Identifying a key jobs program — and letting it die

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.