Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 27, 2010

EFFECTIVE JOBS BILL TO DIE IN JUST A FEW DAYS.... For senators who claim to take job creation seriously, there's a terrific opportunity to prove it -- but they'll have to act very quickly.

By most measures, the the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Emergency Fund should be one of the most popular programs in Congress. A key component 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." If only that were true on the Hill.

The TANF Emergency Fund expires this week. Democrats want to extend it; Republicans want to kill it; and because our legislative process is ridiculous, one of the most successful jobs programs we've seen in a while is likely to die in just a few days.

In rural Perry County, Tenn., the program helped pay for roughly 400 new jobs in the public and private sectors. But in a county of 7,600 people, those jobs had a big impact: they reduced Perry County's unemployment rate to less than 14 percent this August, from the Depression-like levels of more than 25 percent that it hit last year after its biggest employer, an auto parts factory, moved to Mexico.

If the stimulus program ends on schedule next week, Perry County officials said, an estimated 300 people there will lose their jobs -- the equivalent of another factory closing. [...]

While the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress want to extend the program, they are meeting stiff resistance from Republicans, many of whom oppose all things stimulus.

It's obviously not just Tennessee. If the emergency fund expires on scheduled on Thursday, 26,000 workers in Illinois will lose their jobs. So will 12,000 workers in Pennsylvania. Thousands more across the country will meet the same fate.

The House has approved an extension of the program -- twice. It would cost about $2.5 billion to keep it going, which is a relatively paltry sum that has a considerable impact on helping struggling Americans get a job.

But Senate Republicans don't seem to care. It's part of the stimulus, which means it must be killed, whether it's working or not.

It's not too late -- Senate sources tell me Dems still might try to keep the TANF Emergency Fund alive for another year -- but no one seems to think a Republican filibuster can be broken.

And we'll once again face an ironic dynamic: Americans will get frustrated with Democrats over more job losses, instead of the Republicans responsible for killing an effective program that keeps Americans on the job.

Indeed, in a sane political world, the death of the TANF Emergency Fund 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 10:45 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (14)

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In the words of the immortal Brad DeLong, why oh why can't we have a better media?

Posted by: dr. bloor on September 27, 2010 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

Well, if this is yet another bill which would save or create jobs then obviously Obama should be on top of this.

Because this doesn't look good:

Obviously, he's asked for a lot of legislation which would create jobs that have been knocked down: Green jobs, for instance. So, the perception that it is *he* who isn't on the ball needs to change. Quick.

Posted by: gus on September 27, 2010 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

Or a better Senate. I realize that the larger the ratio required to pass a bill, the stronger each individual Senator becomes. If every bill had to be passed unanimously, each Senator would become nearly omnipotent.

The current filibuster came about by accident. It can be destroyed by Harry Reid. He chooses not to, and the nation will suffer for it.

Posted by: Tom Allen on September 27, 2010 at 10:55 AM | PERMALINK

Oh well. Well I guess Democrats did everything they could and exhausted themselves trying to find a way to get this passed, so no one is mad at them and are all still inspired to vote for them in five weeks. The 14% of the country currently in poverty totally understands that the "tradition of the Senate" is far more important. They're rational people.

Posted by: August J. Pollak on September 27, 2010 at 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

There's something to what you say, A.J.; however, the Republicans are also trying to force Democrats into a position where they have to go outside Senate procedures to get anything passed. Then they'll stand on tradition, and yell how Obama's is a lawless government, after all the bitching Democrats did about Bush and his rubbery understanding of due process.

Also (to use a Sarah Palin sentence I've always liked), if Republicans regain power this time around, they're likely to rediscover their love for spending money, some of which will be stimulus. It'll just have to be called something different, and be controlled by Republicans instead of Democrats. And the electorate will buy it.

Posted by: Mark on September 27, 2010 at 11:09 AM | PERMALINK

-At a cost of $2.5 Billion? Outrageous! Why, why, that amount could fund our Afghanistan Adventure for an entire WEEK!

Posted by: DAY on September 27, 2010 at 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

Yep...just like the aristocracy in France...LET THEM EAT CAKE!

Posted by: SYSPROG on September 27, 2010 at 11:13 AM | PERMALINK

Sorry, but it's not the media's fault. The information is out there in about a thousand different ways, and it all says the same thing. Even the "party of no" label has stuck.

But too many Americans are just too damn dumb to figure it out.

"Democracies get the governments they deserve."

Posted by: bleh on September 27, 2010 at 11:18 AM | PERMALINK

Time for consequences. Let these Repulbican voters in TN and PA lose their jobs, it is what they deserve. We've become a nation of Republican welfare queens and Medicare Tea Partiers. Get a clue, morans!

Posted by: 6079smithW on September 27, 2010 at 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

Wait. Arent Tax Cuts a Form of Stimulus?

Posted by: Kill Bill on September 27, 2010 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

"Outside Senate procedures", eh? You mean, the Founders intended the Senate to operate on a 3/5 majority rule? Which is why, no doubt, the VP breaks ties.

Posted by: Tom Allen on September 27, 2010 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

Or a better Senate. I realize that the larger the ratio required to pass a bill, the stronger each individual Senator becomes.

Posted by: make money online on September 27, 2010 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

In the words of the immortal Brad DeLong, why oh why can't we have a better media?

A valid complaint, but the fact remains that the Senate Democratic majority could end the filibuster tomorrow if they wanted to.

And they should, because then there'd be no question about who's running the country. To most Americans, it LOOKS like the Dems are running the show, but they've handcuffed themselves to rules that allow the GOP to block their agenda at every turn. They've put procedure ahead of policy, and it's going to kill them in November.

And maybe rightly so. The people of America didn't elect them to handcuff themselves to ridiculous rules. The people elected them to solve the country's problems. They don't care why Congress is failing to do so, just that they ARE.

So yeah, the press corps sucks, but the Scared Rabbit Party sucks even more. They have the power to take this perception problem out of the hands of the press, and they refuse to use that power.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on September 27, 2010 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

@low-tech cyclist: Sorry, but the old saw about "the Senate Democratic Majority could end the filibuster tomorrow, if they wanted to" just does not wash. It's a meme that has no basis in the current political reality.

They cannot end it. Sorry, but the votes are not there. The numbers are not there. It's not me saying this--Senator Bernie Sanders has pointed this fact out time and time again, and nobody seems to notice.

Posted by: Marc McKenzie on September 29, 2010 at 8:35 PM | PERMALINK



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