CANTOR INTENDS TO ELIMINATE JOBS PROGRAM…. If House Republicans follow through on their promise, they’ll try to force a floor vote today on eliminating the $2.5 billion Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Emergency Contingency Fund. It’s the result of House Minority Whip Eric Cantor’s (R-Va.) “YouCut” gimmick — and it’s a spectacularly bad idea.
If you’re just joining us, Cantor’s new toy was launched last week — Republicans will pick government programs they don’t like, and then encourage the public to vote on which one they want to see eliminated. GOP lawmakers will then try to cut the “winning” program, responding to public demand.
This week, the initial round of voting wrapped up, and the first measure on the chopping block is the TANF emergency fund — which will enable states to place 186,000 unemployed individuals in subsidized jobs by the end of the summer, and which Cantor’s office deliberately mischaracterized to YouCut participants.
The Fund is enabling states to create or expand work-focused welfare-reform programs in which low-income people work in actual jobs. It also is helping states assist the increased numbers of very poor children and parents who are seeking help as a consequence of the deep economic downturn, so that they do not fall into severe destitution or even homelessness.
Without the Fund, many fewer low-income parents would be working today. In addition, more of the nation’s poorest children and parents would have neither earnings nor TANF assistance and would face severe hardship that could have lasting effects on children’s development. […]
If Congress fails to extend the TANF Emergency Fund beyond September 30 when it is slated to expire, states will have no additional resources to respond to the increased need that stems from the recession, and most of the subsidized jobs they have created will disappear, increasing the ranks of the unemployed and pushing many children whose parents want to work into severe poverty.
It’s not even an especially partisan issue — even Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) has urged Congress to extend the TANF emergency fund.
Remember, for Cantor and the Republican leadership, this is their best example of the kind of government spending they’re anxious to slash. As Jon Chait noted the other day, “If you want to argue that the government should have lower taxes, lower spending and less debt, you should have to produce the numbers. If you’re going to cop out and just pledge to cut some tiny program benefiting a weak constituency whose cost amounts to a fraction of a percent of the size of the cuts you pledge, you should be able to find a genuinely wasteful program. The fact that the worst program the GOP could identify is actually a good program is a devastating rejoinder to their beliefs about government waste.”
It also underscores the problem of a child-like political party trying to govern through gimmicks. In this case, the YouCut publicity stunt is playing a dangerous game that, if successful, would hurt a lot of people.
If Eric Cantor would just leave governing decisions to the grown-ups, we’d all be better off.