This week on Off the Charts, we focused on the federal budget and taxes, poverty, and health care.
On the federal budget and taxes, Robert Greenstein explained that Senator Pat Toomey’s deficit-reduction proposal includes only modest revenues and then effectively takes revenues off the table for the future rounds of deficit reduction that would be needed. Paul Van de Water advised that Medicare could face large and damaging cuts as part of deficit reduction if policymakers do not include significant revenues in a deficit package.
Chye-Ching Huang detailed how across-the-board cuts in tax rates disproportionately benefit higher-income people and clarified that letting tax rates on capital gains and dividends rise next year as scheduled would have little or no impact on most elderly households. She also described how tax proposals from House and Senate Republican leaders would extend lucrative estate-tax breaks to the three wealthiest of every 1,000 estates while terminating tax-credit improvements for working-poor and near-poor families and students.
On poverty, Arloc Sherman discussed expectations that the Census Bureau will announce in September that the poverty rate in 2011 reached its highest point since 1965, explaining that the comparison to 1965 is misleading because the official poverty measure ignores non-cash benefits that have expanded substantially over the past half century and, as a result, reduced the reality of poverty.
On health care, Paul Van de Water discussed new Congressional Budget Office estimates showing, as CBO’s two earlier estimates did, that health reform will reduce the deficit. Judy Solomon explained that the Treasury Department’s preliminary interpretation of one piece of health reform could leave many families without a path to affordable coverage, potentially affecting an estimated 460,000 children.