Obama Flashback: So Much for the 'Dignity of Work'

If we had an inquisitive and fair mainstream media, it might bring up this 2008 Barack Obama ad.

The ad presents Barack Obama as a hard-working man with mainstream values. It claims that Obama “worked his way through college and Harvard Law” and then makes a pair of claims regarding welfare. The ad, titled “Dignity,” claims that Obama “passed a law to move people from welfare to work” and “slashed the [welfare] roles by 80 percent.” It closes, stating that Barack Obama will “never forget the dignity that comes from work.” The ad cites no actual bill signed or supported by Obama, who was already on the record opposing the 1996 welfare reform and promising to undo it. Obama was not in Congress when the then-Republican-controlled Congress passed it and President Bill Clinton signed it into law.


Fast forward four years from that 2008 ad. Barack Obama is president and his Department of Health and Human Services has systematically increased welfare roles and done away with the heart of the 1996 bipartisan welfare reform. The latter came last week, as Obama’s HHS exploited the election year and a divided Congress to gut the 1996 welfare reform which required work of welfare recipients. Those work requirements helped shrink welfare roles by about half after roughly four decades of steady welfare roll growth.

The Obama administration has also destigmatized welfare through a series of ads targeted at middle- and lower-income Americans in both English and Spanish. In the English versions of the radio ads, which the Tatler first noticed back in April, food stamps are re-branded SNAP, and the ads encourage Americans to call a 1-800 number to find out if they qualify. The ad’s positive, peppy tone notes that it is possible to qualify even if you have a job and own a car and a home.

A USDA food stamp pamphlet encourages people to have parties to promote getting friends and family on the dole.

The Spanish food stamp ads ran as a series of 10 novelas, or short soap operas. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) slammed the ads in a statement last week: “Today we learn that the USDA, in an effort to increase the enrollment of immigrants, including non-citizens, has produced Spanish-language radio soap operas. 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.’ The first individual replies back: ‘When are you going to learn?’ Is this message we wish to send new arrivals into our country—depend on the government even if you don’t need to—particularly at a time when we have to borrow forty cents of every dollar we spend?”


The USDA has pulled the novelas from its web site, but its stated mission to expand SNAP remains. The department has even offered grants to increase SNAP’s reach.

That mission appears well on the way to being accomplished. Under Obama, the government has turned back the clock on welfare reform entirely. Now, about 46 million Americans, a record number, are on welfare. Spending on welfare has doubled under Obama to reach a stratospheric $75.3 billion as of January 2012. The “dignity of work” is nowhere to be found in Obama’s messaging at all. The president’s campaign spent the past week going negative in an attempt to denigrate and destroy Mitt Romney’s very successful business career. In a campaign speech over the weekend, President Obama even suggested that Americans who succeed in business are no better or more hard-working than anyone else, and that they could not succeed without government assistance. His exact words: “If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” That somebody being government. In other words, says President Obama, Mitt Romney, architect of a multi-million dollar company that fixed dozens of other companies, is in reality just an overgrown welfare queen. And so you are you, if you have a job or own or run a business of your own.

That message, once it sinks in, ought to offend every American who believes in a free market economy. In addition to being an insult to American work ethics and capitalism, it betrays the fact that in that 2008 ad, Barack Obama was merely posturing to fool middle America into supporting him.




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