The Welfare Bogeyman rises again

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, welfare became a wedge issue for both of the nation’s political parties, with Republicans decrying the “gimme” nature of programs while Democrats insisted it was a needed social safety net as the poor got left further and further behind.

When President Clinton signed the welfare-to-work legislation that prodded recipients to find work by capping how long they could receive benefits, the temperature cranked down considerably with the occasional flare-up over eligibility and fraud.

But welfare and its recipients are once again becoming a focus of the 2012 election. Mitt Romney has released ads and started attacking a decision by the Obama administration to allow waivers to states to create some flexibility in their welfare programs. Romney and his Republican supporters, in what many say is a blatantly misleading attack, claim the waivers would gut the bipartisan effort of the Clinton years and simply send checks to people without requiring them to work or even find gainful employment. (The Atlantic has a somewhat different  critique of the welfare brouhaha: It stopped working.)

“Under Obama’s plan, you wouldn’t have to work and wouldn’t have to train for a job,” the Romney ad states. “They just send you your welfare check, and ‘welfare to work’ goes back to being plain old welfare.”

But as Ronald Reagan once said, “Facts are stupid things.” Romney’s claim is coming under scrutiny by a wide spectrum of media. Many are pointing out that the change actually is in response to requests from a number of governors – both Republican and Democrat – to give them some leeway in shaping their programs in line with problems in their states. Robert Schlesinger of US News & World Report says Romney just keeps making things up, with his welfare ad the latest example. In addition, President Obama’s camp points out that, while governor of Massachusetts, Romney joined 28 other governors in seeking the exact same relief.

But that hasn’t stopped Romney from making the claim his latest lead attack on the trail and the GOP chorus is singing the same tune. And he’s not the only one using the welfare card as a hammer. Scott Brown is decrying a move by the state welfare department to send voter registration forms to nearly half a million people on public assistance, charging that it is part of a bid to help his Democratic challenger, Elizabeth Warren. The Herald plays this one exactly as expected. David Bernstein decries the junior senator, noting that the mailing is being done to settle charges that the state has long been ignoring a federal law to offer welfare recipients voter registrations, like the RMV does. And quite overlooked in the argument: Welfare recipients have not forfeited their right to vote.

In many ways, it’s a blast from the past, with images of welfare queens and Cadillacs with food stamps being used to buy cigarettes, tobacco, and Lottery tickets. It was a tried and true platform for conservatives 20 years ago, so why not bring it back? What better way to scare white middle class voters than to make them think they’re once again paying for others to suckle at the public teet that they’re paying for? Even if it is shown to be bogus?

                                                                                                                                –JACK SULLIVAN


Gov. Deval Patrick signs a $40 million spending measure while vetoing $3 million in initiatives, the State House News Service reports (via Lowell Sun). The vetoes included $1.5 million to renovate a Billerica jail; Middlesex Sheriff Peter Koutoujian says the construction will proceed, despite the veto.

The attorney general says the Salem School Department failed to follow public bidding procedures from 2006 to 2010, the Salem News reports.

Greg Bialecki, the state’s secretary of economic development, authors a post on BlueMassGroup on the state’s effort to promote middle-skill job growth, especially in Gateway Cities (he offers a shout-out to MassINC for getting the state focused on these struggling communities), and engages with readers in a good exchange in the comments that follow.

The Berkshire Eagle argues that the state is right to expect public utilities  to meet a certain response standard when storms hit, especially as severe weather becomes more frequent.


The Supreme Judicial Court ruled the Bridgewater State University Foundation is exempt from property tax that the town assessed even though the building the foundation owns is rented out at times.

The state inspector general advises Lynn to put the management contract for a city-owned golf course out to bid, the Item reports.

The Boston Police Department plans to overhaul its promotion system to address longstanding criticism of the lack of minority officers in its upper ranks. Meanwhile, The Bay State Banner argues that there is “no evidence to support the allegation of racial discrimination at City Hall.”

Mansfield’s police chief blames an “alcohol-soaked” culture for alcohol and drug overdoses that are blamed for two deaths and a number of hospitalizations among recent concertgoers at the Comcast Center.

The state selects three finalists in its bid to redevelop the Middlesex Jail in Cambridge.

The Kraft Group eyes building another hotel in Foxborough.


George Carney, owner of the Raynham dog track, is planning to bid for a slot license and is planning a hotel, movie theater, and bowling alley on the land as well. He also told State House News Service he would be willing to put up money toward a station stop at the track on the proposed South Coast commuter rail line.

The NCAA and the four professional sports leagues sue New Jersey to block it from bringing sports betting to its casinos, Governing reports.

The New York Times paints a worrisome picture of tribal gambling: Revenues have flattened, and tribes are worrying about new competition from state-sanctioned Internet gambling.


The top leadership of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure organization is stepping down. The shakeup follows the organization’s decision earlier this year to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood, the Associated Press reports (via NECN).


The Wall Street Journal editorial page agitates in favor of naming Rep. Paul Ryan Romney’s VP candidate. Romney rediscovers the benefits of universal health care.

New York AG Eric Schneiderman is investigating a number of Super PACs, including Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS and the pro-Obama Priorities USA.

Rep. David Torrisi of North Andover and his Democratic primary challenger, Diane DiZoglio, hold a respectful debate, the Eagle-Tribune reports.


New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell says he will fight potential fishing catch reductions for next year, claiming the cuts could take as much as $75 million out of the city’s economy.


Foreclosure starts in Massachusetts were up 19 percent in July compared to a year ago, WBUR reports.

Some business owners have become skeptical about the gains from the sales tax holiday as not as many consumers are turning out to take advantage of the event.

A Google foray into electronics hardware flops.


Gov. Deval Patrick once again rejected legislation that would have required health insurers to directly pay out-of-network ambulance companies rather than sending the money to consumers, who are then expected to pay the bill.

Massachusetts identifies its first confirmed case of Eastern equine encephalitis, but the individual may have contracted it outside the state, NECN reports.


The Nuclear Regulatory Commission freezes licensing of nuclear power plants until it can figure out what to do with spent fuel rods piling up at the facilities, Governing reports.

Struggling Waltham-based battery maker A123 Systems may get a jumpstart from a $450 million investment from a Chinese conglomerate, the Globe reports.


WBUR’s David Boeri asks whether US District Court Judge Richard Stearns should step down in the Whitey Bulger case.

A Townsend man registered as a Level 2 sex offender is accused of soliciting sex from a 15-year-old in Indiana over the Internet, the Lowell Sun reports. Greater Boston takes a look at Lynn’s sex offender residency ordinance that is being challenged by the ACLU. CommonWealth wrote about the ordinance in our most recent issue.

An investigative report into bid improprieties at the Fall River Housing Authority has resulted in the suspension of two employees and a recommendation to suspend or disbar two companies that had been doing business with the agency.

Former Fall River city councilor Leo Pelletier will plead guilty to felony gambling charges stemming from an illegal Internet cafe he owned that was shut down by the Attorney General.

A Plymouth man who said he works nights tried to get a construction crew to stop working outside his house while he sleeps during the day. When they didn’t stop, he threatened to get his gun and kill them, including the detail officer who called in back-up to arrest the man.