SNAP Reduces Poverty – and More

April 9, 2012 at 4:22 pm

The Agriculture Department (USDA) reported this afternoon that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly called food stamps) lifted 3.4 million Americans out of poverty in 2009.

SNAP reduced poverty by 1.1 percentage points (cutting the poverty rate from 14.3 to 13.2 percent), according to USDA.  SNAP’s poverty-reducing effects were especially strong in 2009 due to temporary benefit increases that President Obama and Congress included in the Recovery Act that year. (The USDA report examined the effect of SNAP on poverty by adding SNAP benefits to the official poverty income measure.)

More than Half of SNAP Recipients are Children, Elderly and Disabled=

The Center has long reported on SNAP’s success in reducing poverty and, just today, we posted a “SNAP Chartbook” that highlights that and other features of this key food assistance program.

If you read it, you will also learn that SNAP benefits are modest and that SNAP serves very vulnerable people (see chart), supports working families and those who can’t work, reaches most eligible people (with some important exceptions), is efficient and effective, and represents an important public/private partnership.

View the chartbook.

In Case You Missed It…

April 6, 2012 at 4:47 pm

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

  • On the federal budget and taxes, Chad Stone identified three myths on spending, debt, and taxes that fuel conservative support for House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s budget plan. We also featured part of our analysis of the Tax Foundation’s misleading “Tax Freedom Day” report, demonstrated that middle-income families are not overtaxed, and highlighted our Policy Basic on where our federal tax dollars go in light of the upcoming tax filing deadline.
  • On the economy, Chad Stone noted that the disappointing March employment report points to an all-too-weak economic recovery, and we featured a video of Chad and Hannah Shaw discussing the March jobs report.
  • On state budgets, Nick Johnson discussed the problems with the Tax Foundation’s State “Tax Freedom Day” calculations, and Liz McNichol outlined reasons why Texas’ income tax policy is not a good model for other states. Phil Oliff also warned that states levying income taxes or reducing tax credits for low-income families will increase poverty and income inequality and explained why a common claim by proponents of taxing the incomes of low-income families is off-base. Liz McNichol also highlighted the distribution of our state tax dollars, which go largely for education and health care.
  • On health, Jesse Cross-Call explained why the Wall Street Journal’s endorsement of Rhode Island’s Medicaid waiver is based on misguided claims.

In other news, we released Chad Stone’s statement on the March employment report and analyses of the Tax Foundation’s misleading “Tax Freedom Day” report, Texas’  fiscal policy and why it should not serve as a model for other states, and the impact of state taxes on low income families.

Examining March’s Employment Report

April 6, 2012 at 3:14 pm

Chad Stone, Chief Economist, and Hannah Shaw, Research Associate, discuss the disappointing jobs report for March and what it indicates about job creation and economic growth.

Wall Street Journal’s Endorsement of Rhode Island Medicaid Full of Holes

April 6, 2012 at 2:19 pm

In an editorial today, the Wall Street Journal claims a Medicaid waiver in Rhode Island shows that states would do well and beneficiaries would not be hurt by less federal funding if policymakers converted Medicaid to a block grant.

The Journal bases its case on an unauthorized report from Rhode Island’s former Medicaid director that has been rebutted by current state officials, our own analysis, and a recent independent report in the state.  Rhode Island’s waiver was a “sweetheart deal” between the outgoing Bush Administration and the state’s governor that allowed the state to claim millions of dollars in additional federal funds in return for accepting a cap on its Medicaid spending at an inflated level that it never expected to reach anyway.

Rhode Island’s waiver did not save $1.1 billion over 18 months as the Journal claims.  Instead, it generated $23 million in state savings over three years, according to a recent independent report that Governor Lincoln Chafee commissioned.  Moreover, the report found the state has achieved additional savings by utilizing existing flexibilities available to all states for Medicaid.  These findings are consistent with our previous analysis of Rhode Island’s waiver, which showed that Rhode Island could have achieved the positive policy outcomes without a cap on federal funds.

In misrepresenting the financing of Rhode Island’s waiver, the Journal ignores the disastrous effects that a block grant would have on seniors, children, persons with disabilities, and health care providers.  Consider the block grant in the budget of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, which the House passed last week and which would slash federal Medicaid funding by 34 percent by 2022.  The Urban Institute projected that a similar block grant in last year’s House budget would have resulted in between 14 and 27 million people losing health coverage by 2021.

Where Do Our State Tax Dollars Go?

April 6, 2012 at 1:27 pm

As the April 17 tax-filing deadline approaches, we’re taking time this week to examine where our tax dollars go.  Earlier this week, we looked at what federal tax dollars pay for.  Today, we turn to the state level.

States spend more than half of our tax dollars on education and health care, on average.

Bulk of State Spending Goes To Education and Health Care

Click here for the latest update of our Policy Basic on this issue.