Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 30, 2010

R.I.P, TANF EMERGENCY FUND.... Readers probably got tired of my reports on one of the most effective federal jobs programs in recent memory, but it was my hope the Senate would find a way to keep it alive. As usually happens when counting on the Senate, those hopes were in vain.

At issue is the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Emergency Fund, which should have been 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."

Except, Republicans didn't love it. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) led the floor fight this week, and was even willing to accept a compromise: instead of a year-long extension that Democrats had requested, Durbin sought a three-month extension, at a cost of just $500 million, in order to keep the fund alive through the end of the year. Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) refused to allow it.

"The majority has known this program was going to expire at the end of this month all year and has taken no steps to reauthorize this important social safety net program," said Enzi, who blocked Durbin's request for "unanimous consent" for a reauthorization.

Enzi either isn't very bright or he hasn't been paying attention. Dems first tried to reauthorize the TANF Emergency Fund in March, but Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) blocked it. Dems tried again earlier this month, but Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) blocked it. Dems tried again this week, but Enzi blocked it.

Regardless, what difference does it make when and how often it's come up? If Enzi agrees that this is an "important social safety net program," then why the hell did he feel it necessary to let it die?

This isn't some academic exercise -- by killing the measure, Republicans will force thousands of Americans out of work. The House approved an extension of the program (twice) but the Senate GOP just didn't care. As a result, the TANF Emergency Fund comes to an end tonight at midnight. Thousands of layoffs will begin quickly, and continue as we get closer to the holiday season.

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 kept tens of thousands 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 have been 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.

Republicans will keep asking, "Where are the jobs?" and no one seems inclined to answer, "Your party got rid of them."

Steve Benen 1:25 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (34)

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Probably the Senate and the Administration don't say that because they'd have to add, "And we acquiesced because we're so impotent."

But I'm sure Obama and Reid are going to come out swinging about this latest -- ah, who am I kidding?

Posted by: Tom Allen on September 30, 2010 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

This and many other tragedies will never reflect badly on Republicans because they have controlled the media sources of the vast majority of the American public for years now. When most people's news and information come almost solely from Fox News and hate radio 24/7, how can they be expected to have any sense of reality at all?

Posted by: Curmudgeon on September 30, 2010 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

Americans only believe in government giving THEM money. Programs which help other people are worthless.
The Republicans get away with this because many, not most but many, voters are selfish jerks.

Posted by: JMG on September 30, 2010 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

Getting re-elected is all about numbers. Such as: 10% of voters are out of work, and need help. 90% have jobs, and want to hang on to every penny. So it is easy for the politician to say, "You work hard for your money; and I ain't gonna take it away from you and give it to some lazy bastard (you are registered to vote, right?)"

Posted by: DAY on September 30, 2010 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

By acquiescing through impotence it seems you mean finding a way to directly oppose the vaguely shoshalizt und mysterious idea of "represent the people" to the meat and potato's of grasp the cudgel to divide the people .

Posted by: FRP on September 30, 2010 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

re: "Enzi either isn't very bright or he hasn't been paying attention."

You left out the obvious third alternative: Enzi is lying through his teeth.

Posted by: Dirty Davey on September 30, 2010 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

"If Enzi agrees that this is an "important social safety net program," then why the hell did he feel it necessary to let it die?"
Because Mike Enzi is an asshole.
I just wish one of these guys would run into one of the constituents in his or her home district who was screwed over by their stupidity, and got a well-deserved punch in the mouth.

Posted by: Patrick Star on September 30, 2010 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

Apparently, you still haven't figured out that the USA is in the process of being feudalized. Specifically, wealth is being transferred to the upper 1%. Jobs have been eliminated, banks are foreclosing, even illegally in an ongoing process of returning the land to the gentry. Americans are being slowly turned into serfs, most of whom will be unemployed over the next five years, eventually to starve to death or die in the streets of illness. Those who survive will happily accept room and board in exchange for labor.

Income as we know it, will cease to be paid.

The wealthy have figured out a scheme for hanging on to their wealth and even making more, WITHOUT US. They don't need us to make stuff anymore; they don't need us to buy stuff anymore. They are making tons of money swapping bad debts and then dipping into what they have always considered their personal fund: TAXPAYER money to bail them out.

Of course, without income sufficient even to survive, most of us won't have enough to pay in taxes, but that little problem really hasn't occurred to them.

Of course, without homes, food and health care, those of us who become ill and are forced to exist in unsanitary conditions will ultimately spread disease. When the black plague broke out in constantinople, I'm sure the last thing the wealthy ever thought was that by not taking care of the poor, the lesser-haves, the needy, they were signing their own death warrants.

Of course, this horrible state of deterioration and descent into a Dark Age will not last forever. This is an ongoing cycle that always involves a grab by the wealthy for ALL instead of their usual 95%. Historically these attempts at complete domination have been regional. Now, however, it's a global effort.

I predict the backlash will also be global.

However, that is down the line (probably around 2020)

For now, understand that the congress and obama will not help the middle class survive because the bankers who really run things have instructed that the middle class be abolished. It will.

You see, gay, straight, abortions or no, drug user or alcoholic, Jew, Christian, Bhuddist or Muslim, male, female, skinny, fat, blue eyed, brown eyed, black, white, brown or yellow -- these are all issues invented by the "ruling" class to divide us and divert attention from the one constant truth that divides all humans worldwide:

RICH versus POOR

They are in the process of robbing us blind. The USA's entry into the "global economy" (just think! a "global" economy without a "global" minimum wage or work standards! An absolute KEY to establishing slavery worldwide!!! and look: it's working!) cemented what is going on now -- to be part of this vast global plantation, the USA must be divested of its wealth, manufacturing independence, thriving middle class and the "American dream" must be crushed.

2020. That's when we will see a renaissance in this country. Till then I predict a rash of one term presidents and do-nothing congresses. The judiciary will continue to be staffed with idealogical cronies rather than learned jurists; constitutional rule will fall by the wayside.

Then... when the (now) youths take over, after years of serfdom, I predict a resurgence of progressivism worldwide that is gonna knock everyone's socks off -- in a good way.

Posted by: getaclue on September 30, 2010 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

This program isn't supported by the GOP because it strikes at the heart of the GOP message. TANF is a federal welfare program. The GOP message is that welfare recipients are lazy, selfish freeloaders (and usually minorities). The idea that welfare recipients would rather work than grift the system does not compute for them. They'd rather have the stereotype become reality than admit that their propaganda isn't true.

Posted by: danimal on September 30, 2010 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

Republicans "get away with this" because Democrats let them. Stop blaming the voters, most of whom want the program. Blame elected Democrats for being stupid. Blame them for being lazy. Blame them for being cowardly. And blame them for being corrupt. But blame the elected Democrats for letting the GOP get away with this.

The Democrats could easily have humiliated the GOP over this. They could have forced a filibuster. They could have broken out some huge posters filled with quotes from GOP governors. They could have shouted like Rep. Weiner. And said that "this isn't about principle or ideology. Plenty of Republicans support this program. Unfortunately those Republicans aren't in the U.S. Senate."

Instead we got more Party of Can't.

Posted by: square1 on September 30, 2010 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

These people cannot be allowed to continue to undermine good legislation. I suggest pitchforks, torches and "deportations". At this point, that idea has more merit than any other.

Posted by: Trollop on September 30, 2010 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

How much longer do we pretend that we have a democracy?

Posted by: kevmo on September 30, 2010 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

It is important to consider the underlying calculus, the ramifications that can't be spoken aloud, that unemployed citizen = likely 2010 Republican voter. And they don't give a rat's ass as to the quality of folks lives', as long as the blame can be placed on their preferred target. In feudal times (or, past feudal times, as opposed to current), it's akin to the Lords having an political dispute and the minority faction reducing the serfs' rations and surreptitiously killing their livestock with the expectant hope that the blame for the resulting devastation falls on the majority. In past times there was no media (they'd just kill the town crier first, too, just in case) to call them out on it, but in modern times, well, uh. Yeah.

Posted by: jsacto on September 30, 2010 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

Oh yeah, and we can thank Larry Summers for not supporting a larger fund to begin with. When does that guy leave again?

Posted by: square1 on September 30, 2010 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry about this, but when I was just a yougster in school - my mother used to hurry me to catch the school bus by saying 'come on, buck up you're going to miss your bus' why are people offended by that phrase now? I would say 'buck up - we need to get out people to vote dem this cycle'
Another subject - does anyone have any news on the ongoing scandal in Florida - the lobbyist & Rubio and the house purchase etc?
Also in Arizona - the shooting by a mexican drug cartel is unravelling as we speak!

Posted by: js on September 30, 2010 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

GETACLUE is right on target. The people who vote for Republicans out of habit or greed are alas misinformed, unless they are rather wealthy.

Posted by: KurtRex1453 on September 30, 2010 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

Enzi also turned to his own caucus and said,
"Republicans have known these tax breaks would expire at the end of 2010 for years and have taken no steps to reauthorize these handouts for the least needy."



Posted by: zeitgeist on September 30, 2010 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

Social safety net program expiring and good ideas dying in the Senate means that Republicans are willing to risk everything to permanently shutdown Congress.

I am not buying into this gloom and doom. Sounds like a real good reason for a Democrat to vote, I am and sending what little money I can to improve our chances.

Right wingers can't stop being thrilled by this game of chicken. It is a lousy way to run the Republican Party. Why not just consider the possibility of a continuing Democratic majority as another way of looking at this crisis?

Posted by: bigskydem on September 30, 2010 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

Republicans will keep asking, "Where are the jobs?" and no one seems inclined to answer, "Your party got rid of them.

THe problem with this any so many other things is that it is the media who are not asking the question, nor are they providing the factual answer to it.

Posted by: terraformer on September 30, 2010 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

"The majority has known this program was going to expire at the end of this month all year and has taken no steps to reauthorize this important social safety net program," said Enzi, who blocked Durbin's request for "unanimous consent" for a reauthorization."

Somewhat more accurately:

"The [Republicans] have known these [tax cuts] were going to expire at the end of this [year] and have taken no steps to renew this important [job-creating, economy-saving] program."

Posted by: Trevor Bauknight on September 30, 2010 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

"Enzi either isn't very bright or he hasn't been paying attention". Um, or he's a lying sack of horse manure.

But, this is another case of Democratic weakness. They have done an absolutely lousy job of making it obvious what the problem is and making the changes to the Senate to make that a democratic institution again. I am sick to death of hearing Democrats saying that they can't change the precious rules of the Senate because of, well, I have no idea.

Posted by: Vince on September 30, 2010 at 3:37 PM | PERMALINK

Since Americans are actually going to reward these bastard next month - then Americans deserves this.

Posted by: impik on September 30, 2010 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

Under this program, government subsidized jobs for people with the intent that the people would be able to show their value and continue in the job once subsidies were removed. Why is there the assumption that removing this program will cause all of these people to lose their jobs? If these people DO lose their jobs, it is because they have not shown that they create enough value without being subsidized.

Posted by: Really on September 30, 2010 at 4:47 PM | PERMALINK

"The majority has known this program was going to expire at the end of this month all year and has taken no steps to reauthorize this important social safety net program..' yada yada...

NOW...you have KNOWN the Bush Tax Cuts would expire at the end of ten years and didn't do F* all to change the way you do business in Congress. So now you can kiss my a$$!

Posted by: SYSPROG on September 30, 2010 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

That was a great program instead of giving hand outs american actually gave hand ups. i dont think is should go on forever but i dont think it should have just smack dab ended especially in a time like this where the econemny is already weak. Instead the program should have ended by phasing it out like operating at 100% for 6 months then every month after decrease funds by 10% which would allow businesses to slowly take on hireing in what they can and for those that could not, prepare their workforce alot better as oppose to just end.

Posted by: good program on September 30, 2010 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

It's actually much sadder than this - a large, but loud, minority is completely ignorant about the science of economics.

The right wing, through think tanks, have managed misinform the general public to believe several totally false notions regarding macro-economics.

They are, in no particular order:

1. All tax cuts spur economic growth.
2. Tax cuts pay for themselves because of said economic growth. Deficits do not matter when it comes to tax cuts.
3. Government (programs) is (are) always less efficient than corporations.
4. The government should run its books like a household and only be able to borrow a bare minimum (the "nation's credit card" meme), but a corporation should be able to borrow as much and as often as possible.
5. Money that is invested in capital markets always leads to an increase an investment in the overall economy (and not an increase in the savings rate). There is no investment right now because corporations are "uncertain" about taxes.
6. People are unemployed because they are lazy or unwilling to learn new skills.
7. What is good for corporations is good for America.
8. Government is incapable of job creation.
9. CEOs "create" jobs (instead of jobs are created because said CEOs and CFOs can make a profit off of the labor of their workforce.) See the popularity of "Undercover Boss" and "the Apprentice."
10. You should be able to keep more of your own money, the tax rate is too high, etc., etc., even though the federal tax rate is at historic lows.

I can keep on going, but the reason informed people keep banging their heads against the wall and how people like Palin, O'Donnell, Paladino or Boehner are not laughed out of the room are because of ignorance on the part of a majority of the American people to understand basic economic concepts. 30+ years of "Reaganomics" has worked with a glorious effect to their benefactors.

Until we find a way to educate the American public all of this discussion whether cynical people such as Enzi is just a waste of time.

Posted by: DBaker on September 30, 2010 at 5:21 PM | PERMALINK

DBaker - You mean, people need to be educated so that they believe what you believe, no matter how unrealistic your world view. Trying to give your, ahem, economic thoughts a shine by prefacing them as "science of economics" is a disservice to economics, not to mention a disservice to those who seek to find any enlightenment on these forums. There are many good sources of non-politicized economic information on the web, I recommend readers seek these out for clarity on how the real world works.

Posted by: KQuinn on September 30, 2010 at 6:29 PM | PERMALINK

Mr. and Ms. Quinn, you are putting words in my mouth. Why don't you link to these "non-politicized economic information" sites that you are talking about here? I would be happy to comment on them.

It still doesn't take away from my point that conservative economic viewpoints dominate our discourse despite overwhelming empirical evidence that the tenants that I cited do not work (or very well, if I want to be completely fair). Steve cites many examples on this site where Republican members of the house and Senate, as well as "conservative" Democrats, advocate policies which, despite overwhelming to the contrary, benefit the very few.

Also, you are making an assumption that I don't know "how the real world works", without knowing a thing about me.

I am as pragmatic as Obama supposedly is; I want policies advocate the benefit us all, and specifically the United States of America. If you can cite one of my tenants that I name that actually works for the benefit of us, enlighten me and the rest of us, while you are at it.

Posted by: DBaker on September 30, 2010 at 7:34 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, let's start simple with the discussion, shall we. One prompted by the originating article:
Does a taxpayer paid for job (i.e. a government "created" job) have the same benefit to the economy as a private enterprise job? Why or why not?

Posted by: KQuinn on September 30, 2010 at 9:48 PM | PERMALINK

I'll even take a crack at the question to get the ball rolling: No, a government provided job (GPJ) does not provide the same benefit to the economy. Certainly it benefits the person having the job but at the macro level:
1) The GPJ is non-profit in its very nature. The results of the job does not add to the aggregate value of the economy. I'm not saying the work is not valuable, only that it does not contribute to Growth - which is what makes the pie larger for everyone. Slicing and allocating the pie is a different discussion.
2) Private enterprise jobs however, can contribute to growth. That is, the people in those jobs are motivated to create value at a lower cost for both the success of their company and their personal success. This success grows the company which generates profits and can generate more jobs. Note that these people are not only doing their own job but also paying for Government Provided Jobs through taxes.

A question - why is it that GPJ's have not been lost at the same rate in the recession as private enterprise jobs? My observation is that GVP's are not tied to the success (or failure) of the economy - in effect, they are not invested in the economy.

Posted by: Kquinn on September 30, 2010 at 10:21 PM | PERMALINK

"That is, the people in those jobs are motivated to create value at a lower cost for both the success of their company and their personal success."

Do you have actual empirical evidence for this statement or do you just feel this way? How do you measure this "motivation"?

Also, what is your definition of said GPJ? Is it one that is a direct hire by a government agency or one that is created by, for example, subsidies to businesses, a government contract to a business to build, say, a road or a bridge? Does the entrepreneur get an R & D tax credit?

This particular article which we are commenting on is about TANF. Why would a conservative notion such as not doing anything ("letting the free market work") or a tax cut to the entrepreneur ("letting him or her keep his own money") work better than the TANF program?

The Congressional Budget Office, as often cited by Steve, have done empirical studies on how $1 of government spending can stimulate the economy and tax cuts come out as one of the most inefficient, while food stamps and unemployment benefits, because of the multiplier effect (Econ. 101!) have the most effect.

Just like Al Gore inventing the Internet or Sarah Palin seeing Russia from her house, a lot of false notions get thrown into our discourse by bad faith actors. This is especially true in the economic arena. Listen to any run of the mill talk show or listen to any run of the mill politician, especially from the right side of the fence in this instance, and they clearly do not know what they are talking about - they are "talking from the gut", not using fact or reason. It appears that you are doing the same thing by using words such as "motivation" without any empirical studies to back your words up. Prove me wrong and give us some links to those independent non-political web sites that you cite in your first comment!

Posted by: DBaker on October 1, 2010 at 9:04 AM | PERMALINK

Most of our elected Democratic representatives are pussies. Or corrupt. Or stupid. Or all three. I have no more strength in my spleen for them. Let the Republicans have their seats. I won't be going to the polls to support defeat. Maybe Republican blatant mismanagement will shock the public into throwing the assholes -- and their myopic, ignorant brand of flat-lander conservatism -- out for good. Hopefully, before they cause too much more harm. Clearly, the Democrats (as a whole, Rep. Weiner, et al, notwithstanding -- dear God, how can we clone him?) don't know how to manage a democracy. After Republican rule, maybe we'll get a true Progressive party.

Posted by: Rich Tapper on October 1, 2010 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

Rich Tapper: RIGHT on.

Posted by: getaclue on October 1, 2010 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

One cannot have a discussion if only one person is paying attention and trying to understand the other. Rather than respond with your thoughts, you have chosen to:
1. Pick a single word to attack
2. Bring in unrelated points
3. Challenge me to back up assertions with empirical studies (something I note that you have failed to do so I infer your assertions must be suspect as well).
and finally...
4. Somehow making it my fault that you are unable to find content on the web that a reasonable person could find with ease.

My apologies, I will let you return to your world of self think. Please feel free to have the last word. I won't seek further enlightenment or serious debate where it does not appear to exist.

Posted by: KQuinn on October 1, 2010 at 7:14 PM | PERMALINK



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