TARGETING PROGRAMS THAT DON’T EXIST (BUT SHOULD)…. For those hoping for even a modicum of competence from the upcoming House Republican majority, this does not bode well.

Note to the incoming Republican majority in the House: Eliminating government programs that do not exist does not save money.

Of the few specific cuts that Congressional Republicans have proposed in their promised assault on annual budget deficits, one of the biggest by far would save $25 billion over 10 years, they claim, by ending an emergency welfare fund.

The Republican Study Committee, which includes more than 100 of the most conservative House Republicans, promoted the idea in a statement this week, saying, “With the national debt quickly approaching $14 trillion, Washington needs to get serious about cutting spending.”

Well, seriously, the fund expired Sept. 30.

Obviously, there’s plenty of surface-level stupidity to marvel at here. The Republican Study Committee thinks it can save $25 billion by eliminating a program that doesn’t exist. One would like to think these guys would put a little effort into their work, especially given the fact that spending cuts are presumably the issue they care about most.

But the layers of stupidity go much further. Note, for example, that the Republican Study Committee believes it can get $25 billion in savings from a program that cost $2.5 billion, which doesn’t make any sense. Also note, RSC Chairman Tom Price (Ga.) called for eliminating the program as part of “welfare reform,” which is completely crazy, given that the program is welfare reform.

And then there’s the more fundamental question: why are right-wing congressional Republicans so anxious to kill effective jobs programs?

At issue here is something called 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 subsidized jobs with private companies, nonprofits, and government agencies, and 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. Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) called it an “important social safety net program.” In July, CNN called the TANF Emergency Fund “a stimulus program even a Republican can love.”

Except, Republicans didn’t love it. After the House passed an extension, the Senate tried but came up short. Three times, Senate Democrats tried to keep the program going, and three times, the Senate GOP refused.

With unemployment near 10%, Republicans killed one of the most successful and cost-effective jobs programs in the country. And this week, because they don’t believe in doing their homework, Republicans tried to kill it again, having forgotten that it’s already dead.

Last week, much of the American electorate signaled its belief that GOP officials can be trusted to know what they’re doing. That trust is badly misplaced.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.