As Kaus explains, HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius has interpreted the welfare law to allow her to waive work requirements “subject only to her opinion” as to what will serve the purposes of the law.
By viewing the work requirements as optional, subject to her waiver, Kaus says, the law has been “altered dramatically”: “Old system: Congress writes the requirements, which are … requirements. New system: Sebelius does what she wants — but, hey, you can trust her!”
Sebelius is not a laid-back, third-way neoliberal who can be expected to interpret her waiver authority honestly. She’s the doctrinaire feminist loon who “interpreted” Obamacare to require every insurance policy in the country to provide full coverage for birth control.
Kaus points out that the HHS memo announcing that Sebelius could allow waivers from work for “job training,” “job search” or “pursuing a credential” unquestionably constitutes “a weakening of the work requirement.” He adds that it’s also “unfair to the poor suckers who just go to work without ever going on welfare — they don’t get subsidized while they’re ‘pursuing a credential.'”
In a follow-up post, Kaus pointed out that the Times’ own editorial denouncing the Romney ad inadvertently revealed that Sebelius was proposing a lot more than “job search” exemptions from the work requirement.
Both the Times and an HHS memo cheerfully propose allowing hard-to-employ “families” — which are never actual families, by the way — to be “exempted from the work requirements for six months.” Or more than six months. It’s up to Sebelius: “Exempted.”
The work requirements were one of two central features of the 1996 welfare reform law, along with time limits. They were heatedly opposed by the Democrats’ left-wing base at the time, and have been met with massive resistance in some of our more Greece-like states ever since.
A 2005 report by the Government Accountability Office found that some states were accepting such non-work substitutes from welfare recipients as “bed rest,” “personal journaling,” “motivational reading,” “exercise at home,” “smoking cessation,” “weight loss,” and “helping a friend or relative with household tasks and errands.”
(Under Sebelius, the work requirement will also be satisfied with “playing Xbox and eating Doritos.”)
Many liberals, such as those who write for The New York Times, agree that “bed rest” and “personal journaling” should count as a work substitute for welfare recipients. But that’s not what the law says. And it’s certainly not what liberals tell us when they proclaim Romney’s ad “false.”
What “every fair analyst” and “every fact checker” means when they call Romney’s ad “false” is: We, the media, don’t consider exempting welfare recipients from the requirement of having to work “gutting” the work requirements.
“Thoroughly debunked” is the new liberal code for “blindingly accurate.”
Ann Coulter is an author and political commentator.