Mapping Schools’ Adoption of Community Eligibility

February 27, 2015 at 9:00 am

These interactive maps show the extent to which eligible school districts and schools in each state have adopted community eligibility, which allows qualifying high-poverty schools to offer breakfast and lunch to all students at no charge.  Along with our new report, searchable database, and guide to promoting community eligibility, they’re designed to help parent organizations, teachers, and other stakeholders in low-income communities identify which schools and school districts have taken up the option and which others could benefit from it the next school year.… Read more

Growing Incarceration Contributed Little to Drop in Crime, Study Finds

February 26, 2015 at 1:33 pm

Increased incarceration has contributed next to nothing to the sharp drop in crime over the past 25 years, a recent Brennan Center for Justice report finds. This research, along with other recent analysis challenging the belief that incarcerating a bigger share of offenders and for longer periods would significantly reduce crime, suggests that states would be better off spending less on locking people up and more on education, mental health, and substance abuse treatment.

As our report on criminal justice reform explains, most states’ prison populations are at historic highs; in 36 states, the prison population has more than tripled as a share of state population since 1978 (see graph).  … Read more

The Risks of Dynamic Scoring

February 26, 2015 at 11:06 am

In a guest TaxVox blog post for the Tax Policy Center’s series on “dynamic scoring,” I discuss some of the risks of a new House rule requiring dynamic scoring for official cost estimates of tax reform and other major legislation.  Under dynamic scoring, those estimates would incorporate estimates of how legislation would affect the size of the U. S. economy and, in turn, federal revenues and spending.

Dynamic estimates vary widely depending on the models and assumptions used.  I conclude that to make sense of those scores, policymakers will need more information about the models and assumptions than the House rule requires:

The House rule allows the House to use any increase in revenue from highly uncertain estimates of macroeconomic growth to pay for other policies.

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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.

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Could Your School District Streamline Its Breakfast and Lunch Programs?

February 25, 2015 at 4:14 pm

Community eligibility supports Congress’ longstanding goal of reducing paperwork for high-poverty schools by enabling them to offer breakfast and lunch at no charge to all students without collecting and processing individual meal applications.  In its first year of nationwide implementation, more than 14,000 high-poverty schools serving more than 6.6 million children have adopted the option.  Our new report and searchable database help parent organizations, teachers, and other stakeholders in low-income communities identify which school districts have adopted community eligibility and which others could benefit from it in the next school year.… Read more

Disability Insurance: An Essential Part of Social Security

February 24, 2015 at 11:12 am

With a House subcommittee holding a hearing tomorrow on the future of Disability Insurance (DI), policymakers need to understand that DI is an essential part of Social Security.

Social Security is much more than a retirement program.  It pays modest but guaranteed benefits when someone with a steady work history dies, retires, or becomes severely disabled. Although nobody likes to think that serious sickness or injury might knock them out of the workforce, a young person starting a career today has a one-third chance of dying or qualifying for DI before reaching Social Security’s full retirement age.… Read more

“Generational Accounting” Is Misleading and Uninformative

February 24, 2015 at 9:55 am

The topic of “generational accounting” will likely surface when economist Lawrence Kotlikoff, who helped develop the approach over 20 years ago, testifies at tomorrow’s Senate Budget Committee hearing.  Generational accounting purports to compare the effects of federal budget policies on people born in different years.  But it’s far more likely to obscure than illuminate the budget picture, as we have explained.

Generational accounting calculates “lifetime net tax rates” for each one-year cohort of the population through at least age 90 and a separate lifetime net tax rate for all future generations combined. … Read more

Spreading the Word About How to Make Schools Hunger-Free

February 23, 2015 at 1:09 pm

This spring, high-poverty schools that haven’t yet adopted the Community Eligibility Provision — which allows them to serve breakfast and lunch free to all students — will have a new opportunity to elect it for next year.  Our new guide explains how key stakeholders like parent organizations, teachers, and others can promote the option among educators and school nutrition administrators.  Schools that learn about the benefits of community eligibility will be hard-pressed to pass up the opportunity to simplify their programs and better prepare their students to learn.… Read more

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.
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Wisconsin’s Growing Cost of Not Adopting Medicaid Expansion

February 20, 2015 at 1:05 pm

Governor Scott Walker’s decision not to adopt health reform’s Medicaid expansion will cost the state $345 million in forgone budget savings over the next two fiscal years, the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimates.  That’s $30 million more than the bureau estimated in August.  (The August report also estimated that adopting the expansion would have saved the state $206 million in the past two years.)

Under health reform, the federal government picks up 100 percent of the cost of expanding Medicaid through 2016 and at least 90 percent thereafter. … Read more

Reducing Medicare Advantage Overpayments

February 19, 2015 at 12:22 pm

Ahead of Friday’s announcement of Medicare’s preliminary payment rates and policies for Medicare Advantage insurers in 2016, insurers have launched an advertising campaign claiming that potential payment changes would undermine the program.  For numerous reasons, it’s hard to take these doom-and-gloom predictions seriously.

For starters, Medicare Advantage continues to thrive — enrollment has reached an all-time high and is expected to keep growing in 2016, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) — despite health reform’s ongoing, much-needed effort to curb overpayments to insurers.… Read more

Netherlands Not a Model for U.S. Disability Reforms

February 18, 2015 at 3:06 pm

Critics of Social Security Disability Insurance (DI) often cite the Netherlands —  where several rounds of disability reform have tightened eligibility, trimmed benefits, and imposed greater responsibilities on employers — as a possible model.  But while the Dutch experience may provide useful insights, here are some things you need to know:

  • The Netherlands spends far more than the United States on disability benefits. Even after the reforms, Dutch spending (as a share of gross domestic product or GDP) ranks near the top among the 34 advanced countries tallied by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
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