Three Reasons Congress Should Restart Emergency Jobless Benefits — Now

January 28, 2014 at 5:15 pm

Update, April 8: We updated the chart to reflect the March jobs report.

President Obama tonight is expected to call again on Congress to restart emergency jobless benefits for long-term unemployed workers.  Here are three reasons why lawmakers need to step up their bipartisan discussions on the issue and reach agreement.

  • Every week of delay means more jobless workers won’t get needed help.  An estimated 1.3 million jobless workers lost Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) benefits right after Christmas when the program expired. 
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Republican Health Proposal Likely Means Less Coverage, Higher Costs, Fewer Consumer Protections

January 28, 2014 at 3:02 pm

Senate Republicans Tom Coburn (OK), Orrin Hatch (UT), and Richard Burr (NC) proposed yesterday to repeal all of health reform (the Affordable Care Act or ACA) except for certain provisions related to Medicare, cap federal Medicaid funding, and create a new tax credit for people to buy health insurance in the individual market.  The proposal lacks essential details, but what we know about it suggests that it would likely:

  • lead to federal Medicaid funding shortfalls that could cause many poor beneficiaries to lose needed care;
  • leave coverage unaffordable for many low-income people by significantly raising their premiums, co-payments, and other charges compared to current law; and
  • drop or significantly weaken the ACA’s consumer protections and market reforms, especially for people with pre-existing conditions.
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Greenstein on Poverty and the Safety Net

January 28, 2014 at 1:20 pm

CBPP President Robert Greenstein testified today before the House Budget Committee on trends in poverty over the last 50 years, the current state of the safety net, and some ways that policymakers on both sides of the aisle might work together to make progress going forward.

As Greenstein explained:

Poverty has fallen significantly over the last half-century, and key troubling poverty-related conditions have declined.  Since the mid-1960s, average incomes among the poorest fifth of Americans have risen significantly, infant mortality has dropped sharply, and severe child malnutrition has largely disappeared.

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Farm Bill Makes Sound Reforms to SNAP While Rejecting Harsh Cuts

January 28, 2014 at 10:46 am

The farm bill conference agreement that House and Senate negotiators unveiled yesterday represents a solid outcome after a difficult two-year congressional effort, as we explain in a new paper and a commentary.  While it unfortunately doesn’t make progress in addressing hunger and poverty by investing new resources in SNAP (or by reinvesting the SNAP savings that it generates), it includes sound reforms that should strengthen SNAP over time.  Most important, it rejects the harsh eligibility cuts in the House-passed version of the farm bill.… Read more

Not So Fast: Echoing the Call for State Budget Caution

January 27, 2014 at 4:45 pm

We recently explained that policymakers shouldn’t use the arrival of budget surpluses to start cutting taxes.  Now, others also are urging states to use caution before prematurely cutting taxes.

Twenty-three states cut taxes or other revenues in their fiscal year 2014 budgets, according to the National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO).  Noting this point, Katherine Barrett and Richard Greene, long-time state budget experts, say it’s “premature in most cases” to cut taxes.  “While we can understand the political pressures at play, states are still smarting from all the service cutbacks they had to make the last time the economy turned south and their revenues followed along,” they write in their B&G Report.… Read more

In Case You Missed It…

January 24, 2014 at 3:53 pm

This week on Off the Charts, we focused on the federal budget and taxes, unemployment insurance, state budgets and taxes, the minimum wage, and income inequality.

  • On the federal budget and taxes, Richard Kogan noted that Congress has already agreed to its 2015 budget plan, through last December’s budget deal between Senate Budget Chair Patty Murray and House Budget Chair Paul Ryan.  Chuck Marr pointed to his commentary on growing bipartisan support for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).
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A Bipartisan Call to Boost the EITC and Cut Poverty

January 24, 2014 at 3:35 pm

A number of leading liberal lawmakers and policy analysts have long advocated for a stronger Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to better assist childless workers — and support for such a step is now growing among conservatives as well, as we explain in our new commentary.

For instance, former George W. Bush economic advisor Glenn Hubbard wrote recently, “Increasing the credit for childless workers to an amount closer to that for families with children would augment the direct work incentive and help counter poverty among the working poor.”  Other conservatives have called for strengthening the EITC for childless workers, too, including Lori Sanders and Eli Lehrer of the R Street Institute (a conservative think tank) and the American Enterprise Institute’s (AEI) Michael Strain.… Read more

Bernstein: Raising the Minimum Wage Would Boost the Economy

January 24, 2014 at 10:14 am

Raising the minimum wage would help the economy, CBPP Senior Fellow Jared Bernstein writes in the latest edition of the CQ Researcher.

Two well-established facts help back up this argument, Bernstein says:

The first fact is that the American economy is made up of 70 percent consumer spending.

Economists widely agree that an extra dollar earned by a wealthy person is less likely to be spent than an extra dollar earned by a low-income person….

The second fact is that moderate increases in the minimum wage boost the earnings of most low-wage workers without leading to large employment losses.… Read more

Update: Where Things Stand for the Unemployed

January 23, 2014 at 4:41 pm

We’ve updated our post showing the number of weeks of unemployment insurance benefits available in each state to include Kansas among the states offering fewer than 26 weeks of benefits.  Here’s the current map:

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Congress Has Already Agreed to its 2015 Budget Plan

January 23, 2014 at 4:23 pm

Ahead of schedule!  That phrase does not normally apply to Congress.  But one salutary side effect of the budget deal of last December between Senate Budget Chair Patty Murray and House Budget Chair Paul Ryan is that it automatically establishes the next congressional budget plan.

Ordinarily, Congress is supposed to agree on a budget plan — a congressional “budget resolution” — by April 15 each year.  Yet with increasing frequency, the House and Senate go their separate ways, disagree with each other, argue about budget targets all year long, and trip over their own budget enforcement rules.… Read more

Caution Is the Right Approach to State “Surpluses”

January 22, 2014 at 9:55 am

Wisconsin’s Governor Scott Walker and New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo, as well as leading lawmakers in Michigan and elsewhere, are using their state’s budget “surplus” to justify new tax cuts.  That’s highly imprudent, if not irresponsible.

State budget surpluses typically appear when the economy emerges from recession.  After a few years of weaker-than-expected revenues, states wisely tend to estimate revenue cautiously for the coming year.  If their estimates prove too cautious — for example, because the stock market does better than expected, raising people’s incomes and thus their tax payments — that produces a “surplus.”

Some governors and legislators love these surpluses because they seem like free money that policymakers can use as they please — like spend on tax cuts.  … Read more

Illustrating Income Inequality: A Recap

January 21, 2014 at 3:56 pm

Our blog series last week, Illustrating Income Inequality, showed in three animated graphs how most of the income growth in recent decades has occurred at the very top.

The first post illustrated the fact that after a period of shared prosperity in the early postwar decades, income disparities widened substantially beginning in the 1970s.

The second post explained that income gains since 1979 at the very top have far outpaced those for everyone else.

Finally, the third post showed how the top 1 percent’s share of total income is approaching highs not seen since the 1920s.… Read more