This week on Off the Charts, we focused on the federal budget, federal taxes, state budgets, food assistance, and Social Security.
On the federal budget, we cautioned that House-passed legislation to eliminate the “sequestration” (automatic cuts) in discretionary programs as reflected in last summer’s Budget Control Act would disproportionately affect low- and moderate-income people, we highlighted two new reports on the legislation’s effects, and Richard Kogan explained how we calculated the share of savings that would come from programs for low- and moderate-income Americans. Robert Greenstein showed that the rise in federal spending for low-income programs in recent years is due almost entirely to the economic downturn and the rise in health care costs, and that low-income programs outside of health care are not a factor in our serious long-term budget problems. And Arloc Sherman warned of the significant costs of defunding the American Community Survey (as the House voted to do this week).
On federal taxes, Chye-Ching Huang explained how implementing the Buffett Rule would improve the nation’s tax system, and Chuck Marr examined the choice before the Senate of two proposals to cut taxes on small businesses. We also featured a video of Chye-Ching and Jared Bernstein discussing the economic effects of raising federal income taxes on upper-income households.
On state budgets, Liz McNichol debunked the implicit claim of a recent Washington Post blog post that public-sector workers are vastly overpaid.
On food assistance, we featured Stacy Dean’s testimony before the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Nutrition and Horticulture on SNAP’s effectiveness in fighting hunger and lifting families out of poverty.
On Social Security, Kathy Ruffing noted that the deterioration in Social Security’s long-term finances that the 2012 trustees’ report highlights does not mean that the program is in immediate crisis. Kathy also listed some important things for policymakers to keep in mind about Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for children as they consider the program’s future, and Donna Pavetti emphasized that efforts to improve SSI for children should build on the stability it already provides for families.