Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 17, 2010

IDENTIFYING A KEY JOBS PROGRAM -- AND LETTING IT DIE.... Politicians of every stripe insist that job creation is their top priority. If that were true, the TANF Emergency Fund would be the most popular program in Congress, and its funding would be assured. Instead, it's poised to die.

It's never received a lot of attention, but the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Emergency Fund has been one of the most successful elements of the Recovery Act. The fund subsidizes jobs with private companies, nonprofits, and government agencies and has single handedly put more than 240,000 unemployed people back to work in 32 states and the District of Columbia.

Governors, including Mississippi's Haley Barbour (R), have sung its praises, and urged its extension. In July, CNN called the TANF Emergency Fund "a stimulus program even a Republican can love."

Except, CNN was wrong. The TANF Emergency Fund expires at the end of this month -- just two weeks from now -- and despite Democratic efforts to continue its success, Senate Republicans will block a vote and let the program die.

"One of the best things that the Recovery Act did was to put in place this program," said Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) at a Capitol Hill press conference Wednesday. "The worst thing that we could do at a time when our economy is coming out of the ditch and we're able to start building and growing is to pull up the ladder and say we don't want to do this anymore, we're just going to move on to something else." [...]

"Normally you hear the phrase if it's not broken don't fix it. And in this particular case, if it's working don't end it. This is a program that works."

Extending the program would cost about $2.5 billion, a relatively paltry sum that has a considerable impact on helping struggling Americans get a job. But Senate Republicans don't seem to care -- not one has signed on to keep the program going another year, and proponents, including Bob Casey who's taken the lead on this, expect the worst.

For all of the GOP's obsession with tax cuts for the wealthy, not one has the sense or the courage to endorse an affordable program that creates thousands of jobs. And yet, voters are poised to reward them anyway.

We already know exactly what the consequences will be of the program's demise.

Most of the 37 states operating subsidized employment programs created those programs to respond to the current recession. Many -- including most of the largest programs -- will close their doors on September 30 if Congress does not extend the TANF Emergency Fund; others plan to continue operations but at a reduced level. In anticipation of having to close down or greatly scale back operations, some programs have already stopped taking applications and making new job placements, and many more plan to do so in coming weeks.

Tens of thousands of individuals participating in the programs will lose their jobs when the programs close.

The irony is, when those Americans lose their jobs, Republicans will say it was the failure of the stimulus. Their pathetic rhetoric will have it backwards -- the stimulus created those jobs, and the GOP's filibuster of an effective jobs program will throw these men and women out of work.

In a sane political world, this would be a pretty big scandal, and Republicans would be afraid to kill an effective jobs program with an unemployment rate near 10%. Instead, the GOP is counting on being rewarded by Americans for taking steps like these, and polls suggest that's exactly what's going to happen.

Steve Benen 10:35 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (10)

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So why aren't they forcing to the floor? Make them vote against it. Go to the map with all the bottled up crap and make a spectacle of it all. All in the context of spending a 700 Bill on millionaires. You darn well know the Thugs would do it just for the political theater. If they can't highlight how nuts these guys are, how do they expect to win?

Posted by: KK on September 17, 2010 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

I can't believe that the Democrats don't have the political will power and know how to make the Republicans look like fools on all of this.
Stop, what did I just write?
OK, I promise, no more whiskey until after noon.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on September 17, 2010 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

I work for state government, and with all the budget shortfalls, the only way that my bureau has had clerical vacancies filled is through TANF subsidy positions. It helps the TANF recipients by giving them marketable skills, and fills our positions with no monetary outlays. Great program all around.

We are the stupidest country in the world if we let this die.

Posted by: kathleen on September 17, 2010 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

I'm not going to play armchair psychologist and try to figure out whether Democrats are too stupid or too cowardly to stare down GOP opposition...or whether they are complicit and it is the Blue Dog/corporatist wing of the Democratic Party that is complicit in killing the extension.

What I can say is this: It is fully within the power of the Democrats to pass the bill. If Democrats forced AN ACTUAL FILIBUSTER, one of two things would happen.

Either the Republicans would realize the political folly of blocking the extension less than 2 months before the mid-terms and withdraw their filibuster threat (just as Boehner backed down on blocking the Obama's proposed tax cuts to the middle-class) or the GOP would actually filibuster the bill.

Now, if the GOP actually filibustered the extension, here is how it would play out: Republicans would be forced to stand on the floor of the Senate and go on record against the extension. Democrats could engage in -- horrors! -- actual debate on the Senate floor, rolling out large posters with pro-TANF quotes from GOP governors. The debate would be extremely unpopular for Republicans and would help the Democrats in November.

The filibuster might last a day. It might last a couple of days. Or it might last a week. In any event, eventually it would end. The bill would pass. Democrats would have fought. And they would have won. And Americans like fighters and winners.

Moderate Republicans and independents who have contempt for Democrats might develop a newfound respect for the party. Traditional Democrats would be inspired by images of Senate Democrats being willing to sleep on cots to pass legislation that will help the economy.

None of this will happen.

Posted by: square1 on September 17, 2010 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

WE are not the stupidest country in the world unless you use republicans to bring the average level of intelligence down.

Posted by: Gandalf on September 17, 2010 at 10:54 AM | PERMALINK

The Republican media complex isn't merely discrete units of talk radio station and cable TV outlets. It's more useful to think of it as a totalistic/holistic ideology where the faithful are fed the crackers and grape juice of absolute certainty. There is nothing on the left remotely similar to this complex and mostly for good reasons. For us, politics is less about tribalistic thrills and more about actual content.

The disadvantage for the reality-based community is obvious. We're fragmented, contentious, and ineffective because we spend most of our time arguing with zealots about nonsense issues. Political discourse becomes the ultimate victim as there's no oxygen left over for real issues. It's safe to say that when the citizens hear little but "Ground-Zero mosque" for three months that politics has become virtually irrelevant to their lives.

I think it's safe to say that this does not augur well for the future. Healthy political debate depends on continuity and good-faith opposition. That's gone. Now, there's screaming for its own sake. This is the Seinfeld of political revolutions - a nation wracked not by fundamental differences but by ginned up hysteria mostly about nothing at all. The wnners are the plutocrats freed to loot what remains of our national wealth.

Posted by: walt on September 17, 2010 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

I've had it with this country and its enormous collection of assholes. The Dems have majorities in BOTH houses of Congress and can't get one thing accomplished of worth. And don't say wait they passed a health care bill (most of it not worth a shit because of their (and Obama's) lack of balls to stand up to the Repugs and say to them "Fu3K you this is the way it is", which is EXACTLY what the Repugs would do. And yes they got "financial reform" which as we know now did not reform jack shit. Energy policy, hell no, the Repugs whined,and the Dems went into their little corner and just pouted. Our Dem leadership HAVE NO BALLS and they don't care what happens to this country just as the Repugs just don't care. They could have forced the Repugs to actually filibuster on the HCR and financial reform but did NOTHING. Oh those big bad Repugs Boo, Hoo, Hoo. I not a Tea Partier, but to tell the truth at least they stand together and believe what they say (as idiotic as most of them are). We progressives and liberals wouldn't know how to fight together our way out of a paper bag.

Posted by: Chris on September 17, 2010 at 11:43 AM | PERMALINK

Steve - thanks for shining this light on yet another good idea that Republicans will flush down the toilet. Hopefully the main stream media will do the same highlighting.

Just one note - when you call $2.5 billion "a relatively paltry sum" people will start to call you an elite. I certainly know what you mean but can't you just see some jackass like Jonah Goldberg taking that comment out of context and using for his purpose?

Keep digging it up.

Posted by: Vandal on September 17, 2010 at 12:30 PM | PERMALINK

The problem, Steve, is that you use phrases like, "In a sane political world..."

Posted by: Reverend on September 17, 2010 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

I'm very late to this thread, but in case anyone's still reading: According to the Pew Fiscal Analysis Initiative (http://www.pewtrusts.org/our_work_report_detail.aspx?id=59098) the cost of extending with no offsets all of the 2001-2003 tax cuts, including interest, would be $116 billion in 2011 alone. The cost of Pres. Obama's proposal to extend them just for those making less than $250K would be $84 billion in 2011 - or $32 billion less.

That means the cost of extending the TANF Emergency Fund for one year, $2.5 billion, is a little less than one month's worth of tax cuts for highest-income fraction of the top 1% of incomes.

So for the same $2.5 billion we could get:
One year of the TANF Emergency Fund = 250,000 jobs
Less than one month of tax cuts for the wealthy = ???

Would anyone in their right mind claim that one month's worth of those tax cuts creates more than 250,000 jobs? More than one-tenth of that number?

Please write or call your Senators and ask them that question.

Posted by: tomincolumbia on September 17, 2010 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK



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