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Mitt Romney: Mothers Should Be Required To Work Outside Home Or Lose Benefits

11:33 pm - 04/15/2012
Mitt Romney: Mothers Should Be Required To Work Outside Home Or Lose Benefits

Women who stay at home to raise their children should be given federal assistance for child care so that they can enter the job market and "have the dignity of work," Mitt Romney said in January, undercutting the sense of extreme umbrage he showed when Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen quipped last week that Ann Romney had not "worked a day in her life."

The remark, made to a Manchester, N.H., audience, was unearthed by MSNBC's "Up w/Chris Hayes," and will air during the 8 a.m. hour of his show Sunday.

Ann Romney and her husband's campaign fired back hard at Rosen following her remark. "I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work," Romney said on Twitter.

Mitt Romney, however, judging by his January remark, views stay-at-home moms who are supported by federal assistance much differently than those backed by hundreds of millions in private equity income.
Poor women, he said, shouldn't be given a choice, but instead should be required to work outside the home to receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits. "[E]ven if you have a child 2 years of age, you need to go to work," Romney said of moms on TANF.

Recalling his effort as governor to increase the amount of time women on welfare in Massachusetts were required to work, Romney noted that some had considered his proposal "heartless," but he argued that the women would be better off having "the dignity of work" -- a suggestion Ann Romney would likely take issue with.

"I wanted to increase the work requirement," said Romney. "I said, for instance, that even if you have a child 2 years of age, you need to go to work. And people said, 'Well that's heartless.' And I said, 'No, no, I'm willing to spend more giving day care to allow those parents to go back to work. It'll cost the state more providing that daycare, but I want the individuals to have the dignity of work.'"

Regardless of its level of dignity, for Ann Romney, her work raising her children would not have fulfilled her work requirement had she been on TANF benefits. As HuffPost reported Thursday:

As far as Uncle Sam is concerned, if you're poor, deciding to stay at home and rear your children is not an option. Thanks to welfare reform, recipients of federal benefits must prove to a caseworker that they have performed, over the course of a week, a certain number of hours of "work activity." That number changes from state to state, and each state has discretion as to how narrowly work is defined, but federal law lists 12 broad categories that are covered.
Raising children is not among them.


According to a 2006 Congressional Research Service report, the dozen activities that fulfill the work requirement are:

(1) unsubsidized employment
(2) subsidized private sector employment
(3) subsidized public sector employment
(4) work experience
(5) on-the-job training
(6) job search and job readiness assistance
(7) community services programs
(8) vocational educational training
(9) job skills training directly related to employment
(10) education directly related to employment (for those without a high school degree or equivalent)
(11) satisfactory attendance at a secondary school
(12) provision of child care to a participant of a community service program

The only child-care related activity on the list is the last one, which would allow someone to care for someone else's child if that person were off volunteering. But it does not apply to married couples in some states. Connecticut, for instance, specifically prevents counting as "work" an instance in which one parent watches a child while the other parent volunteers.

The federal government does at least implicitly acknowledge the value of child care, though not for married couples. According to a 2012 Urban Institute study, a single mother is required to work 30 hours a week, but the requirement drops to 20 hours if she has a child under 6. A married woman, such as Romney, would not be entitled to such a reduction in the requirement. If a married couple receives federally funded child care, the work requirement increases by 20 hours, from 35 hours to 55 hours between the two of them, another implicit acknowledgment of the value of stay-at-home work.


Romney's January view echoes a remark he made in 1994 during his failed Senate campaign. "This is a different world than it was in the 1960s when I was growing up, when you used to have Mom at home and Dad at work," Romney said, as shown in a video posted by BuzzFeed's Andrew Kaczynski. "Now Mom and Dad both have to work whether they want to or not, and usually one of them has two jobs."

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Oh. I see.
kyra_neko_rei 15th-Apr-2012 10:38 pm (UTC)
Personally, I like the idea of two paychecks, for two part-time jobs held by two different parents. If one person can work full-time 40 hours and support a family, then it should be equally possible for two people to work part-time 20 hours each and support the same family.

Of course, that would require a significant change in our current benefits system. Demanding they be pro-rated instead of 40 hours = whole thing, 39 hours = nothing.

It wouldn't be for everybody, but nothing is.
amyura 15th-Apr-2012 11:18 pm (UTC)
Benefits wouldn't even be an issue if we had universal single-payer healthcare, though.
kyra_neko_rei 16th-Apr-2012 03:38 am (UTC)
I thought there were other things, that might be dependent on full-time? 401K matching and the like? I keep recalling those work-here pamphlets at places like Target that had this list of benefits which looked awesome until it occurred to me that letting someone work 40 hours a week consistently was perhaps less than likely to happen.
ohloverx 16th-Apr-2012 03:08 am (UTC)
I'm not disagreeing with that logic. However, I think it is up to each individual family to decide what is best for them. If both parents or spouses want to work, great. There should be opportunities for them. If one parent or spouse wants to stay home, who is anyone to tell them they are required to work? And if both spouses have saved up enough money and neither want to work or can take extended time off, that's their business. But people shouldn't judge others for the choice they make regarding working or not working as it doesn't have any effect on anyone but themselves. Me not working doesn't concern anyone but me and my husband, y'know?

I just think it would be better if everyone was capable of having that choice because wages were better and cost of living was more manageable than to require that everyone do some type of work for monetary compensation to prove a point that they are valuable to society (holy run-on sentence!). Usually, that is what it boils down to. Not saying that is what you're implying at all. It's just that usually a person who doesn't work for whatever reason is lambasted as a lazy bum and a non-valuable mooching member of society. Mostly because we live in a society that values work over leisure and believes that people find their worth in their careers or lack thereof.
kyra_neko_rei 16th-Apr-2012 03:56 am (UTC)
I'm not disagreeing with that logic. However, I think it is up to each individual family to decide what is best for them. If both parents or spouses want to work, great.

Well, yeah.

I'm just worried that a move towards living on one salary will end up fueling conservatives' push for "one salary means the man's salary," and wanted to make sure that an alternative answer is out there, because we don't think of part-time anything as capable of supporting a family---mostly because it doesn't currently, but it wouldn't be the first time a way of thinking survived the circumstances it was dependent on.

I want visibility for a functional two-parent sharing of work, home life, and financial privilege, because it's one I've seen explicitly described in one obscure feminist future-ideal-society collaboration book from the sixties which I picked up at a garage sale, and haven't seen it said outright since.

(I will say that definitely the perception of non-workers also needs to change; it wouldn't even be necessary if we lived in a society where all working conditions and prestige and pay and hours were manipulated in terms of make it acceptable and worthwhile 'cause you're dependent on people being truly willing to do it. Current society knows it needs that stick, and others like threats of starvation and homelessness and inaccessibility of medical care, to get people into jobs, because they can't be arsed to make the jobs comfortable or even decently-paying.

What's ideal would be a society where nobody had to work but enough people chose to work because the work and the compensation and the feeling that they're doing something good and helpful all made it worthwhile. The sort of dynamic that you have in many sorts of volunteer labor---there are people managing the trash and cleaning out the privies whom you probably couldn't pay to do it as a real job, but they do it, proudly even, for free and for that . . . whatever it is that they're interested in and love enough to support it by doing jobs otherwise considered menial and even embarrassing and entirely not worth it.
ohloverx 16th-Apr-2012 03:20 am (UTC)
But I do really like the idea of two career oriented people in a family only having to work 20 hours a week each to live a comfortable life. That would be an amazing choice to have! Wish we could get businesses on board with that!

And imagine if you were a single person and only needed the 20 hours a week to support yourself comfortably! I think we'd be happier as a society and less stressed if we didn't have to work ridiculous hours to even barely get by!
kyra_neko_rei 16th-Apr-2012 04:07 am (UTC)
Exactly.

I've seen a couple articles testing the waters on such concepts recently---one talked about America's experiment with the 30-hour workweek (it got killed by the push for materialism and commercialism); another talked about how the 40-hour workweek got accepted in the first place because companies found out that they actually got more and better work out of 40-hour employees than 50-hour-and-more employees, and how now we're squeezing 60-hour workweeks out of a lot of the people who are employed and meanwhile there's high unemployment and that's a bad idea all around for everything except on-paper profitability because it's cheaper somehow to pay one person for 60 hours than two people for 30 apiece.

One of them also mentioned that if we as a society were content to go back to the level of Stuff we had in 1990, we could do all the work that needs to be done to supply our needs with a 6-hour workweek per person. Six hours. Now, I don't know how technology factors into that, to say nothing of the stuff that keeps getting used to suck money long after its cost of production has been paid . . . but wasn't that the original ideal, the original promise? That technology would free us, do our work for us, and we'd have a Star Trek or Jetsons-esque world where we did token amounts of work and the replicators produced everything we needed? Instead we have a rat race.
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