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“Mitt’s Other World”: Mothers Should Be Required To Work Outside Home Or Lose Benefits

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

April 15, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Responsibility To The Truth”: Why Is There A Resurgence Of Congressional Birtherism?

There is no serious debate over whether Barack Obama is an American citizen. He is.

Of course, that hasn’t stopped people from saying otherwise. For example, Rep. Vicky Hartzler, a Republican representing Missouri’s 4th district. Following the standard template for these things, she was asked by a constituent at a town hall about the president’s birth certificate. And following the template, she failed to denounce or even disagree with this disproven idea:

I don’t know, I haven’t seen it. I’m just at the same place you are on that. You read this, you read that. But I don’t understand why he didn’t show that right away. I mean, if someone asked for my birth certificate, I’d get my baby book and hand it out and say ‘Here it is,’ so I don’t know …. I have doubts that it is really his real birth certificate, and I think a lot of Americans do, but they claim it is, so we are just going to go with that.

A spokesman clarified her comments to Politicotoday, but the explanation neither addressed her statement nor her actual views; after all, she repeated the statements to a reporter immediately following the original meeting.

Crazy, right? But not isolated. In March, Rep. Cliff Stearns — the man whose questions about Planned Parenthood led to the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s decision to cut off funding for the organization — made similar comments. “All I can tell you is that the general consensus is that he has produced a birth certificate,” he said. “The question is, is it legitimate? That’s where we stand now.” When I contacted Stearns spokesman Paul Flusche to ask about it, his response was, “This office won’t comment on every video posted by liberal groups” — as though the video had somehow been conjured without Stearns’ involvement.

I’m on the record as objecting to polls about Obama’s (or really anyone’s) religion or place of birth because they reinforce a false impression. There are facts here; and opinion is really irrelevant. But it’s a different situation with elected officials, who have a certain responsibility to the truth. There’s no acceptable excuse for Stearns or Hartzler. Stearns is locked in a tight primary (his opponent even accused him of trying to bribe him out of the race, which Stearns denies), so perhaps it’s a panicked pander. Hartzler, on the other hand, appears to be in a safe GOP district: Although she unseated Democrat Ike Skelton two years ago, the district is quite red and he was something of a vestigial presence.

If members of Congress truly believe that the president isn’t an American citizen, then they surely have the obligation to single-mindedly focus on proving that and ejecting him from office. But since they almost certainly don’t believe it and just as certainly can’t prove it (since it’s false), they instead have an obligation to speak out against birtherism. Unfortunately, as members of Congress spend more time mixing with constituents as they campaign, we’re only likely to hear more incidents along these lines.

By: David A. Graham, Associate Editor, The Atlantic Magazine, April 9, 2012

April 15, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Intensive Fear-Mongering”: Who’s Distracting Attention From His Record Now?

In an earlier post today, I discussed at some length the anger of Republicans over Barack Obama’s efforts to “distract” voters from his record and suggest they take a long look at what life under a Romney administration might look like.

This afternoon, though, it was Mitt Romney playing the distraction game in a speech to the National Rifle Association.

Mitt, you see, has rather a poor relationship with the gun lobby, having signed a couple of bills as governor of Massachusetts they really, really didn’t like, while refusing until he started running for president to give them toadying fealty to which they feel entitled from GOP pols. He also can’t boast of much of a repertoire of hunting and fishing stories, since he’s only recently taken up the hobby of slaying game. I’d be willing to bet he doesn’t even own one of those big Second Amendment belt buckles with a fierce, gun-wielding eagle on it.

I’m sure Romney would have been happy to regale the NRA crowd with lurid reminders of the Obama administration’s relentless efforts to restrict gun rights–except they don’t actually exist, unless you buy the right-wing conspiracy theory that the botched “Fast and Furious” operation was some devious effort to set the stage for more regulation of gun dealers.

So instead Mitt did some intensive fear-mongering about what Barack Obama, released from the political constraints of re-election, might do to express his hatred of freedom:

Romney further pressed his vision of the fall election as a defining choice between two different destinies, and accused the Obama administration of curtailing Americans’ personal, religious and economic freedoms. He referred to the NRA as a single-issue group — that issue being freedom.

Eighteen minutes into his speech, Romney pivoted to Second Amendment issues, pledging to stand up for the rights of hunters, sportsman and other gun owners, and accusing the president of failing to do so.

It’s unclear to me why it’s okay for Romney to posit the election as “a defining choice between two different destinies,” with special attention to the potential impact on the shape of the Supreme Court, but if Obama does the same thing, it’s an outrage.

Let’s have some of the same sauce for geese and ganders, please.


By: Ed Kilgore, Washington Monthly Political Animal, April 13, 2012

April 15, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Magic Asterisks”: Buffett Rule Is Not Raising A Tax; It’s Closing Republican Tax Loopholes

The debate over the Buffett Rule is missing something important. As it stands, the fight is between Democrats who believe millionaires shouldn’t pay a lower tax rate than the middle class vs. Republicans who says no one’s taxes should go up by any amount at any time for any reason.

That’s a legitimate fight, to be sure, but there’s more to it: approving the Buffett Rule would mean closing a loophole, and in the larger context of the debate over tax policy, this makes all the difference in the world.

Let’s step back for a second. Paul Ryan’s House Republican budget plan appears to add an additional $5.4 trillion to the deficit over the next decade. Ryan insists that’s not the case — once he “clears out all the special-interest loopholes,” his numbers will start to add up.

Which loopholes? Well, it turns out that Ryan refuses to say. Maybe they’re secret loopholes; maybe they’re imaginary loopholes; but either way, he hasn’t identified any — literally, not one — loophole he’s willing to close to help pay for his own agenda. It is, as Paul Krugman put it, the “mystery meat” of the Republican plan.

“Oh, yeah?” my Republicans friends ask, “well why don’t Democrats come up with some loopholes to close?”

And therein lies the point: the Buffett Rule closes a loophole. It’s a quirk of the tax code that certain millionaires who enjoy private-equity riches pay a lower tax rate than middle-class families, and approving the Buffett Rule would not only mean establishing a degree of fairness, it would also mean scrapping this loophole.

The point is not lost on President Obama, who made this observation on Wednesday:

“I’d just point out that the Buffett Rule is something that will get us moving in the right direction towards fairness, towards economic growth. It will help us close our deficit and it’s a lot more specific than anything that the other side has proposed so far.” [emphasis added]

In other words, where Paul Ryan is vague and evasive, Obama is being direct and specific. The president is identifying actual loopholes he wants to see closed (Buffett Rule, corporate-jet loophole, tax subsidies for oil companies), which would total tens of billions of dollars in the coming decade. Meanwhile Republican leaders talk about loopholes, but choose not to back this talk up with anything substantive.

One approach represents an honest budget policy. The other, relying on magic asterisks, is a fraud.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 13, 2012

April 15, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“An Unrepresentative Woman”: Typical Stay-At-Home Mom Bears No Resemblance To Ann Romney

You’d have to be a monster to deny that Ann Romney has had a rough time of it these last few years. Breast cancer and multiple sclerosis? We should obviously sympathize and send her well wishes. But nothing about that should prevent us from also looking honestly at her background and asking how representative a symbol of twenty-first century American womanhood she is. Liberals shouldn’t sneer at the fact that she never held a job outside the home (if only Hilary Rosen had phrased it in the clinical, social science-y way I just did, this “controversy” probably never would have erupted!). But conservatives have no business pretending that she represents anything beyond what she in fact is, which is a woman who was born to fantastic privilege and who married into even more fantastic privilege, and who simply hasn’t had to make the hard choices that many women have to make. She turns out not even to represent stay-at-home moms very well at all, and if Republicans think this little fracas is rallying stay-at-home moms to their reactionary cause, they’re deluding themselves.

First, a bit about Ann nee Davies. She grew up in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, one of American’s wealthiest suburbs. She attended the posh private sister school of the posh private school her future husband attended. Her father was the president of a company that made maritime machinery. While still in college, she married the son of an ex-automobile company CEO. The couple would have to make its own way in the early years, as young couples do, but surely they knew that if a serious crisis hit them, they’d have someone to turn to. They’d never end up on the street or on a relative’s Castro convertible.

I’m plenty aware that I am going to be accused in the comment thread of class envy, but I’m just laying out facts. They shouldn’t be held against her: For all I know Ann Romney is the most generous, empathetic, and self-abnegating woman in the United States. But it’s simply a fact that she’s never had to worry about how she was going to feed her kids, or what she might do if tragedy befell. And lo and behold, tragedy, or something very close to it, did befall. She received two devastating diagnoses. She undoubtedly had excellent insurance coverage and undoubtedly received the best possible care. And since conservatives are so obsessed with pillorying the people they think of as the undeserving in society, I say it’s not unreasonable of me to point that out she “earned” her excellent insurance and care by marrying well.

But what of the millions of women who share her bad luck health-wise but don’t share her good luck wealth-wise? We don’t know what she thinks, and maybe since she’s not the candidate she is under no obligation to tell us, interesting as it might be to find out. But we do know what her husband, her own presumed insurance provider, thinks. He thinks the hell with them. He used to care about them, when he passed a law giving them a fair shot at buying affordable coverage, but now he wants to repeal the law that does the same thing nationally, and the only reason is political calculation and cowardice. That’s his, not hers. But I do wonder whether she agrees with him that these women should be left on their own because to help them would be to hand a political victory to the enemy.

The interesting thing about all this is that your “typical,” if there is such a thing, stay-at-home mom bears not the remotest resemblance to Ann Romney. The Census Bureau studied this question for the first time (?!) in 2007, and the results were, to me, totally surprising and fascinating. Stay-at-home mothers, you probably think, are more likely to be white, well-off, proper, all-around June Cleaver-ish. Uh, June Cleaver was around 50 years ago and lived on TV. In today’s actual America, stay-at-home moms are more likely to be: younger; Hispanic (Latina, if you prefer); foreign-born; less well educated. About one-quarter of married mothers of children under 15 didn’t work outside the home, the bureau found; and fully 19 percent of that one-quarter had less than a high-school degree, while that was true of just 8 percent of working mothers. This suggests pretty clearly that a significant number of women who stay at home don’t do so by choice, but because they don’t have marketable skills—or because they can’t get jobs that pay enough to cover the cost of childcare.

The study found 5.6 million stay-at-home moms in all. The above numbers suggest that maybe half of them or thereabouts are there by total choice—have decided to stay home and raise multiple children. The rest are probably there because of crappy educations—their fault in some cases, no doubt, the system’s in others. Whichever the case, these women are not staying home by “choice,” and they tend to be the women society really forgets about and pays no attention to. I doubt pretty strongly that they identify much with Ann Romney or are rallying to her husband’s cause.

This whole fracas happened simply because conservatives saw an opportunity to accuse liberals of being elitist. There was a whiff of that in Rosen’s wording, but at least Rosen is affiliated with the side in American politics that wants women who didn’t grow up in Bloomfield Hills and marry well to have a chance to receive excellent health care if they ever find themselves in Ann Romney’s position.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, April 14, 2012

April 15, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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