Claim: A new advertisement endorsed by Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney that is airing on KLAS-TV Channel 8 states: "If you want to know President Obama's second term agenda, look at his first. Gutted the work requirement for welfare. Doubled the number of able-bodied adults without children on food stamps. Record unemployment. More women in poverty than ever before. Borrowed from China and increased the debt to over $16 trillion, passing the burden onto the next generation."
Verdict: Partly true and partly misleading. The claim about Democrat Obama gutting the work requirement is misleading. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in July gave states that receive federal funds to administer the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program the option to apply for waivers from existing welfare laws. States can develop their own work requirements for welfare as long as they continue to meet TANF's goals of "helping parents successfully prepare for, find, and retain employment." There is no evidence that the department will simply allow states to hand out welfare checks with no strings attached.
The claim about doubling the number of able-bodied adults without children on food stamps is true, with a caveat. The Congressional Research Service estimated in September in a memo to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., that there were 3.87 million able-bodied adults without dependents who participated in 2010 in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. That's more than double the estimated 1.91 million able-bodied adults in the program in 2008, before Obama took office. The increase was attributed in part to the suspension of certain work requirements when Obama and congressional Democrats approved the economic stimulus package in 2009. The caveat is that the increase also was fueled by work requirement waivers that the Bush administration issued to most states, including Nevada, which kicked in before Obama took office.
The record unemployment claim is misleading. Though the ad uses an accurate graphic stating that unemployment exceeded 8 percent for 43 straight months under Obama -- which occurred from February 2009 through August -- unemployment since he's been in office peaked at 10 percent in October 2009. That's less than half of what it was in the early 1930s at the height of the Great Depression. In a study of that era, economics professor emeritus Thayer Watkins of San Jose State University stated that unemployment was 25 percent in 1933.
The claim about more women in poverty than ever before is true in terms of raw numbers but inaccurate in terms of percentages. The Census Bureau reported that more than 25.7 million women lived below poverty last year, highest since the bureau began tracking those numbers in 1966. But the 16.3 percent of women who lived below poverty in 2011 trailed the 16.9 percent in 1993 (Democrat Bill Clinton's first year in office), 16.8 percent in 1983 (Republican Ronald Reagan's third year), 16.6 percent in 1992 (Republican George H.W. Bush's fourth year), and 16.5 percent in 1982 (Reagan's second year).
The borrowing from China claim is a stretch. China is the largest foreign holder of U.S. debt but still has only a minority share of that debt. Japan is close behind China and dozens of other countries also hold U.S. debt, according to the Treasury Department. As for the oft-repeated claim from the Romney campaign that Obama has increased the nation's debt to over $16 trillion -- actually $16.2 trillion as of Tuesday -- the $5.6 trillion debt increase under the Democrat hasn't been all his own doing. While the economic stimulus added to the debt, so did the recession that began before Obama took office. The tax cuts approved by President George W. Bush and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq begun during his administration also have contributed to the debt.
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