We’ve been documenting the struggles that House Republicans have been having as they attempt to claim the mantle of fiscal responsibility without laying out any real spending cuts to which anyone might object. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) epitomized this dance, saying on PBS’ Newshour that he had a path to budget balance, and then outlining cuts that amounted to less than one half of one percent of the budget.
One program upon which House Republicans have consistently seized upon to bolster their budget-cutting bona fides is the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Emergency Contingency Fund, a successful program that created 250,000 jobs in 37 states via subsidized employment programs for low-income and unemployed workers. And according to National Journal, Republicans are once again railing against the program:
House Republicans have targeted one of the first programs they would like to ax: the $25 billion emergency fund for people who lose their jobs, part of last year’s stimulus bill. Rep. Tom Price of Georgia, chairman of the Republican Study Committee, said the program encourages states to increase their welfare caseloads “without requiring able-bodied individuals to work, get job training, or make other efforts to move off of taxpayer assistance.”
As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities pointed out, Price’s characterization of the fund is completely inaccurate. The program also had the staunch support of many Republican governors, including Gov. Haley Barbour (R-MS), who said it provided “much-needed aid during this recession by enabling businesses to hire new workers, thus enhancing the economic engines of our local communities.”
But the crux of the issue is that eliminating the TANF emergency fund will save exactly zero dollars, because the program has already expired! It was funded at $5 billion for two years, and ended on September 30, 2010. It’s over, and there is no money for Price to save.
Advocates, as well as the Obama administration, have asked that Congress fund the program for an additional year for $2.5 billion. Price multiplied that over ten years to come up with his ludicrous pronouncement that he would save $25 billion by cutting the program.
This highlights the extent to which Republicans want to employ gimmickry instead of actually being honest about their budget priorities. The TANF emergency fund did precisely what it was designed to do, and Republicans are now using it to demonize the working poor and falsely point to it as an example of government waste that will yield loads of savings if it is cut.