National Review says there's "not much" Republicans can do about provisions in the stimulus intended to expand welfare caseloads and undermine the work requirements of the landmark 1996 welfare reform law. That may be true. But there is something National Review 's readers--and others who'd like to defend welfare reform--can do.
During the immigration debate of 2007, an emailer suggested that one way readers might influence Congress would be to "go ahead and mash up some negative ads" on the issue and post them on You Tube. Readers responded, and some of the ads were quite good. I think they had an impact--not by swaying public opinion, but by striking fear into heart of legislators by demonstrating what they might face in their reelection campaigns if they voted for the Bush-McCain semi-amnesty bill. The bill died.
It wouldn't be hard to do the same thing with the anti-welfare-reform provisions in the stimulus bill. Again, the idea would not be to influence the public. The idea would be to directly terrify Democratic legislators worried about their reelections by giving them a taste of how their vote might play . (It helps that many politicians are generally terrified of You Tube and other new information technologies they can't control.) Obama aide Rahm Emanuel, for one, is known to be sensitive to the political potency of "wedge" issues like welfare and immigration.
As with immigration, the basic text of the ads practically writes itself: "In 1996, Congress passed the landmark. .. . Caseloads fell by 70 percent. ... Now Congressman X wants to undo that success ..." etc. But I don't have the skill or creativity to do the job of putting one of these ads together, let alone to do the job well. Some of you do.
It's probably too late. The House is scheduled to vote on the stimulus package ... er, tomorrow.** But things move fast these days! And even if the bill passes, if there is enough of a stink embarrassed (or terrified) legislators might change it. Anyway, it seems worth a shot.
If you build them, I will link.
**--I'm assuming the welfare provisions are still in the bill. [ Update: They are, I'm told. $5 billion to expand welfare.] They were in both the House and Senate versions. ... My goal isn't to use the welfare issue to sink the stimulus, if that were even possible. It is to get the welfare provisions removed or reversed. Your goals may vary.
More: Why would Republicans make an issue of marsh mice when they have welfare , a proven hot button (for good reason)? Hello?. ... They could even be bipartisan about it, noting that it's Clinton's achievement that's being undermined. ... P.S.: Maybe it's no accident-- the GOPs secretly want the welfare provision to pass and hope the resulting caseload boom will be a good issue to run on in 2010 . They're saving their best shot for later. But that would be unpatriotic! It would also demonstrate an uncharacteristic amount of long-term thinking. ... 11:34 A.M.