This week on Off the Charts, we focused on the federal budget, state budgets, income inequality, health care, and food assistance.
On the federal budget, Richard Kogan explained that recent Bipartisan Policy Center estimates of the automatic cuts (“sequestration”) in defense funding scheduled for next January are based on questionable assumptions and do not present a realistic look at sequestration. Hannah Shaw noted that a group of Northeastern states have raised more than $1 billion through auctions of carbon dioxide permits — a system the federal government should also consider to generate additional revenue and limit carbon dioxide pollution.
On state budgets, Michael Leachman commended North Dakota voters for voting down a constitutional ban on property taxes, which would have eliminated a key, stable revenue source, and Michael Mazerov emphasized the need for Congress to set rules that would lessen the damage to state and local treasuries and economies being wreaked by the Supreme Court’s Quill Corporation v. North Dakota decision (in light of the decision’s 20th anniversary).
On income inequality, Chad Stone highlighted recent Federal Reserve data showing that wealth is even more concentrated than income, with 75 percent of wealth held by the top 10 percent of families.
On health care, Edwin Park warned that a claim about lower-than-expected spending by the Medicare Part D drug benefit in a recent Heritage Foundation blog post relies on faulty calculations, and Shannon Spillane outlined three important opportunities that will be lost if the Supreme Court fails to uphold health reform. Shelby Gonzales also discussed the Center’s new toolkit, which provides states with guidance for approaching and implementing the eligibility changes in health reform and resulting changes in how families access SNAP and other programs.
On food assistance, Stacy Dean highlighted a Center video on the role of SNAP as the nation’s first line of defense against hunger — an important reminder as the Senate debates the farm bill, which authorizes the program. Zoë Neuberger pointed to new data from the Center and the Food Research and Action Center showing that the “community eligibility” provision in the 2010 child nutrition reauthorization law is helping to expand the reach of the school meals program. Zoë also stressed that Congress should resist pressure from the potato industry to force the Agriculture Department to add white potatoes to the limited list of foods it has approved for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, commonly known as WIC.