In Case You Missed It . . .

December 12, 2014 at 2:25 pm

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

  • On the federal budget and taxes, Robert Greenstein explained that IRS funding cuts for 2015 will likely lead to more tax-credit errors. Paul Van de Water noted a New York Times editorial on the flaws of using “dynamic scoring” in budget estimates.
  • On inequality, we highlighted our updated paper showing that income gaps have widened significantly since the 1970s.
  • On health reform, Jesse Cross-Call pointed to new figures showing that the law’s Medicaid expansion isn’t hurting state budgets. We explained that people who bought coverage last year through the federal marketplace should re-enroll to avoid paying more than they should for coverage.
  • On the safety net, Zoë Neuberger noted that nearly 14,000 high-poverty schools across the country have adopted community eligibility this year to serve meals to all students at no charge.

This week, we released a paper on why budget and tax plans shouldn’t use dynamic scoring. We updated our backgrounder on unemployment insurance, our chart book on the legacy of the Great Recession, and our guide to historical trends in income inequality.

CBPP’s Chart of the Week – Part of our Big-Picture Look at Inequality:

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

Housing vouchers key to a better life for Morris residents
Daily Record (NJ)
December 7, 2014

Keeping Score on the Budget
New York Times
December 6, 2014

The four-decade rise in state imprisonment, in one animated GIF
Washington Post
December 3, 2014

Don’t miss any of our posts, papers, or charts — follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

Why Re-Enrolling in Federal Marketplace Makes Sense

December 12, 2014 at 12:02 pm

As of December 5, only about 720,000 customers had returned to the federally run health insurance marketplace to re-enroll or switch plans for 2015, the New York Times reports. Our recent paper explains why people who bought private health insurance last year through the marketplace could pay more than they should next year unless they return to the marketplace to renew coverage.  Next Monday is the deadline for enrolling in coverage to start January 1.

As our paper points out:

People in 34 states who enrolled in health coverage for 2014 through the Federally Facilitated Marketplace (FFM) will be automatically re-enrolled in the same plan in 2015 unless they choose a new plan through the FFM during the open enrollment season, which began November 15 (see map).  While auto-renewal is an important backstop to avoid loss of coverage, it could leave many people paying more for health care than the Affordable Care Act envisions — and more than they will pay if they go back to the Marketplace.

Unless people provide updated information and have their eligibility re-determined, most who received subsidies for marketplace coverage in 2014 will automatically receive the same dollar level of subsidies in 2015.  (These subsidies consist of advance payments of premium tax credits, which are paid to insurers on enrollees’ behalf to help cover the enrollees’ premiums.)  But since many factors that affect the level of people’s subsidies change from year to year, a high percentage of people who auto-renew will receive advance premium credits that turn out to be too low or too high.

To avert such problems, consumers need to return to the FFM (rather than auto-renewing) to receive an updated eligibility determination.  That is the only way to ensure they receive the correct level of benefits.


Our Big-Picture Look at Inequality

December 10, 2014 at 11:58 am

“The broad facts of income inequality over the past six decades are easily summarized,” our newly updated Guide to Statistics on Historical Trends in Income Inequality explains:

  • The years from the end of World War II into the 1970s were ones of substantial economic growth and broadly shared prosperity.
    • Incomes grew rapidly and at roughly the same rate up and down the income ladder, roughly doubling in inflation-adjusted terms between the late 1940s and early 1970s.
    • The income gap between those high up the income ladder and those on the middle and lower rungs — while substantial — did not change much during this period.
  • Beginning in the 1970s, economic growth slowed and the income gap widened.
    • Income growth for households in the middle and lower parts of the distribution slowed sharply, while incomes at the top continued to grow strongly. (See first graph below.)
    • The concentration of income at the very top of the distribution rose to levels last seen more than 80 years ago, during the “Roaring Twenties.” (See second graph below.)
  • Wealth — the value of a household’s property and financial assets, minus the value of its debts — is much more highly concentrated than income. The best survey data show that the top 3 percent of the distribution hold over half of all wealth.  Other research suggests that most of that is held by an even smaller percentage at the very top, whose share has been rising over the last three decades.

The guide describes common sources of income data and discusses their relative strengths and limitations in understanding income and inequality trends.  It also highlights the trends that those key data sources show and gives additional information on wealth (which helps measure how the richest Americans are doing) and poverty (which measures how the poorest Americans are doing).

In Case You Missed It…

December 5, 2014 at 3:30 pm

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

  • On state budgets and taxes, Michael Mitchell mapped the large growth in state prison populations in recent decades. Nicholas Johnson presented a video highlighting the State Priorities Partnership, a network of 41 independent organizations working to improve state budget policies.
  • On the federal budget and taxes, Chye-Ching Huang pointed out that a reported congressional “tax extender” package included costly expansions of tax cuts.
  • On the safety net, Zoë Neuberger highlighted features of the school meal programs that make it easier for children whose families are going through especially hard times to obtain school meals. Kathy Ruffing explained why reapportioning payroll taxes between Social Security’s disability and retirement trust funds wouldn’t jeopardize retirees.
  • On health reform, Paul Van de Water listed six ways it helps middle-class Americans.
  • On jobs, Chad Stone illustrated the latest employment figures.

This week Chad Stone issued a statement on the November employment report.  We released papers on how policymakers often overstate marginal tax rates for lower-income workers and why boosting the Disability Insurance share of the payroll tax would not harm retirees.  We also revised our paper on how many veteran and armed-forces families receive working-family tax credits and updated our backgrounders on the Child Tax Credit, Earned Income Tax Credit, and unemployment insurance.

CBPP’s Chart of the Week – the Growth in State Prison Populations

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

The four-decade rise in state imprisonment, in one animated GIF
Washington Post
December 3, 2014

N.J. incarceration rate has more than tripled since 1978 but down from peak
December 3, 2014

Paul Ryan hypocrisy watch: Episode infinity
December 3, 2014

Don’t miss any of our posts, papers, or charts — follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

In Case You Missed It…

November 26, 2014 at 1:03 pm

Off the Charts will take a break over the Thanksgiving weekend, but we’ll be back on our regular schedule on Monday.  To mark the Thanksgiving holiday, we ran a short series this week on some of the hardships that many American families face and the programs that help them make ends meet and improve their lives.

  • Douglas Rice explained that many American children won’t have a safe, stable home this holiday season, in part due to inadequate funding and significant cuts to federal rental assistance programs.
  • Brynne Keith-Jennings noted that the need for food assistance remains high and that SNAP (formerly food stamps) helps millions of families afford an adequate diet.
  • Stacy Dean explained why states and localities should redouble efforts to connect eligible people to safety-net programs like SNAP and Medicaid.

This week, we released a paper on why the emerging “tax extenders” package in Congress marks a significant step backward on several key issues facing the nation.  We also updated our chart book on the legacy of the Great Recession.

CBPP’s Chart of the Week – From Our Report on Tax Extenders

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

White House threatens to veto tax deal
November 25, 2014

Obama Threatens To Veto Corporate Tax Cut Deal For Locking Out Middle Class
Huffington Post
November 25, 2014

The University of California just jacked up its tuition. Why your state could be next.
November 21, 2014