The New York Times claims that Romney's ad "falsely" charges Obama with eliminating work requirements. CNN rates the ad "false." Underemployed hack Howard Fineman says Romney's ad "is just flat out wrong on the facts" and "that every fair analyst, every fact checker" has said it's "just factually wrong."
When a campaign ad induces this much hysteria, you know Romney has struck gold. On closer examination, it turns out that by "every fair analyst," Fineman means a bunch of liberals quoting one another.
This is how the media's "fact checkers" operate when it comes to a Republican campaign ad. One not very well-informed person (or a heavily biased person) announces that Romney's welfare ad is false, and the rest of the herd quote him, without anyone ever bothering to examine the facts, much less citing anyone who knows what he's talking about.
It is striking that everyone who actually knows something about the 1996 welfare reform law says that Romney's ad is accurate.
One of the principal authors of the 1996 welfare reform, Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation, and Douglas Besharov, who advised Hillary Clinton on the 1996 welfare reform law, say Romney's ad is accurate.
Andrew Grossman, also of Heritage, produced something the MSM "fact checkers" avoid: a specific and detailed explanation of how the new waivers will allow states to evade the work requirements.
Even Ron Haskins, one of the reform bill's authors now at the liberal Brookings Institution - cited far and wide for "blasting" Romney's ad - doesn't deny the Obama administration plans to waive the work requirements. He just says he supports waivers for "job training." That's not disputing the accuracy of Romney's ads.
A lot of Americans don't support waiving the work requirements, even for "job training." Mitt Romney thinks they should know that that's what Obama is doing.
And liberal Kaus - whom liberal hacks are usually plagiarizing from - has written a series of blog posts explaining in detail why the Times is wrong and Romney's ad is not incorrect. True, he says the ad is "oversimplified," but I think most people grasp that a 30-second ad will not provide the lush analytical detail of a Kausfiles blog posting.
We know liberals are reading Kausfiles; why aren't they stealing from him this time?
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."