When the design of safety net programs is considered alongside that of our tax code, it is easy to see that our tax and transfer systems need to focus less on increasing consumption and more on promoting opportunity, work, saving, and education.
The government doesn’t affect work incentives just through direct taxes. Implicit taxes—that is, penalties for earning additional income—are everywhere, whether in TANF or SNAP, Medicaid or the new health exchange subsidy, PEP or Pease (reductions in tax allowances for personal exemptions and itemized deductions), Pell grants or student loans, child tax credits or earned income tax credits, unemployment compensation or workers compensation, or dozens of other programs. These implicit taxes combine with explicit taxes to create inefficient and often inequitable, certainly strange and anomalous, incentives for many households. Continue reading
As Congress debates how to unwind from all the debt it is accumulating, it continues to face high unemployment around the nation. One possible deficit-reducing approach is to provide greater assistance or revenue sharing to those regions, or people in the regions, most suffering from high unemployment, while reducing some across-the-board supports. Continue reading
Everyone knows that 2008 promises to be a bellwether year, rife with dramatic changes already glimpsed. Some harbingers of change are obvious. A new president will be elected—though campaigns hide as much as reveal what that president will choose or be forced to do. The subprime mortgage market also portends dramatic changes in the financial markets in 2008 and beyond. But perhaps the biggest change of all is a sleeper so far—the first year of a scheduled drop-off in employment growth that will last for some 30 years running. If this decline is left unchecked, the net impact on employment will be far greater and longer lasting than the temporary employment dip during the Great Depression. Continue reading