What is Subsidyscope?
An initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts from 2008 to 2012, Subsidyscope aims to raise public awareness about the role of federal subsidies in the economy. The project aggregates information on federal spending and subsidies from multiple government sources, serving as a gateway for press, policymakers, advocates and the public. The project is guided by a broad and bipartisan advisory board of budget, fiscal and transparency experts and is assisted by its research and technology partner, the Sunlight Foundation.
What is a subsidy?
Unfortunately, there is no one definition of the term "subsidy" and people disagree about which federal programs do or do not produce subsidies. As a starting point, Subsidyscope uses the Government Accountability Office's definition of "subsidy":
"Generally, a payment or benefit made by the federal government where the benefit exceeds the cost to the beneficiary. Subsidies are designed to support the conduct of an economic enterprise or activity ... They may also refer to (1) provisions in the tax laws for certain tax expenditures and (2) the provision of loans, goods, and services to the public at prices lower than market value. These include interest subsidies."
Thus, subsidies do not generally include broad income maintenance programs such as Social Security, but they do generally include grant programs or tax breaks that target a particular set of companies, organizations or individuals. See Subsidyscope's "Methodology" for more information.
What are different types of subsidies?
Click on the following for more information: grants, contracts, tax subsidies and risk transfers (loans, loan guarantees and insurance).
Who is involved in Subsidyscope?
Subsidyscope is an initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts' Economic Policy Group, in conjunction with the Sunlight Foundation, its research and technology partner. The project is guided by a broad and bipartisan advisory board of top experts in federal spending, taxes, and finance. Project staff members are listed here.
What is The Pew Charitable Trusts?
The Pew Charitable Trusts is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization driven by the power of knowledge to solve today's most challenging problems. Pew applies a rigorous, analytical approach to improve public policy, inform the public and stimulate civic life.
What is the Sunlight Foundation?
The Sunlight Foundation has the nonpartisan mission of using the revolutionary power of the Internet to make information about Congress and the federal government more meaningfully accessible to citizens. Through its projects and grant-making, Sunlight serves as a catalyst for greater political transparency and to foster more openness and accountability in government. Sunlight’s ultimate goal is to strengthen the relationship between citizens and their elected officials and to foster public trust in Congress.
Subsidyscope will initially look at several sectors of the economy encompassing some of the largest subsidies. These include Financial Institutions, Transportation, Energy, Nonprofits, Health Care, Housing, and Agriculture.
Do you take positions on which subsidies are good or bad?
No, Subsidyscope is not taking an advocacy position on specific subsidies. The goal of the project is to raise awareness and increase transparency around government subsidies.
Can I reuse the data or visualizations on your site?
Yes, as long as proper attribution to Subsidyscope.org is provided. If you reference Subsidyscope in another publication, please include a link to the main page (http://subsidyscope.org/) or include a citation such as this:
Subsidyscope.org. The Pew Charitable Trusts. Washington, DC. Accessed Month, XX, 20XX. Retrieved from http://subsidyscope.org.
Why is a database needed?
Given the influence subsidies exert on the American economy and the federal budget, there is a fundamental need for a comprehensive source of information on subsidy programs and policies. In order to monitor government spending, citizens, researchers, and policy makers must have information on the full extent of what government does, and where their money goes.
Where is Subsidyscope’s data?
Subsidyscope consolidates information from fragmented government data sources. We are constantly collecting more data to fill existing gaps and improve accuracy. Our downloadable data sets are here. Subsidyscope also presents summary statistics from our data sets for different economic sectors. We typically present summary information in four categories:
- Direct Expenditures including direct transfers of money, goods, or services such as cash grants but excluding contracts.
- Tax Expenditures which lower the taxes certain parties pay the federal government by allowing special tax exemptions, deductions or credits.
- Risk Transfers conveying financial risk to the federal government through insurance agreements, loans and loan guarantees and similar instruments.
- Government contracts where the government pays for a good or service that it directly benefits from.