Anti-poverty Programs Lift about 830,000 Wisconsinites above Poverty Line
Speaker Ryan and other conservatives are calling for sweeping changes that would seriously weaken safety net programs, and a core argument for those changes is way off the mark.
In early June, Ryan and other House Republicans issued a report about reforming public assistance programs that contends that despite decades of substantial federal spending for safety net programs, “the official poverty rate in 2014 (14.8%) was no better than it was in 1966 (14.7%), when many of these programs started.”
At first blush, that sounds like a compelling argument, but it’s a red herring. Speaker Ryan’s claim is based on the official poverty measure, which seems logical. But that gauge of poverty, established by the Census Bureau in the 1960s, measures cash income only and excludes many forms of public assistance. As the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities points out about this poverty measure:
“…it ignores virtually all anti-poverty assistance created or expanded over the past half century, while counting the main form of assistance cut sharply over this period – cash assistance for families with children.
An Increased EITC for Childless Adults Would Reduce Poverty and Enjoys Bipartisan Support
Income inequality has been on the minds of many voters during the presidential primaries. If you think it’s only a concern of Democrats, take a look at the results of the most recent “Wisconsin Survey” – a St. Norbert’s poll conducted for Wisconsin Public Radio and Wisconsin Public Television. The survey last week of 616 registered Wisconsin voters found that 66% favor “increasing taxes on wealthy Americans and large corporations in order to help reduce income inequality in the U.S.,” compared to only 28% who said they were opposed.
There are lots of different ways to adjust taxes (and labor policy) to reduce income inequality. Unfortunately, most of those – such as closing corporate tax loopholes and increasing the minimum wage – have little chance in Congress right now. But one promising policy option that does have a chance is to provide a significant increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for adults who don’t have dependent children. Read more
Wisconsin families all across the state will have a harder time making ends meet if Congress does not take action to protect improvements to two important federal tax credits, according to a new analysis from the Wisconsin Budget Project.
More than 150,000 working families in Wisconsin and 301,000 children will be harmed if federal policymakers fail to save key provisions of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC) that are set to expire at the end of 2017. These families will lose an average of $1,100 per year they could use to make investments that help them keep working and improve the economic security of their family, such as paying for car repairs or saving for their children’s college educations.
Lawmakers have an opportunity in the next few weeks to make the improvements permanent. Several temporary corporate tax provisions are expiring soon, and advocates for working families believe that if the businesses tax breaks are made permanent, improvements to tax credits for struggling working families should also be made permanent in the same legislation. Read more
Pro-work tax credits give a boost to thousands of veteran and military households in Wisconsin, but nearly half of those families will lose part or all of their tax credits unless Congress takes action.
Key provisions of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC), both of which help families with low incomes make ends meet, are set to expire at the end of 2017. These federal credits encourage work, help children do better in school, improve the health of children and families, and strengthen the future workforce.
In Wisconsin, hundreds of thousands of households – including 36,000 veteran and military households – benefit from the EITC or the part of the CTC that benefits families with low incomes. However, 17,000 of the veteran and military families that benefit will lose part or all of their tax credits if Congress doesn’t act to protect improvements to those credits. Read more
Congress has a chance this fall to save key provisions of the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC), two proven pro-work strategies that help working families make ends meet and provide the basics for their children.
If Congress does not act, 158,000 Wisconsin families with 301,000 children will lose some or all of their working-family tax credits, according to a new analysis by the Wisconsin Budget Project.
There is an effort underway in Congress to make several temporary corporate tax provisions permanent, and the debate is expected to come to a head this fall. Some federal lawmakers have advocated for letting these corporate provisions leap-frog over tax credits for working families instead of putting top priority this fall on saving key provisions of the federal EITC and CTC. Something similar happened during the last major tax debate, when these EITC and CTC provisions were only extended through 2017 but estate tax changes for wealthy families were made permanent. Read more
Paul Ryan has a released a new poverty plan that advocates consolidating federal safety net programs and turning the money over to the states. It’s always worth taking a look at changes that could make anti-poverty program more effective, but Ryan’s approach would decrease opportunity for individuals living in poverty, not increase it.
Ryan frames his new proposal as aimed at giving low-income people the tools they need to make ends meet and lift themselves out of poverty. According to his proposal, Expanding Opportunity in America:
“A key tenet of the American Dream is that where you start off shouldn’t determine where you end up. If you work hard and play by the rules, you should get ahead. But the fact is, far too many people are stuck on the lower rungs…There are many factors beyond public policy that affect upward mobility.
The FY 2015 budget proposal unveiled by the President this week addresses an issue that many politicians, researchers and commentators across the political spectrum have recently been talking about – providing assistance to low-income working adults who don’t have dependent children. We were very pleased to see the part of his budget that would help that long-overlooked population by making more “childless” workers eligible for the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and increasing the small credit for those who are already eligible.
The EITC encourages and rewards work, offsets federal payroll and income taxes, and boosts living standards. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) points out: “Next to Social Security, the EITC combined with the refundable portion of the CTC [child tax credit] constitutes the nation’s most powerful anti-poverty program.” However, the federal EITC currently provides little or no benefit for adults who don’t have dependent children, and the Wisconsin EITC doesn’t apply to that population. Read more
About 22,000 military families in Wisconsin receive the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or the low-income component of the Child Tax Credit (CTC), according to a new report from the Washington, DC-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Nationally, roughly 1.5 million military families, which include about 3 million children under age 18, received one or both of the credits. The credits make a major difference to their economic security:
- The EITC and CTC together keep more than 140,000 military families — with nearly 300,000 children and 600,000 total family members — from falling below the poverty line, based on the federal government’s Supplemental Poverty Measure, which counts income from tax credits.
- These credits reduce the severity of poverty for about another 800,000 members of military families.
- The credits also help working families with incomes modestly above the poverty line who still struggle with basic expenses like housing, school clothes, car repairs, and groceries.
Congress faces a choice.
It can extend a tax break for a tiny number of wealthy estates. Or — for about the same amount of money — Congress can continue improvements to two tax credits that encourage work and help millions of people pull themselves out of poverty.
In Wisconsin, the tax break for wealthy estates would benefit only 40 estates a year, according to a new report. In contrast, the improvements to the tax credits would give a boost to 155,000 low- and moderate-income working families in Wisconsin.