SNAP Spending Falling, as Expected

February 9, 2015 at 2:50 pm

SNAP (formerly food stamps) spending has begun to decline as a share of the economy, as the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and other experts expected, our newly updated report shows.

  • SNAP spending fell as a share of the economy in 2014, after stabilizing in 2012 and 2013. Spending fell by just over a tenth in 2014 as a share of gross domestic product or GDP (see graph).  SNAP spending also fell in 2014 by nearly a tenth after adjusting for inflation.
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Making State and Local Tax Breaks for Businesses More Transparent

February 9, 2015 at 12:09 pm

State and local tax breaks to encourage certain activities, like saving for college or locating a business in a specific neighborhood, have become very costly and deserve as much scrutiny as government spending.  But, for the public, identifying these so-called “tax expenditures” can be difficult, and finding out their cost is often impossible.

The Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB), which sets the rules that states and localities generally follow in preparing their annual financial reports, is developing a proposal that would go far toward solving this problem. … Read more

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.  
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State and Local Jobs Fell in January

February 6, 2015 at 4:14 pm

While today’s jobs report shows that the economy added jobs at a healthy pace in January, job growth could have been even stronger if states and localities hadn’t cut 4,000 positions.

About a third of the lost jobs were for teachers and others working in K-12 schools, preliminary data suggest.  The rest were non-education jobs at the state level, a category that includes state police, public health employees, and child protective workers.

The January job losses further slowed the already very weak recovery for state and local government jobs. … Read more

Today’s Jobs Report in Pictures

February 6, 2015 at 10:16 am

Today’s strong jobs report shows continuing labor market improvement but also continuing significant “slack” — people who are not working but want to be, or people who want to work full time but can only find part-time jobs.  Prominent among those struggling to find work are the roughly three-in-ten jobless workers who’ve been looking for a job for 27 weeks or longer.

Click here for my statement with further analysis.

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Making Social Security Disability Programs More Efficient

February 5, 2015 at 4:42 pm

An expert panel recommends sensible steps to strengthen program integrity in Social Security’s Disability Insurance (DI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs so that disability benefits go only to eligible people and in the correct amounts.  The panel, appointed by the Social Security Advisory Board, has outlined improvements in continuing disability reviews (CDRs) as well as other program-integrity tools in the Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) kit.

Lawmakers should support SSA’s ability to deploy these proven tools instead of making erroneous charges that disability benefits are easy to get or rife with fraud.… Read more

Paul-Boxer Repatriation Tax Holiday May Hide True Long-Term Costs

February 5, 2015 at 12:44 pm

Explaining why the “repatriation tax holiday” proposal from Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) actually would lose revenues (so it couldn’t pay for highway construction as they claim), we cited a 2014 Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) analysis showing that a new holiday would expand deficits.  The Paul-Boxer holiday is designed to push more of its revenue losses outside the ten-year budget window, thereby hiding the true long-term cost.  But, like any repatriation holiday, it would bleed revenues for decades.… Read more

Maine’s SNAP Cutoff Foreshadows Tough Times for Poor Jobless Workers

February 4, 2015 at 1:16 pm

Maine cut several thousand people off SNAP (food stamps) this month after re-imposing a time limit on benefits for childless adults who aren’t working at least 20 hours per week — regardless of how hard they’re looking for a job.  The move foreshadows tough times for very poor unemployed workers across the country who can’t find work as the time limit returns in more areas.  Up to 1 million low-income unemployed adults risk losing SNAP benefits over the course of 2016.… Read more

Obama Budget Would Preserve Disability Benefits While Promoting Thoughtful Reforms

February 4, 2015 at 11:17 am

The President’s 2016 budget shows that he’s serious about running Social Security’s disability programs — Disability Insurance (DI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) — tightly without slashing vital benefits.  Lawmakers should follow that approach.

The budget would replenish DI’s trust fund by reallocating payroll tax revenues from the much larger old-age and survivors insurance (OASI) fund.  That would avert a 20-percent cut in disability benefits in 2016 and give the President and Congress time to focus on restoring solvency for Social Security as a whole. … Read more

Obama Budget Would Boost Medicaid, CHIP Enrollment for Children and Adults

February 4, 2015 at 9:00 am

President Obama’s fiscal year 2016 budget would wisely enable states to cut red tape and enroll more eligible children and adults in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) by making permanent Express Lane Eligibility (ELE) for children and letting states extend Continuous Eligibility (CE) to adults.

ELE, which is slated to expire at the September 30 end of fiscal year 2015, gives states the option to use the information they’ve already collected and verified to establish eligibility in other programs such as SNAP (food stamps) to streamline enrollment of eligible children into Medicaid and CHIP.  … Read more

Indiana’s New Medicaid Waiver Requires Close Watch

February 3, 2015 at 3:37 pm

With Indiana becoming the 29th state to adopt health reform’s Medicaid expansion, we’re happy to see another state expand Medicaid (see map below) — but it remains to be seen whether Indiana will meet its coverage goals and whether enrollees will get the care they need.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) last week approved the Healthy Indiana Plan (HIP) 2.0 Medicaid waiver, which the state expects will cover about 350,000 uninsured Hoosiers.  Last October, we wrote about several features of Indiana’s waiver proposal that could create barriers to coverage and care. … Read more

Restoring Medicaid Payment Bump Would Improve Access to Care

February 3, 2015 at 2:21 pm

The President’s 2016 budget would reinstate health reform’s temporary boost in Medicaid payments for primary care services and extend it to more providers.  It’s a sound proposal, as new evidence shows the rate increase accomplished its goal of improving access to health care by encouraging providers to accept new Medicaid patients.

Medicaid enrollment has risen significantly since health reform’s coverage expansions took effect in January 2014.  Enrollment now tops 69 million — an increase of more than 10 million since October 2013, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. … Read more