A Dangerous Way to “Fix” American Government

October 21, 2014 at 4:21 pm

“A dangerous proposal is circulating in states across the country that could widen political divisions and jeopardize cherished rights and freedoms,” CBPP President Robert Greenstein explains today in the Washington Post’s PostEverything blog.  He continues:

The push is coming primarily from well-organized, arch-conservative groups seeking to capitalize on the decline in public trust in government to limit the federal government’s role and spending powers.  And the method they prefer is a constitutional convention — the first since the 1787 conclave that produced the U.S. Constitution.

Under the Constitution, if two-thirds of state legislatures call for a convention to amend it, one must be convened.  Some of those pushing for a convention say that 24 of the needed 34 legislatures have approved such resolutions.  Advocates of a convention have targeted more than a dozen other states and are developing lobbying campaigns to push for such resolutions there.

The implications are enormous.  At stake, potentially, are the freedoms we take for granted under the Bill of Rights; the powers of the president, Congress and the courts; and the policies the government can or cannot pursue.  Conventioneers could alter absolutely anything about the way the United States is governed.  Some say they want to terminate all federal taxes and to require super-majorities in the House and the Senate to put any new taxes in their place.  Others want to bar the government from carrying out a number of its functions, for example by constraining its ability to regulate interstate commerce.  Whatever changes a convention approved would be enshrined in the Constitution if three-fourths of the states ratified them.

Yet the processes for impaneling the convention, selecting the delegates, setting the convention’s voting rules, and determining what issues the convention would consider and how much of the Constitution it would seek to rewrite are a mystery.  That means that under a convention, anything goes.  There are no rules, guideposts or procedures in any of these areas. . . .

Click here for the full post.

Improving Children’s Chances of a Better Life

October 21, 2014 at 2:44 pm

In a new commentary for Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity, CBPP Vice President for Housing Policy Barbara Sard outlines steps that federal, state, and local agencies can take to help tens of thousands of children and their families avoid living in violent neighborhoods of extreme poverty — and enable more of them to choose to live in low-poverty neighborhoods with high-quality schools.  Here’s the opening:

Nearly 4 million children live in low-income families that receive federal rental assistance, which not only helps them keep a roof over their heads but also has the potential to enable children to grow up in better neighborhoods with more opportunities.  Unfortunately, we’ve fallen badly short on the latter ambition.

As of 2010, only 15 percent of the children whose families participate in the major rental assistance programs lived in low-poverty neighborhoods, while 18 percent lived in very high-poverty neighborhoods.  The good news is that we can make substantial progress in the next few years — without congressional action or more federal funding — to help more families live in neighborhoods that will improve their children’s chances of a better life.

Click here for the full commentary.

In Case You Missed It…

October 17, 2014 at 4:08 pm

This week on Off the Charts, we focused on new Census data on poverty and the safety net, housing, state budgets and taxes, food assistance, health policy, and the economy.

  • On the new Census data, Danilo Trisi previewed the statistics and, after their release, explained that safety net programs cut the poverty rate nearly in half in 2013.  Brynne Keith-Jennings reported that SNAP (formerly food stamps) kept 4.8 million people, including 2.1 million children, out of poverty.  Will Fischer noted that rental assistance kept over 3 million people out of poverty.  Bryann DaSilva showed that the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit together lifted 9.4 million people out of poverty.
  • On housing, Barbara Sard described how improvements to federal rental assistance programs could substantially better low-income children’s long-term health and success.  She also detailed how housing vouchers fall short of their potential to expand children’s access to good schools in safe neighborhoods.  Douglas Rice explained that helping families move to better neighborhoods is one way to help children do better in school.
  • On state budgets and taxes, Michael Leachman highlighted our updated analysis showing that most states continue to spend less per K-12 student than before the recession.  He also pointed out that lasting cuts endanger critical education reforms.
  • On food assistance, Becca Segal underscored that schools adopting community eligibility, which allows high-poverty schools to feed all students breakfast and lunch at no charge, can continue to get needed income data even without school meal applications.
  • On health policy, Jesse Cross-Call explained why Indiana should revise its Medicaid expansion waiver proposal.
  • Onthe economy, Chad Stone excerpted his latest post for U.S. News’ Economic Intelligence blog on why the projected quickening of wage growth over the next few years won’t trigger an upward spiral of wages and prices.

We released reports on how improving federal rental assistance programs can help children’s short- and long-term success, how states’ current school funding compares to recent years, and why Indiana should significantly revise its Medicaid expansion waiver proposal.

CBPP’s Chart of the Week:

A variety of news outlets featured CBPP’s work and experts recently. Here are some highlights:

Study: Michigan’s K-12 spending 9.5 percent below pre-recession levels
MLive (MI)
October 16, 2014

Report: Oklahoma again No. 1 in nation in student spending cuts
News OK
October 16, 2014

State Education Funding Lags Behind Pre-Recession Levels
US News & World Report
October 16, 2014

How small changes to federal housing policy could make a big difference for poor kids
Washington Post
October 15, 2014

The Global Economic Slowdown And What It Means For The U.S. Recovery
The Diane Rehm Show
October 14, 2014

Don’t miss any of our posts, papers, or charts — follow us on Twitter and Instagram.  We’re still accepting internship applications for Spring 2015.  Apply today!

In Case You Missed It . . .

October 10, 2014 at 1:58 pm

This week on Off the Charts, we focused on the federal budget and taxes, the safety net, state budgets and taxes, and health reform.

  • On the federal budget and taxes, Chuck Marr listed four things we would like to know about the forthcoming tax plan from Senators Mike Lee (R-UT) and Marco Rubio (R-FL). Chye-Ching Huang showed what congressional inaction on the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit would cost working families.
  • On the safety net, we highlighted a TalkPoverty LIVE! online panel discussion where CBPP Senior Fellow Jared Bernstein discussed three policies to reduce poverty and increase economic security.
  • On state budgets and taxes, Elizabeth McNichol explained why recent changes in New Jersey’s budget practices have made a bad situation worse.
  • On health reform, Edwin Park pointed to a Government Accountability Office finding that the Administration has the authority to make health reform’s “risk corridor” payments.

We also updated our chart book on the legacy of the Great Recession.

CBPP’s Chart of the Week:

A variety of news outlets featured CBPP’s work and experts recently. Here are some highlights:

Signs of hope for workers’ wages
CBS Moneywatch
October 9, 2014

Presidents and Jobs
The New York Times
October 5, 2014

Paul Ryan Calls for Tax Cut Mischief
US News & World Report
October 3, 2014

Don’t miss any of our posts, papers, or charts — follow us on Twitter and Instagram. We’re still accepting internship applications for Spring 2015. Apply today!

Join Jared Today to Discuss Ways to Reduce Poverty

October 9, 2014 at 10:35 am

CBPP Senior Fellow Jared Bernstein will participate in a TalkPoverty LIVE! online panel discussion at 2:00 today on three policies to reduce poverty and increase economic security:

  • Raising the minimum wage and strengthening the Earned Income Tax Credit, or EITC;
  • Addressing erratic work schedules to make it possible to balance work and family;
  • Reforming the criminal justice system and re-entry policies so that criminal records do not resign people or their families to a life of poverty.

Other panelists include the Center for Law and Social Policy’s Jodie Levin-Epstein and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice’s Daryl Atkinson.  The Center for American Progress’s Rebecca Vallas will moderate.

Viewers can participate through tweets to @TalkPoverty with the hashtag #talkpovertylive and posts on the TalkPoverty.org Facebook page during the conversation.