June 21, 2006

Destroy SIPP? But why?

A great editorial from the Times yesterday lays out a neat 275-word argument for why SIPP is being stripped of its federal funding. SIPP, the Survey of Income and Program Participation, is a government report that offers the best information for policymakers and advocates on the effects of government programs on the poor. SIPP is a vital tool that gives the anti-poverty policy community a lot of information about whether or not these programs are working. What's ironic is that it is the Republican Party, more specifically, the Bush Adminstration, that wants to strip SIPP of its funding...ironic because conservatives always complain about how we fund programs for the poor and have no way of knowing whether they work, and therefore, are unable to hold the programs accountable. SIPP is designed precisely to fill that information void. Then, why do they want to cut it?Is it because they simply are looking for budget items to cut and the poor are usually the first to go on the Appropriations Committee's chopping block? Is it because conservatives don't want advocates to have hard evidence that many of these programs, like Food Stamps, Head Start, and EITC are actually working? Or do they simply lack the courage to read the 394-page user guide? Regardless of their motivations, one thing is clear: our representatives want to trash an instrument that tells us what works and what doesn't--robbing the government and its citizens of a valuable anti-poverty resource.The editorial board of the New York Times writes, "Losing years of reliable data would make it all too easy to base policy decisions on ideology rather than on evidence." When did American lawmakers lose their panache for pragmatism?