Former Federal Reserve vice chairman Alan Blinder makes an excellent suggestion in today’s Wall Street Journal: Congress should let the Bush tax cuts for people earning over $250,000 expire in December and use the savings to pay for jobless benefits and other programs that “put more spending into the economy than the tax hike takes out, thus creating jobs.”
BEYOND THE NUMBERS
This week on Off the Charts, we examined ways to address high levels of unemployment, state budget and tax issues, preventive health care services in health reform, what to do about the soon-to-expire Bush tax cuts, and possible improvements to the WIC nutrition program for low-income mothers and children.
Most states started their 2011 fiscal year on July 1, and we’ve updated our analysis of the budget shortfalls — that is, the gaps between revenues and spending — that states closed when adopting their budgets. As the map shows, nearly every state faced a shortfall for 2011; in 18 states, the shortfall exceeded a fifth of the state’s spending.
Millions of Americans will soon be able to receive preventive health care services free of charge under rules the White House issued yesterday to help implement the health reform law. The new rules will likely mean fewer unnecessary deaths from diseases like cancer and diabetes, reduced spending on costly and avoidable illnesses, and a healthier population overall.
Several states, including Maryland and New Jersey, have reported a decline in their millionaire population in the past couple of years, and advocates for cutting taxes have been quick to argue that this shows high-income residents are fleeing to other states with lower taxes.
Congress is back in session and will consider extending the parts of last year’s Recovery Act that have provided extra weeks of jobless benefits and aid to cash-strapped states. The graphs below show why it needs to do both.
Tomorrow a House committee will consider a bill to renew the WIC program, which provides carefully selected foods and nutrition services to 9 million low-income pregnant and postpartum women and young children. As I explained in this paper (and this blog post and this podcast), the program spends about $90 million extra each year on higher-priced infant formula with ingredients that supposedly boost children’s health and development — but it has no idea whether these ingredients actually work. Congress now has a chance to address the issue.
Tomorrow morning the Senate Finance Committee begins debate on what to do with the Bush tax cuts, which are set to expire at the end of the year. Here’s some homework to prepare for this important hearing:
South Carolina is one of 30-odd states that are using the TANF Emergency Fund to help create nearly 200,000 subsidized jobs across the country — and one of many states that will have to start shutting down their programs in the next few weeks if Congress fails to extend the fund. States are using the fund, which Congress created in last year’s Recovery Act, to help cover the wages for private- or public-sector jobs for low-income parents and youth, including people who would otherwise qualify for cash assistance through the regular TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) program.