Rep. Cantor's "YouCut" Aims To Slash Jobs Program

May 19, 2010 9:27 am ET — Matt Finkelstein

Last week, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) announced a new Republican effort to eliminate wasteful spending called "YouCut."  The program allows Americans to vote online for spending cuts they want to see enacted, although critics have dismissed it as another "gimmick" that won't actually lead to significant savings. 

Yesterday, Cantor announced the results of YouCut's first installment.  As reported by Roll Call:

Minority Whip Eric Cantor (Va.) announced Tuesday that a $2.5 billion welfare program will be the first project marked for elimination through the House Republican YouCut initiative.

The welfare emergency fund won the first YouCut poll with 29.07 percent of the online vote, edging out four other government programs that Republicans identified as "wasteful."

In a press release, Cantor boasted, "YouCut is unequivocal proof that the American people are demanding action in Washington."

Of course, the results prove little beyond the fact that House Republicans can get 280,000 people -- less than 0.1% of the U.S. population -- to respond to a poll (and only a fraction of those voted for the winning proposal). 

What's more, the program targeted for elimination, a Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) emergency fund, isn't actually wasteful at all.  The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities called YouCut's description of the program "wildly inaccurate," explaining:

  • The Emergency Fund will enable states to place 186,000 unemployed individuals in subsidized jobs by the end of the summer. It's the largest subsidized employment effort states have ever taken under TANF, the national block grant created by the 1996 welfare reform law. (More details here and here). A large share of the jobs are in the private sector.
  • The claim that the Emergency Fund "incentivizes states to increase their welfare caseloads" is simply wrong. States don't have to increase their caseloads to qualify for money from the Emergency Fund. In fact, some states whose caseloads have sharply declined despite the recession have used money from the fund to help create subsidized jobs for low-income parents and youth or to provide one-time assistance to families in crisis (such as help paying a back rent or utility bill for a family facing eviction). In addition, states have to contribute 20 percent of the costs. [...]

The nation's governors know the facts about the TANF Emergency Fund, and that's why both Democratic and Republican governors - such as Haley Barbour, Governor of Mississippi (and former head of the Republican National Committee) - have called on Congress to extend it.

So it turns out that YouCut is not only a gimmick, but one that could kill jobs and have a negative impact on people's lives.  If Cantor and his party can't even successfully pull off a PR stunt, why would anyone trust them to govern?