Poor women who stay at home to raise their children should be given federal assistance for child care so that they can enter the job market and “have the dignity of work,” Mitt Romney said in January, undercutting the sense of extreme umbrage he showed when Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen quipped last week that Ann Romney had not “worked a day in her life.”
The remark, made to a Manchester, N.H., audience, was unearthed by MSNBC’s “Up w/Chris Hayes,” and aired during the 8 a.m. hour of his show Sunday.
Ann Romney and her husband’s campaign fired back hard at Rosen following her remark. “I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work,” Romney said on Twitter.
Mitt Romney, however, judging by his January remark, views stay-at-home moms who are supported by federal assistance much differently than those backed by hundreds of millions in private equity income. Poor women, he said, shouldn’t be given a choice, but instead should be required to work outside the home to receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits. “[E]ven if you have a child 2 years of age, you need to go to work,” Romney said of moms on TANF.
Recalling his effort as governor to increase the amount of time women on welfare in Massachusetts were required to work, Romney noted that some had considered his proposal “heartless,” but he argued that the women would be better off having “the dignity of work” — a suggestion Ann Romney would likely take issue with.
“I wanted to increase the work requirement,” said Romney. “I said, for instance, that even if you have a child 2 years of age, you need to go to work. And people said, ‘Well that’s heartless.’ And I said, ‘No, no, I’m willing to spend more giving day care to allow those parents to go back to work. It’ll cost the state more providing that daycare, but I want the individuals to have the dignity of work.’”
Regardless of its level of dignity, for Ann Romney, her work raising her children would not have fulfilled her work requirement had she been on TANF benefits. As HuffPost reported Thursday:
As far as Uncle Sam is concerned, if you’re poor, deciding to stay at home and rear your children is not an option. Thanks to welfare reform, recipients of federal benefits must prove to a caseworker that they have performed, over the course of a week, a certain number of hours of “work activity.” That number changes from state to state, and each state has discretion as to how narrowly work is defined, but federal law lists 12 broad categories that are covered.
Raising children is not among them.
According to a 2006 Congressional Research Service report, the dozen activities that fulfill the work requirement are:
(1) unsubsidized employment
(2) subsidized private sector employment
(3) subsidized public sector employment
(4) work experience
(5) on-the-job training
(6) job search and job readiness assistance
(7) community services programs
(8) vocational educational training
(9) job skills training directly related to employment
(10) education directly related to employment (for those without a high school degree or equivalent)
(11) satisfactory attendance at a secondary school
(12) provision of child care to a participant of a community service program
The only child-care related activity on the list is the last one, which would allow someone to care for someone else’s child if that person were off volunteering. But it does not apply to married couples in some states. Connecticut, for instance, specifically prevents counting as “work” an instance in which one parent watches a child while the other parent volunteers.
The federal government does at least implicitly acknowledge the value of child care, though not for married couples. According to a 2012 Urban Institute study, a single mother is required to work 30 hours a week, but the requirement drops to 20 hours if she has a child under 6. A married woman, such as Romney, would not be entitled to such a reduction in the requirement. If a married couple receives federally funded child care, the work requirement increases by 20 hours, from 35 hours to 55 hours between the two of them, another implicit acknowledgment of the value of stay-at-home work.
Romney’s January view echoes a remark he made in 1994 during his failed Senate campaign. “This is a different world than it was in the 1960s when I was growing up, when you used to have Mom at home and Dad at work,” Romney said, as shown in a video posted by BuzzFeed’s Andrew Kaczynski. “Now Mom and Dad both have to work whether they want to or not, and usually one of them has two jobs.”
BY: Ryan Grim, The Huffington Post, April 15, 2012
Recent highly publicized national jobs reports showing private-sector gains being offset by public-sector losses have drawn attention to the macroeconomic costs of the austerity program already underway among state and local governments, and gaining steam in Washington. But the effect on the most vulnerable Americans–particularly those out of work–is rarely examined in any systematic way.
At The American Prospect, Kat Aaron has put together a useful if depressing summary of actual or impending cutbacks (most initiated by the states, some by Congress) in key services for the unemployed and others suffering from economic trauma. These include unemployment insurance, job retraining services, and family income supports. In some cases, federal funds added by the 2009 stimulus package are running out. In others, the safety net is being deliberately shredded.
A recent report from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities notes that the most important family income support program, TANF (the “reformed” welfare block grant first established in 1996) is becoming an object of deep cuts in many states, precisely at the time it is most needed:
States are implementing some of the harshest cuts in recent history for many of the nation’s most vulnerable families with children who are receiving assistance through the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant. The cuts will affect 700,000 low-income families that include 1.3 million children; these families represent over one-third of all low-income families receiving TANF nationwide.A number of states are cutting cash assistance deeply or ending it entirely for many families that already live far below the poverty line, including many families with physical or mental health issues or other challenges. Numerous states also are cutting child care and other work-related assistance that will make it harder for many poor parents who are fortunate enough to have jobs to retain them.
This is perverse precisely because such programs were once widely understood as “counter-cyclical”–designed to temporarily expand in tough economic times. Not any more, says CPBB:
To be effective, a safety net must be able to expand when the need for assistance rises and to contract when need declines. The TANF block grant is failing this test, for several reasons: Congress has level-funded TANF since its creation, with no adjustment for inflation or other factors over the past 15 years; federal funding no longer increases when the economy weakens and poverty climbs; and states — facing serious budget shortfalls — have shifted TANF funds to other purposes and have cut the TANF matching funds they provide.
This retrenchment, mind you, is what’s already happening, and does not reflect the future blood-letting implied by congressional Republican demands for major new cuts in federal-state safety net programs–most famously Medicaid, which virtually all GOPers want to convert into a block grant in which services are no longer assured.
If, as appears increasingly likely, the sluggish economy stays sluggish for longer than originally expected, and both the federal government and states continue to pursue Hoover-like policies of attacking budget deficits with spending cuts as their top priority, it’s going to get even uglier down at the level of real-life people trying to survive. If you are unlucky enough to live in one of those states where governors and legislators are proudly hell-bent on making inadequate safety-net services even more inadequate or abolishing them altogether, it’s a grim road ahead.
By: Ed Kilgore, Democratic Strategist, June 10, 2011