard pressed to make the case for how false welfare ads do anything to help expand those opportunities.
Observers note, however, that they serve as an excellent distraction from the fact that his main economic policy is to give bigger tax cuts to the rich while taxing the middle-class more and throwing more from that group into poverty.
Romney's proposed budget cuts in the area of childcare are particularly outrageous, observers note. Welfare recipients and many poor people generally are unable to pay for the childcare needed to make employment possible.
Welfare recipients who are working and other low-wage workers generally live under the constant threat of being fired because they have absolutely no sick days on which they can take care of either themselves or a child who is ill.
"Romney and Ryan are silent on these issues," says Boteach, "in part because their budget guts the work supports people need. Contrasting these cuts to their tax cuts for the wealthy is not a debate they want to have with the public. Insert shiny (and false) welfare ad as a distraction."
Photo: Members of the graduating class of close to 400 at a Head Start program in Mississippi. The program that gives children a head start to early education is one of the programs Republican candidate Mitt Romney wants to gut. Ryan Moore/ Hattiesburg American/AP