.- A Catholic social justice lobby that describes itself as “a progressive voice within the Catholic community” is asking Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney to spend a day with those who serve the poor but it will not be extending a similar invitation to President Obama.
Recent advertisements by Romney’s campaign in support of work requirements for welfare benefits show that he is “out of touch with the very difficult struggles of working-poor families,” said Network communications coordinator Stephanie Niedringhaus, explaining the reason for the group's response.
However, she told CNA, the organization is not issuing a similar invitation to President Obama, despite recent statements from his campaign indicating that he also supports a work requirement for welfare.
On August 8, Network issued a press release inviting Romney to “spend a day with Catholic Sisters who work every day to meet the needs of struggling families in their communities.”
Niedringhaus said that the offer extended to Romney was a specific response to “the ad he endorsed regarding welfare.”
The Romney campaign released two advertisements on welfare in the days preceding the press release.
The first ad explained that “work for welfare” was part of a bipartisan welfare reform effort signed by President Bill Clinton. It cited concerns that without such requirements, recipients of welfare could receive federal funding indefinitely without working or training for a job.
The second ad expanded on the first, showing footage of Democrats who supported the bill, including former President Bill Clinton, who described is as a way to help people “stop drawing a welfare check and start drawing a paycheck,” and U.S. Senator John Kerry, who called the legislation “an important change.”
The ads accused Obama of taking actions that weakened the work requirement in the welfare system.
Neither of the ads included statements by Romney on welfare, nor did they include any speculation on the motives of people who apply for welfare.
But Niedringhaus said that the ads show that Romney thinks “people are poor because they are lazy, unwilling to work.”
Responding to the advertisements, White House press secretary Jay Carney said on August 9 that the president is actually attempting to strengthen work requirements for welfare.
In addition, a post on the White House blog insisted that “no one wants to waive or dismantle the work requirement” in the welfare system, but rather, that the Obama administration is seeking to “maintain a strong work requirement.”
Furthermore, Vice President Joe Biden was shown in one of the ads as supporting work requirements for welfare when the original law was passed during his time in the Senate.
However, Niedringhaus said that Network has no plans to extend a similar invitation to President Obama or Vice President Biden.
Asked to respond to the White House blog post indicating that Obama shares Romney’s support for work requirements, she responded, “The issue is that the ad was wrong,” adding that it was “dishonest” about Obama’s record.
Unemployment rates under the Obama administration have consistently remained above eight percent, and a Census Bureau report last year revealed that the number of Americans living in poverty was the highest it had been in more than half a century.
Niedringhaus acknowledged that Network is “concerned about unemployment and poverty rates.”
However, she stated, the Obama administration’s policies “do more to help people rise out of poverty” than the alternatives endorsed by Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan.