Freedom of Information Beyond the Freedom of Information Act

Source: David Pozen, Columbia Public Law Research Paper No. 14-541, February 1, 2017

From the abstract:
The U.S. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) allows any person to request any agency record for any reason. This model has been copied worldwide and celebrated as a structural necessity in a real democracy. Yet in practice, this Article argues, FOIA embodies a distinctively “reactionary” form of transparency. FOIA is reactionary in a straightforward, procedural sense in that disclosure responds to ad hoc demands for information. Partly because of this very feature, FOIA can also be seen as reactionary in a more substantive, political sense insofar as it saps regulatory capacity; distributes government goods in an inegalitarian fashion; and contributes to a culture of adversarialism and derision surrounding the domestic policy bureaucracy while insulating the far more secretive national security agencies, as well as corporations, from similar scrutiny. If this Article’s core claims are correct to any significant degree, then open government advocates in general, and progressives in particular, ought to rethink their relationship to this landmark law.

Do Americans Really Save Too Little and Should We Nudge Them to Save More? The Ethics of Nudging Retirement Savings

Source: Todd J. Zywicki, George Mason Law & Economics Research Paper No. 17-03, January 17, 2017

From the abstract:
The contention that consumers systematically “undersave” for retirement is a frequent example provided by adherents to behavioral economics and behavioral law and economics to purportedly illustrate their theories. Although frequently asserted, the claim that people systematically undersave is rarely assessed empirically.

This article, written for the Georgetown Institute for the Study of Markets and Ethics Symposium on “The Ethics of Nudging,” examines available data on how many people fail to save and the reasons why they do not. According to available evidence, the overwhelming number of households saves enough or more than they need for retirement; only a small minority does not seem to save enough. Those who do not save for retirement lack the money to do so or allocate available resources to paying down consumer and student loan debt. Behavioral economics theories explain little of the observed patterns of saving or non-saving behavior. Moreover, behavioral economics itself suggests that many people probably oversave for retirement and makes no effort to reconcile these offsetting biases.

More fundamental, once it is recognized that there is an opportunity cost to saving more — one must consume less today, borrow more, or work more — the theoretical validity of the claim that people undersave because of behavioral biases is suspect. Given the inherently subjective nature of opportunity cost, a central planner cannot be confident that he can make people better off by influencing their consumption expenditures across time than he could by shifting consumption expenditures across different goods and services today. It is concluded that there is little reason to believe that people would be made better off by nudging them to save more for retirement.

FY 2018 Budget Blueprint Cuts Many Grants, Provides Increase to Defense

Source: Federal Funds Information for States (FFIS), Budget Brief 17-05, March 17, 2017
(subscription required)

From the summary:
The president’s budget blueprint for fiscal year (FY) 2018, America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again, provides top-line discretionary spending levels for federal agencies with some specific details. It does not propose funding levels for most discretionary programs, or information on mandatory spending and revenues.
Related:
Spreadsheet

States Perform

Source: Council of State Governments, 2017

States Perform provides users with access to interactive, customizable and up-to-date comparative performance measurement data for 50 states in six key areas: fiscal and economic, public safety and justice, energy and environment, transportation, health and human services, and education. Compare performance across a few or all states, profile one state, view trends over time, and customize your results with graphs and maps.

Show Us the Local Subsidies: A Second Evaluation of City and County Online Disclosure Practices of Economic Development Subsidy Programs

Source: Kasia Tarczynska, Good Jobs First, March 2017

From the blog post:
More than half of the nation’s 50 biggest cities and counties still fail to disclose online even the names of the companies receiving property tax abatements or other costly economic development incentives. Even fewer report incentive-deal outcomes: Only 13 of the 50 localities disclose the number of actual jobs created by one of their key incentive programs….

These are among the key findings of Show Us the Local Subsidies, a report issued today issued today by Good Jobs First, a non-profit watchdog group. ….
Related:
Press Release

2017’s Tax Rates by State

Source: John S. Kiernan, WalletHub, March 14, 2017

Tax season can be stressful for many Americans, especially those who owe money to Uncle Sam. Every year, the average U.S. household pays more than $5,700 in federal income taxes, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And while we’re all faced with that same obligation, there is significant disparity when it comes to state and local taxes. Taxpayers in the most tax-expensive states, for instance, pay three times more than those in the cheapest states to meet their civic burden.

As this year’s tax-filing deadline, April 18, looms closer, it’s fair to wonder which states have the most and least burdensome tax rates. WalletHub’s analysts searched for answers by comparing state and local tax rates in the 50 states and the District of Columbia against national medians. To illustrate, we calculated relative income-tax obligations by applying the effective income-tax rates in each state and locality to the average American’s income. Scroll down for the complete ranking, commentary from a panel of tax experts and a full description of our methodology….

Source: WalletHub

2017’s Cities Most Affected by Trumpcare

Source: Richie Bernardo, WalletHub, March 20, 2017

…According to estimates by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the recently proposed American Health Care Act — unofficially going by the names “Trumpcare” and “Ryancare” — would raise the average health-insurance premium for an individual policyholder by 15 to 20 percent just one or two years from now and lower federal subsidies. In contrast, the CBO projected, average Obamacare premiums would decrease 10 percent by 2026.

In order to gauge the AHCA’s impact on people who buy their own insurance, WalletHub’s analysts compared the differences in premium subsidies that the average households in 457 U.S. cities would receive under Obamacare and Trumpcare. Read on for our findings, commentary from a panel of experts and a full description of our methodology….

Source: WalletHub

Good Intentions versus Effective Outcomes: An Analysis of Selected New Mexico Tax Incentives

Source: Greg LeRoy, Thomas Cafcas and Philip Mattera of Good Jobs First, and Lisa Christensen Gee and Dylan Grundman of the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, March 2017

From the blog post:
A study released today examining various tax incentives and tax accounting practices in New Mexico found that the state could gain more than $206 million per year by enacting safeguards common in other states. The study also finds that New Mexico lags behind most other states in making public relevant information about its tax incentive programs.

Those are the main conclusions of “Good Intentions versus Effective Outcomes,” a study released today by Good Jobs First, a non-profit, non-partisan research center.

With Amazon.com’s agreement to collect gross receipts tax on in-state sales, a fair application of the same tax to all online retailers could boost state revenues by almost $42 million. The state also has the opportunity to close a loophole that costs the state at least $27 million by fully enacting combined reporting (which prevents multi-state companies from shifting profits and tax burdens away from New Mexico). The study also recommends the phasing out of the High Wage Jobs Tax Credit program, which costs $70 million per year, and that the state also consider reversing a corporate income tax accounting rule (single sales factor apportionment) that costs the state $45 million per year and has not increased manufacturing jobs.
Related:
Press ReleaseAbstract

The Impact of the Affordable Care Act on Health Coverage for Direct Care Worker

Source: Stephen Campbell, PHI, Issue Brief, March 2017

From the summary:
Direct care workers—nursing assistants, home health aides, and personal care aides who support older Americans and people with disabilities—are among America’s lowest paid workers, often struggling to access health coverage. However, new coverage numbers show that this workforce benefited substantially from the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Between 2010 and 2014, half a million direct care workers gained coverage. At the same time, the uninsured rate across this workforce decreased by 26 percent. As the Trump administration and the new Congress consider the future of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Medicaid, it is important to consider the impact of these changes on this critical U.S. workforce.

The Fiscal Ship

Source: Brookings Institution – Hutchins Center, Woodrow Wilson Center – Serious Games Initiative, 2017

The Fiscal Ship challenges you to put the federal budget on a sustainable course. Measured as a share of gross domestic product, the federal debt is higher than at any time since the end of World War II and projected to climb to unprecedented levels. America is looking at a permanent, growing mismatch between revenues and spending, and policymakers are faced with difficult decisions about how to reconcile important government priorities—including retirement and health benefits promised to the growing number of old folks—with the tax revenues that the current tax code will yield. Today’s tax code won’t yield enough revenue to pay for basic services of government plus the retirement and health benefits promised to the growing number of old folks. So your mission is to pick from a menu of tax and spending options to reduce the debt from projected levels over the next 25 years. Small changes to spending and taxes won’t suffice. The choices are difficult, but the goal is achievable.

But budget decisions aren’t only about fiscal sustainability. They also shape the kind of country we live in. To win the game, you need to find a combination of policies that match your values and priorities AND set the budget on a sustainable course….