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Linder Statement: Hearing on TANF’s Role in Providing Assistance to Struggling Families

March 11, 2010

Thank you for calling this hearing today. 

This Subcommittee has had five solo hearings in the last year. 

The first was last March, titled “protecting lower-income families while fighting global warming.”  Our Democrat colleagues discussed their plan to create the largest welfare program in American history, called “Energy Stamps.”  That policy found its way into the House-passed energy tax hike bill, which thankfully has been declared dead in the Senate.

  • Since then 2.5 million more jobs disappeared. 

Our second hearing, on Democrats’ 2009 stimulus law, was in April.  That was the bill our Democrat colleagues promised would create 3.7 million jobs, since it was all about “jobs, jobs, jobs,” as the Speaker said.

  • Since then the number of unemployed workers has soared 21 percent to a record 16 million.

Our third hearing last June was on a new $8 billion entitlement program that our colleagues stuffed into their trillion-dollar health bill. 

  • Since then an unprecedented 1.6 million people gave up trying to find a job and dropped out of the labor force.

Our fourth hearing last September was on foster care and adoption changes.  A worthy task, but presumably foster and adoptive youth will want jobs as they become adults, too. 

  • Since then the unemployment rate among people under 25 has reached a staggering 19 percent. 

Our fifth hearing, on the “safety net,” was in October.  As Chairman McDermott said then “it goes without saying job creation is our first priority.”

  • Since then the total job losses after stimulus reached 3.3 million. 

So given the incredible gulf between our hearings and reality, perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising today’s hearing is about Democrats’ desire to increase the welfare rolls.  Which they claim will somehow create jobs, presumably just like their stimulus has.  Which is to say it won’t, and will instead make matters worse.

To be fair, Democrats have already tried increasing the welfare rolls, but apparently it hasn’t worked as well as they hoped.  The latest data suggests the welfare rolls have grown about 5 percent since the stimulus law passed, and 10 percent since the recession began.  So I should give them their due and say they are now trying to increase the welfare rolls even more. 

In last year’s stimulus bill, our colleagues provided $5 billion in new welfare funds, including if States increased their welfare rolls.  But according to the latest HHS figures, States have tapped less than a third of that $5 billion, mostly because they didn’t want to spend more of their own money.  Washington can fix that.  So now Democrats propose billions more in welfare funds for States, and making that money 100% federally funded.  Because, unlike States that actually must balance budgets, Washington can spend any amount on anything, provided we call it an emergency. 

As we will hear from Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation, Democrats have two real goals here.  First, accelerate spending on welfare in the name of “stimulus.”  And second, repeal the successful 1996 welfare reforms which led to less welfare dependence and poverty, through more work and earnings. 

Mr. Chairman, Americans want us to work together to solve problems.  We should not cause more problems.  Instead of bribing states to increase welfare rolls, or fund make-work jobs that will go away as soon as the funding ends, we should help more low-income parents train for, look for, find, and keep real jobs to support their families.  That’s what the 1996 welfare reforms did.  Returning to the previous failed system will lead to more poverty and despair, not less. 

We shouldn’t do it.