Federal Assets Policy Report and Outlook 2004

Policy Paper
Feb. 25, 2004

The purpose of this annual report is to summarize and assess federal assets policy efforts from last year, in the President’s new Budget, and for the coming session of Congress. While not intended to be exhaustive, this report identifies almost $320 billion in resources related to asset building included in the Bush Administration’s 2005 Budget. The overwhelming majority of these resources, $302 billion, are catalogued as tax expenditures, while almost $17 billion of discretionary spending is proposed.

Overall, this report demonstrates that the asset building framework continues to gain currency among a growing set of policymakers—but also that many policy gains are offset by policy losses. For example, the Administration’s commitment to expanding homeownership among low-income and minority persons brings with it a potentially huge reduction in affordable rental housing programs. Significant consumer protections enacted in 2003 and under consideration in 2004 are paired with a pre-emption of potentially stronger state laws. Proposals to expand savings at the low-end may possibly be won only with significant savings and asset sheltering opportunities for those at the high-end. Proposals to expand Pell Grants pale in comparison with the rapid expansion of tax-based and merit-based programs, which largely benefit better-off families who already can afford college. IDAs continue to receive strong support in the Administration and Congress, but even fully funded and well implemented IDAs are likely to reach about two percent of the eligible population by the end of the decade. And perhaps most worrisome is the growing use of the term “the ownership society” by those who advocate policies aimed at increasing ownership for those who already own a lot, while doing virtually nothing for those who have little.

For the complete document, please see the attached PDF version.

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