Shortened television coverage and the prospect of a hurricane may curtail the Republican presidential campaign, but it's a sure bet that Mitt Romney's TV ads making deliberately false, race-baiting claims about President Obama's handling of two issues -- welfare work rules and funding for Medicare -- will continue to get plenty of airtime.
One of the ads wrongly says Obama's health-care reform act will "rob Medicare" of $716 billion in order to help fund health care for uninsured low-income people -- a common stereotype for minorities. The other deceitfully says that Obama will "gut welfare reform by dropping the work requirement," a statement that is not only false, but which also raises the specter of racism under the stereotype of listless moochers. Though untrue, cable pundits and chain-letter emails have magnified their virus.
The ad alleging that Obama has gutted welfare work rules is absolutely false. Problem is, many viewers still assume that political ads that play to their biases must be true, or close enough to the truth to accept them as political guideposts.
Dozens of governors, including many Republican governors, and Romney when he was governor of Massachusetts, have long sought more flexibility to allow job training programs. Obama's administration granted that, on the condition that state work program ultimately require more work than the federal standard.
Yet Romney's ad falsely states that "under Obama's plan, you wouldn't have to work and you wouldn't have to train for a job. They just send you a welfare check. And welfare-to-work goes back to being plain old welfare." Romney has been widely criticized for running such a dishonest ad, but he has refused to disavow it or to pull it. Why? Because it apparently resonants with his target voters -- white people who are wary of Obama and who are inclined to believe that he takes from the white working class to give undeserving poor minorities advantages they haven't earned.
Romney's ad claiming Obama is "robbing" Medicare of $716 billion to give health care to similarly poor (read minorities) is equally dishonest. It's all the more ironical, since it's the Romney/Ryan team that want to end Medicare's comprehensive care and shift to a voucher plan that would give seniors a partial credit toward the cost of private insurance policy.
The ad deceitfully plays off two different issues. One is the creation of subsidies for most working families to help the uninsured purchase health insurance. The second is the unanimous political agreement that the share of the nation's spending on health care --now 19 percent of GDP and rising rapidly-- will have to be reduced over time, and that the brake of cost controls on the medical industry, efficiency gains in delivery of health care, and broader purchase of insurance through new state exchanges will allow a $700 billion savings from current projected spending increases over the next decade.
The Romney ad cherry picks from these projections to tell seniors who have paid for their Medicare that "now when you need it," Obama is robbing the plan to spend on a "massive new government program that isn't for you." In fact, Obama's plan would keep Medicare intact -- a feat only possible with broader reform itself. It is the Republican plan designed by Ryan and passed by the House that would double the out-of-pocket costs for seniors' Medicare.
Truth in advertising simply doesn't apply to such Romney ads. So viewers who tune in to the Republican convention will hear Romney, Ryan and their boosters repeating these falsehoods, and their false ads will continue until November.