In Case You Missed It…

February 27, 2015 at 3:24 pm

This week on Off the Charts, we focused on the federal budget and taxes, food assistance, Disability Insurance, and state budgets.

  • On the federal budget and taxes, Paul Van de Water explained some of the problems with “generational accounting.”  Chye-Ching Huang warned of the risks of using “dynamic scoring” for tax reform and other major legislation.
  • On food assistance, we excerpted Robert Greenstein’s congressional testimony on SNAP’s track record of eliminating severe hunger and malnutrition.  Zoë Neuberger highlighted our new report on how many schools have adopted the community eligibility option to reduce hunger.  Becca Segal called on community leaders, child advocates, and policymakers to spread the word about the benefits of community eligibility and mapped the participating schools.
  • On Disability Insurance, Kathy Ruffing explained why it’s an essential component of Social Security.
  • On state budgets, Michael Mitchell highlighted a report from the Brennan Center for Justice that finds growing incarceration contributed little to the sharp drop in crime in recent decades.

This week we released papers on how the Hatch-Upton proposal for the Children’s Health Insurance Program could weaken children’s health coverage and on the number of schools adopting community eligibility. We posted Robert Greenstein’s testimony on the importance of SNAP.  We updated our database on schools adopting community eligibility, our paper on why the excise tax on medical devices should not be repealed, and our backgrounder on unemployment insurance.

CBPP’s Chart of the Week – From Robert Greenstein’s testimony before the House Agriculture Committee:

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

Crying Crisis
US News & World Report
February 27, 2015

Tax Increases Much-Regretted Necessity for Republican Governors
February 23, 2015

Walmart Changes the Debate on Minimum Wage
The Fiscal Times
February 20, 2015

Is Welfare Reform Causing Earlier Deaths?
The Nation
February 17, 2015

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

Greenstein Testifies on SNAP

February 25, 2015 at 4:44 pm

Testifying at a House Agriculture Committee hearing this morning, CBPP President Robert Greenstein discussed SNAP’s track record of eliminating severe hunger and malnutrition in the United States, as well as its growth in response to economic conditions and need.  His oral remarks are below; click here for his written testimony.

Mr. Chairman, thank you for inviting me and for the opportunity to be here today. I’ve been working on this program for over 40 years, and had the privilege at one point in the late 1970s to serve as the Administrator of the Food and Nutrition Service.

I think Doug [Douglas Besharov, professor at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy, who also testified] and I agree that SNAP has played the central role in eliminating severe hunger and malnutrition in this country.  This led former Senator Bob Dole to call it the nation’s most important social program advance since Social Security.

And over the years, SNAP has taken advantage of modern technology and business practice to become more efficient and accurate.  Its error rate is now at an all-time low.  Fewer than 1 percent of benefits are issued to ineligible households.

SNAP’s benefits are relatively modest.  They average about $1.40 per person per meal.

Benefits are also highly targeted by need.  92 percent of SNAP benefits go to households with monthly incomes below the poverty line, 57 percent to families below half the poverty line.

SNAP can help families bridge temporary hardship until they get back on their feet.  Between 2008 and 2012, about half of all new entrants to SNAP participated for one year or less and then left the program.

SNAP also appears to have important long-term positive effects on children.  A recent study [based on data from the rollout of SNAP in the late 1960s and early 1970s] found that children who had received SNAP had much higher high school graduation rates and better health — including less obesity — in adulthood than comparable low-income children who didn’t have SNAP.  And women who’d had access to SNAP in childhood had higher earnings and lower rates of welfare receipt in adulthood.

Now, SNAP participation and costs have grown in recent years.  Both CBO [the Congressional Budget Office] and other analysts have found the biggest reason by far is the economy.  The next most important reason has been an increase in the share of eligible families — especially low-income working families — who participate.

In 2002, only 43 percent of eligible low-income working families participated.  In 2012, 72 percent did.

Congress and the Bush and Clinton Administrations concluded that some aspects of SNAP were making it unnecessarily hard for working-poor families to enroll.  They concluded that if families leaving welfare for low-paid work lost their SNAP benefits at the same time, and had difficulty feeding their families, that would be contrary to welfare-reform goals.  Most of the policy changes, for example, that Doug lists in his testimony and were made since 2000 were made to better serve low-income working families.

As this chart indicates, SNAP has made major progress here — the share of SNAP families who are on welfare has plummeted; the share who work has increased pretty dramatically.

This brings me to the biggest cause of SNAP’s recent growth — the deep problems in the economy, from which we’re only starting now to make substantial progress.  Some people look at the growth in SNAP caseloads and wonder if they’ll ever come down.

But the best assessment is that as the recovery finally reaches ordinary families, caseloads and costs will drop significantly.

That is CBO’s assessment.  Caseloads have dropped by about 1.5 million people since the end of 2012 and now stand at about 46 million; CBO projects they will drop to below 33 million over the coming decade.

And, when budget analysts, whether they are conservative or liberal, ask if federal programs are growing in ways that add to the nation’s fiscal challenges, they ask if program costs are rising as a share of the economy — growing as a share of GDP.  CBO’s projection for SNAP is that its costs will decline as a share of the economy as the economic recovery continues, and by 2020, be all of the way back to their 1995 level, as a share of GDP.

Finally, does SNAP discourage people from working?  The conclusion of a team of leading researchers who examined all research in the field is that SNAP does not pose significant work disincentives and its effect on the amount that people work is small.

Indeed, Census data show that of people who worked before enrolling in SNAP, 96 percent then worked in the year after beginning to get SNAP benefits, which suggests turning to SNAP does not lead people to cease working.

SNAP’s work requirements are stronger than is often realized.  SNAP has the single toughest work requirement of any federal program — people aged 18-50 who are not raising children are limited to three months of SNAP out of every three years, unless they’re working at least half time.  Job search does not count; if you can’t find a job, you’re out after three months.  This requirement was suspended in much of the country when the economy was weak, but it’s now coming back.  At least 1 million such people will be removed from the program between now and the end of 2016.

Now, that doesn’t mean that SNAP can’t do better in helping people gain jobs, and the recent Farm Bill establishes demonstration projects to learn how to do that more effectively.

In conclusion, SNAP is a lifeline for millions of people.  The program can be improved.  But it’s worth noting that when the Simpson-Bowles commission and the Domenici-Rivlin deficit reduction task force called for substantial budget cuts, they both excluded cuts in SNAP, given its strong track record in improving access to food — and reducing poverty and hardship — for millions of our less-fortunate fellow Americans.

Thank you.

In Case You Missed It . . .

February 20, 2015 at 4:36 pm

This week on Off the Charts, we focused on health policy, Social Security, and the federal budget.

  • On health policy, Edwin Park explained how policymakers could reduce overpayments to Medicare Advantage plans. Jesse Cross-Call noted that Wisconsin’s failure to adopt health reform’s Medicaid expansion is proving costly for the state.
  • On Social Security, Kathy Ruffing showed why the Netherlands is not a model for Disability Insurance reform, contrary to some claims.
  • On the federal budget, Richard Kogan set the record straight on the causes and meaning of the recent reestimate of student loan costs.

This week, we released a paper on sequestration and its impact on non-defense appropriations.  We also updated our papers on strengthening the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for childless workers, extending key EITC and Child Tax Credit provisions, and why states should adopt or expand their own EITCs, as well as our backgrounders on unemployment insurance and income inequality.

CBPP’s Chart of the Week – From Our Paper on the Impact of Sequestration:

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

Scott Walker Is One Of The Few Governors Still Cutting Higher-Ed Spending
February 17, 2015

Aid to Needy Often Excludes the Poorest in America
New York Times
February 16, 2015

Republicans Eye Changes to Food-Stamp Program
The Wall Street Journal
February 11, 2015

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


In Case You Missed It . . .

February 13, 2015 at 4:17 pm

This week on Off the Charts, we focused on federal taxes, state taxes, health reform, Social Security, housing, and the safety net.

  • On federal taxes, Chuck Marr warned against making “tax extenders” permanent without offsetting the cost, and Brandon DeBot noted the House Ways and Means Committee’s approval of more extenders bills. Marr also pointed to a double standard in how lawmakers view tax compliance, depending on whether low-income working families or small businesses are at issue.
  • On state taxes, Michael Mazerov highlighted an effort to make state and local tax breaks for businesses more transparent.
  • On health reform, Tara Straw pointed to our new guide to help tax preparers understand the new tax-filing rules related to health reform. Jessica Schubel discussed how states can (and can’t) change the way they implement health reform through waivers.
  • On Social Security, Kathy Ruffing rebutted claims that Disability Insurance is in crisis. Paul Van de Water showed that approval rates for Disability Insurance benefits have fallen due to greater oversight.
  • On housing, Douglas Rice listed three takeaways from the President’s budget for the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Barbara Sard described how federal rental assistance isn’t keeping up with need.
  • On the safety net, Zoë Neuberger explained that the WIC nutrition program works best under a science-based approach. Brynne Keith-Jennings showed how SNAP (food stamp) costs are falling.  Ife Floyd noted that funding for effective home visiting programs will soon expire.  

This week we updated our reports on the decline in SNAP costs and the cost of making tax extenders permanent.  We updated our backgrounders on unemployment insurance and state supermajority rules to raise revenues and 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:

Another Day, Another House Bill That Proves Republicans Don’t Care About the Deficit
New Republic
February 12, 2015

This Chart: Social Security Disability ‘Crisis’ Might Already Be Over
Talking Points Memo
February 12, 2015

GOP governors want higher education cuts to recoup budget shortfalls
February 10, 2015

GOP health care plan emblematic of party’s dilemma
February 9, 2015

Republicans planning stealth attack on Social Security, Democrats fear
Washington Post
February 9, 2015

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



In Case You Missed It…

February 6, 2015 at 4:43 pm

This week on Off the Charts, we focused on President Obama’s fiscal year 2016 budget, federal taxes, jobs, health reform, and the safety net.

  • On the President’s budget, we excerpted Robert Greenstein’s statement. David Reich described why the budget’s proposed sequestration relief makes sense over the short and long term.  Chuck Marr praised the budget’s restoration of a large share of the recent IRS funding cuts.  Chye-Ching Huang previewed the President’s tax proposals and analyzed his proposed transition tax on offshore profits.  Robert Greenstein argued that the President’s tax proposals are more progressive than some have interpreted them to be.  January Angeles pointed out that the budget’s proposal to reinstate a boost in Medicaid payments for primary care would improve access to care.  Shelby Gonzales noted proposals in the budget that would help enroll more eligible children and adults in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.  Barbara Sard described the budget’s funding boost for Housing Choice Vouchers to help low-income families afford housing.  Kathy Ruffing highlighted the budget’s proposals to preserve disability benefits while promoting thoughtful reforms.
  • On federal taxes, Chye-Ching Huang pointed out that the Paul-Boxer “repatriation tax holiday” would cost money so couldn’t finance highway construction.
  • On jobs, Chad Stone illustrated the January employment figures. Michael Leachman reported that states and localities cut 4,000 jobs in January.
  • On health reform, Jessica Schubel explained that Indiana’s Medicaid expansion waiver will require close watch to see whether it will meet its coverage goals and enrollees will get the care they need.
  • On the safety net, Ed Bolen detailed how Maine’s cut in SNAP benefits foreshadows cuts for low-income, unemployed adults in other states. Kathy Ruffing listed recent expert recommendations to make Social Security’s disability programs more efficient.

This week, Robert Greenstein released a statement on the President’s budget and Chad Stone released a statement on January’s jobs report. We published papers on the President’s proposed sequestration relief and the Affordable Care Act’s State Innovation Waivers.  We also updated our backgrounder on unemployment insurance and our chart book on the legacy of the Great Recession. 

CBPP’s Chart of the Week – From Our Report on Proposed Sequestration Relief:



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

Why Obama wants to tax overseas corporate profits
CBS News
February 2, 2015

Obama’s Proposed Budget Seeks More for Education
The Wall Street Journal
February 2, 2015

Obamacare is costing way less than expected
February 2, 2015

Critics assail proposed tax holiday for roads
The Hill
January 30, 2015

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