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In Case You Missed It...


Off The Charts will be on vacation until the New Year ­— but you may hear from us earlier than that if events in Washington, such as negotiations between the White House and Congress over the “fiscal cliff,” warrant it.

This week on Off the Charts, we focused on the “fiscal cliff” negotiations, safety net programs, housing, state budgets and taxes, and health reform.

  • On the “fiscal cliff” negotiations, Robert Greenstein described how the tax and budget bills that were supposed to come before the House for votes last night would have proved a massive windfall for the wealthiest Americans while cutting deeply into basic assistance and services for millions of our poorest and most vulnerable people.  Greenstein also responded to Robert Kuttner’s criticism of our openness to the chained CPI in calculating both annual cost-of-living adjustments in Social Security and other benefits and annual inflation adjustments to various features of the tax code.  Chye-Ching Huang illustrated two things that you probably don’t know about Speaker Boehner’s “Plan B.”  James Horney corrected misguided claims that President Obama’s latest offer in the “fiscal cliff” negotiations is too light on spending cuts and showed that, when counting spending cuts enacted in last year’s Budget Control Act, this offer results in a total of $1.9 trillion in program cuts.  Finally, we pointed to Robert Greenstein’s Huffington Post column explaining why lavishing a new tax cut for the heirs and heiresses of the nation’s hugest estates would be a disgrace.
  • On safety net programs, James Horney urged that, in crafting a “backstop” mechanism to guarantee that promised deficit savings come to fruition, policymakers should extend a quarter-century practice of protecting low-income programs.  Chuck Marr described how “Plan B” would push millions of working parents and their children into poverty by failing to extend tax-credit improvements for low-income working families.  Stacy Dean explained that any cuts to funding for SNAP would cause further hardship, coming on top of significant reductions already scheduled for next November.
  • On housing, Douglas Rice highlighted our newly updated state-by-state fact sheets on federal rental assistance, showing that the problem of low-income families struggling to afford rental housing is serious in every state.
  • On state budgets and taxes, Nick Johnson pointed out that big cuts in federal grants to states are almost certain to happen as a result of funding caps already enacted by Congress.  Michael Leachman showed that more cuts to these federal grants to states and localities could damage education, low-income programs, clean water programs, law enforcement, and a host of other services. Michael Mazerov listed several reasons why states should levy taxes on sales of digital goods and services.
  • On health reform, Sarah Lueck noted that the House continues to try to enact legislation to repeal federal grants that would help states establish and run health exchanges, a critical element of health reform.  Shelby Gonzales explained how federal performance bonuses give states a powerful incentive to improve their eligibility and enrollment processes in health programs such as Medicaid and CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program).

In other news, we released a paper on the differences between President Obama’s latest tax offer and Speaker Boehner’s “Plan B,” as well as state-by-state fact sheets (and their methodology) on federal rental assistance.  We also updated our backgrounder on the number of weeks of unemployment benefits available in each state and our review of state government SNAP websites.