Make Ignoring Work Pay!

Mickey Kaus Columnist
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Will the GOPs take advantage of Obama’s new welfare weakness? The Obama Department of Agriculture has pulled the radio”novelas” that urged Spanish-speakers to wise up and get on the dole. (“In one of these, an individual tries to convince a friend to enroll in food stamps even though that friend declares: ‘I don’t need anyone’s help. My husband earns enough to take care of us,'” says GOP Sen. Jeff Sessions, describing the novelas. “The first individual replies back: ‘When are you going to learn?’”)

Why is the USDA’s retreat significant? Because it shows the administration is sensitive, in an election year, to being perceived as dismissive of the work ethic. Like a prize fighter who winces when you hit him in a sore spot, the Obamaites have revealed their weakness. If the Republicans have any strategic sense they will now hit that sore spot again by making a big fuss about the Health and Human Service regulations that renege on the work requirements imposed on welfare recipients by the 1996 welfare reform law (and its successors). If Romney, Boehner and McConnell can’t frame these regs as part (along with the food stamp push) of Obama’s cavalier disregard for the value of work–in embarrassing contradiction to the image he portrayed in 2008–they should really retire to Austria with Denise Rich. …

The food stamp precedent suggests Obama and Axelrod will, if pressed, throw Sebelius & Co. into the same dustbin as the “Happiness Park.” They can be embarrassed. But maybe not quickly. The HHSers may argue that by relaxing work requirements they enable welfare recipients to train for well-paying “good jobs” down the line. This may or may not be a discredited policy (I think it is) and it may or may not be a policy that was considered and rejected in the welfare reform legislation (ditto)–but it’s almost certainly a political loser among voters (who don’t normally qualify for free government money to let them avoid working while they train for “good jobs” down the line). The longer the Obama administration defends itself, the more damage Obama suffers with the electorate. Struggle and conflict is the Republicans’ friend here. If there’s enough conflict eventually even the New York Times might cover it. …

The Republicans’ need to go on offense about something. Obama’s HHS has now given them the gift of a large, slow-moving, profusely bleeding policy target. It’s not crazy to think you could get a two-thirds, veto-proof majority of Congress (Republicans plus skitttish Dems) to stand Obama down on this issue. Make ignoring work pay!

Mickey Kaus