New Article: Francine J. Lipman, (Anti)Poverty Measures Exposed, 21 Florida Tax Rev. 256 (2017). Abstract below:
Few economic indicators have more salience and pervasive financial impact on everyday lives in the United States than poverty measures. Nevertheless, policymakers, researchers, advocates, and legislators generally do not understand the details of poverty measure mechanics. These detailed mechanics shape and reshape poverty measures and the too often uninformed responses and remedies. This Article will build a bridge from personal portraits of families living in poverty to the resource allocations that failed them by exposing the specific detailed mechanics underlying the Census Bureau’s official (OPM) and supplemental poverty measures (SPM). Too often, when we confront the problem of poverty, the focus is on the lives and behavior of those suffering the burdens of poverty and not on the inadequacy of resource allocations in antipoverty programs. The purpose of poverty measures should be to expose the effectiveness and failures of antipoverty programs so that they can be improved, not to scrutinize the lives and characteristics of those who are enduring these hardships.
This Article exposes poverty measures through the details of the United States’ current antipoverty programs, including the demographics of the populations who are included as beneficiaries and those that are left without adequate resources to survive. After reverse engineering the OPM and SPM, the Article describes the raw data from the starting population universes but then reveals the details of U.S. citizens and residents who have been intentionally excluded from the poverty analysis. The Article reveals that the excluded population is likely disproportionately poor and, thus, their erasure from the starting population universe understates derived poverty rates. Therefore, as a starting point, the OPM and SPM exclude millions of vulnerable Americans from the Census Bureau’s poverty measurement analyses. Nevertheless, the Article continues its poverty measure analysis using the Census Bureau’s original databases and rebuilds the OPM and SPM from the original population universes by applying each resource allocation program by program until demographic patterns emerge of who is lifted out of poverty proportionately or disproportionately in accordance with their pre-allocation poverty percentages in the population universes. By shifting the focus from Americans who suffer scarcity to the details of each antipoverty program and the demographics of who and in what proportion they are served by these programs, we better understand why almost 50 million Americans, including 16 million children, are not adequately provided for; do not have the necessary life resources; are struggling day in and day out; have been “nickel and dimed”; and are not getting by in the United States; and who, because of the misallocation (not lack) of resources, suffer the persistent and pernicious plight of poverty.
Batchelder, Lily L. and Maag, Elaine and Huang, Chye-Ching and Horton, Emily, Assessing President Trump’s Child Care Proposals (October 30, 2017). National Tax Journal, Forthcoming. [Abstract below]
During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump proposed three tax benefits for child care: a credit for low-income families, an above-the-line deduction, and tax-subsidized savings accounts. While these proposals laudably bring attention to the heavy burden that child care costs place on many low- and middle-income families, they are a case study in how not to reform child care policy. They are unduly complicated, arbitrarily exclude certain low-income families, deliver support well after child care payments are due, and provide the largest benefits to higher-income families who need the least help.
Kate Zernike, Abby Goodnough, Ending Medical Tax Break Could Be a ‘Gut Punch’ to Middle Class, New York Times, November 8, 2017. [“…eliminating the medical-expense deduction would hit the middle class squarely…”]
Graetz, Michael J., Heading off a Cliff? (October 25, 2017). The American Interest, Forthcoming; Yale Law & Economics Research Paper No. 585. [Abstract below]
The major tax policy challenge of the 21st century is the need to address the nation’s fiscal condition fairly and in a manner conducive to economic growth. But since California adopted Proposition 13 nearly forty years ago, antipathy to taxes has served as the glue that has held the Republican coalition together. Even though our taxes as a percentage of our economy are low by OECD standards and low by our own historical experience, anti-tax attitudes have become even more important for Republicans politically, since they now find it hard to agree on almost anything else. So revenue-positive, or even revenue-neutral, forms of tax reform — at least as long as the GOP maintains its legislative majority — are politically impossible. The sad truth, of course, is that the coming tax cuts cannot possibly be the great and simplifying tax reform that the President and Sixers claim and that our nation so badly needs.
Blog Post: Francine Lipman, Crip the Code, Surly Subgroup Blog, Nov. 26, 2017.
Connor Dougherty, Jason M. Bailey, California Today: Tax Proposals Threaten Lower-Income Housing, New York Times, November 13, 2017. [The tax proposals in Congress would make it more difficult for developers to finance affordable rental housing.]
Kyle Rozema, Nicolas R. Ziebarth, Taxing Consumption and the Take-up of Public Assistance: The Case of Cigarette Taxes and Food Stamps, Univ. Chi. L. Rev. (2017). [Abstract below]
We exploit cigarette tax variation across US states from 2001 to 2012 to show
how taxing inelastic consumption goods can induce low-income households to
enroll in public assistance programs. Using a novel household panel of monthly
food stamp enrollment from the Current Population Survey, we enrich standard
cigarette tax difference-in-differences models with an additional control group:
nonsmoking households. Smoking households are treated with higher taxes,
while nonsmoking households are not. Marginal smoking households respond
to increases in cigarette taxes by taking up food stamps at rates higher than
smoking households in other states and nonsmoking households in the same