In his April 30 op-ed column, “The real Washington,” Robert J. Samuelson discussed recent congressional testimony by the Brookings Institution’s Ron Haskins on substantial growth in spending on programs for the poor, noting that while some of the growth reflects recession-driven spending, “most doesn’t.” Here’s some context:
I testified alongside Mr. Haskins. As the hearing revealed, the main driver of this growth is the effect that rising health-care costs has on Medicaid and other programs. When you look at spending for low-income programs outside health care, the story changes.
To be sure, total federal spending for low- income entitlements outside health care has risen, from an average of 1.3 percent of gross domestic product over the past 40 years to 2 percent today. But the Congressional Budget Office projects that, as the economy recovers, that growth will disappear and, by 2020, the costs of those programs will return to their 1.3 percent average. Moreover, when you add low-income discretionary programs into the equation, total federal spending for low-income programs outside health care — both entitlements and discretionary programs — will fall below that 40-year average.
Robert Greenstein, Washington
The writer is president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.