This week on Off the Charts, we focused on the payroll tax cut, unemployment insurance (UI), federal taxes, health policy, state budgets, and our special series on safety net programs.
- On the payroll tax cut, Richard Kogan explained why the cut in non-defense discretionary funding in the House payroll tax-UI bill would likely lead to cuts in important programs such as education, housing, and Head Start, rather than an extension of the current pay freeze for federal employees (which will likely occur anyway).
- On UI, Chad Stone pointed to new data showing that 3.3 million people would lose benefits under the House payroll tax-UI bill, compared with extending current law. He also debunked the claim that UI benefits have dissuaded millions of unemployed workers from taking a job.
- On federal taxes, Chye-Ching Huang noted a recent Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) study that found large and growing income inequality in the United States and other countries and suggested ways to address it.
- On health policy, Paul Van de Water highlighted our report on the problems with the new Ryan-Wyden premium support proposal for Medicare. Edwin Park discussed why allowing insurers, as part of health reform, to measure the health status of their enrollees themselves would create a greater risk of error and fraud. Judy Solomon also cautioned that a provision in the House payroll tax-UI bill to hike health reform subsidy repayments would likely cause 170,000 people to go without subsidized health coverage.
- On state budgets, Phil Oliff explained why Florida Governor Rick Scott’s proposed increase in education funding would still leave the state in a big education funding hole.
- On our special series on safety net programs, Arloc Sherman explained that these programs have held the line against poverty and hardship but warned that the expiration of temporary programs and coming budget cuts threaten to weaken the safety net. Donna Pavetti emphasized the need for Congress to improve TANF upon its renewal in 2012, and Barbara Sard discussed the role of federal housing assistance in fighting homelessness and helping families obtain decent housing.
In other news, we released reports on the House UI proposal, a provision in the House payroll tax bill that would threaten health reform, a balanced budget amendment before the Senate, the Ryan-Wyden Medicare premium support proposal, key things to know about unemployment insurance, and problems with allowing insurers to withhold data on enrollees’ health status.