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article imageMitt Romney: 'Welfare mothers must work or lose benefits'

By JohnThomas Didymus     Apr 17, 2012 in Politics
Mitt Romney said in January that poor women who stay at home to raise children should be required to work outside home to qualify for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits. He said that women should "have the dignity of work."
The clip was aired Sunday morning on MSNBC’s “Up With Chris Hayes,” and according to Los Angeles Times, "shows a candidate with less leniency toward mothers than one would think, given the outpouring of praise given to mothers of all kinds after Rosen’s comments."
The reference to the former Massachusetts governor's January comment comes soon after angry reactions to Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen's statement last week that Ann Romney was not representative of American women because she had not "worked a day in her life."
Romney, addressing a Manchester, N.H. audience, during a campaign stop in January, said: "Even if you have a child 2 years of age, you need to go to work." Romney recalled his effort as governor to increase the amount of time Massachusetts women on welfare were required to work. He admitted that many considered his proposals "heartless" but argued that women would be better off having the "dignity of work." He said: "I wanted to increase the work requirement. 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.'"
Los Angeles Times reports a second video unearthed by Buzzfeed’s Andrew Kaczynski. The video is from 1994 (see second video above), when Romney was running for the Senate in Massachusetts. Romney said: "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. Now Mom and Dad both have to work whether they want to or not, and usually one of them has two jobs."
Romney's spokeswoman, Amanda Henneberg, told The Huffington Post in an email : "Moving welfare recipients into work was one of the basic principles of the bipartisan welfare reform legislation that President Clinton signed into law. The sad fact is that under President Obama the poverty rate among women rose to 14.5 percent in 2011, the highest rate in 17 years. The Obama administration's economic policies have been devastating to women and families."
However, Huffington Post notes what a seems a contradiction in Romney's notion of "dignity of work" with regard to poor mothers: Ann Romney had responded to Rosen's comment, saying: "I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work." The Washington Post reports Romney had gone even further, saying in blatant self-contradiction: “I happen to believe that all moms are working moms." But critics say Romney's lip service to the "stay-at-home mom" is belated. The Post comments: "If you’re a poor mother in Massachusetts and you go to sign up for TANF, you’ll see you need to fulfill a 'work requirement.' And you cannot fulfill it by being 'a mom.' And that’s because of policy that Romney signed into law in Massachusetts..."
And neither does the official policy in the bipartisan welfare reform legislation that Democratic President Clinton signed into law recognize parenting as "work." The Washington Post notes that officially, "TANF...doesn’t recognize parenting as 'work.' Social Security doesn’t count parenting as 'work.' The tax code doesn’t count parenting as 'work.' The Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t count parenting as 'work.'"
But the statutory distinction between what fulfills work requirement for a mom and what does not, The Washington Post notes, "...don’t matter to wealthier parents like Ann Romney. She’s not looking for government benefits. Politicians can pander to her by merely recognizing the labor she puts in. But to poorer mothers, those benefits mean quite a lot. Politicians, however, don’t pander to poorer mothers. They put them to work."
In other words, politicians from both parties concurred in response to Rosen's statement that rich Ann Romney staying home to raise five boys was a "working mother," but poor stay-at-home moms do not qualify as "working mothers," and do not have what Romney in his wisdom termed the "dignity of work."
Huffington Post comments: "...judging by his January remark, [Romney] views stay-at-home moms who are supported by federal assistance much differently than those backed by hundreds of millions in private equity income."
The Post concluded: "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."
Again, in other words, no matter how much raising five boys might seem "hard work" to Ann Romney, under the regime her husband prescribes for poor women, her "work" would not fulfill work requirement under TANF because it would be considered lacking in the qualities that give "dignity of work."
More about Mitt Romney, welfare mothers, Benefits, ann romney, Hilary Rosen
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