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BEYOND THE NUMBERS

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CBPP

This week on Off the Charts, we focused on the federal budget, federal taxes, and health care.
  • On the federal budget, we highlighted our statements on the new reports from the Social Security and Medicare trustees on the programs’ finances, and Paul Van de Water debunked the claim that the programs are going bankrupt. Kathy Ruffing clarified that while policymakers must address Social Security’s future finances, the program is not in immediate crisis. Richard Kogan contrasted President Obama’s and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s proposals to address the Pell Grant funding gap.
  • On federal taxes, Chye-Ching Huang launched our Tax Reality Series on how raising taxes at the top might affect the economy.  The first post explained that high-income people reduce their taxable income in response to tax hikes more because they adopt tax avoidance strategies than because they work, save, or invest less.  The second post showed that changes in tax rates don’t substantially affect high-income people’s decisions about how much to work.  The third post highlighted evidence that raising capital gains and dividend rates is unlikely to discourage saving and investing.
  • On health care, Paul Van de Water outlined why the Affordable Care Act’s limits on using flexible spending accounts to pay for over-the-counter medications make sense, and Judy Solomon cautioned that repealing a health reform provision related to Medicaid wouldn’t help fight fraud and would weaken health coverage. Edwin Park showed how Chairman Ryan’s proposal to block-grant Medicaid would have significantly cut federal Medicaid funds if it had been in effect since 2001, and Sarah Lueck warned that repealing funding to help states set up insurance exchanges would delay the implementation of health reform.
In other news, we issued statements from Robert Greenstein on the Social Security trustees’ report and Paul Van de Water on the Medicare trustees’ report, and released Paul Van de Water’s congressional testimony on the Affordable Care Act’s limits on flexible savings accounts. We released reports on the economic impact of raising taxes on high-income people, the approaches of the Obama budget and the Ryan budget to addressing the Pell Grant shortfall, and a House bill that would significantly cut Medicaid funding for Puerto Rico.  We also held media briefings on the Social Security and Medicare trustees’ annual reports and the economic effects of raising tax rates on top income earners.