Robert Greenstein

Robert Greenstein is founder and Executive Director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington, D.C.

Recent Articles

Welfare Reform's Hidden Ally

T he Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) lifts more children out of poverty than any other social program in America -- indeed, more than all other means-tested benefit programs combined . That's because it provides a substantial tax credit for low-income working parents, which is also refundable. That is, it is paid in full to them whether or not they owe income taxes. Last year, 16 million low-income families with children received $30 billion under this federal tax program. The amount a family receives depends on its earnings and whether it has one or more children. Currently, a single mother of two who makes the minimum wage receives 40 cents in EITC benefits for every dollar she earns. The more hours she works, the larger the EITC payment, until her wages reach $10,350 (about full time). Only when an income exceeds about $14,000 a year does the EITC payment begin to phase down. The net effect, according to an array of studies by academic researchers, has been a powerful inducement...

The Kindest Cut

During a recent visit to the office of one of the Senate's more thoughtful and influential Democrats, I was told by the senator's legislative director: "The Democrats' first priority in this Congress is a middle-class tax cut. Now let's move on to the second priority: if s a middle-class tax cut. Then there's the third priority: a middle-class tax cut." For a decade, Democrats have been badgered as the tax-and-spend party that ached to put its hand in your pocket and take some of your hard-earned cash. Many Democrats yearn for the times when they appeared as champions of the average family, as they did during the fall 1990 budget clash when they fought off clumsy White House efforts to shift tax increases from the rich to the middle class. But when the Democrats finally bring up a "middle-class tax relief bill," what form will it take -- and whom will it actually benefit? Many Democrats cite compelling evidence showing widening income disparities between the wealthy and the rest of...