Since its inception more than a century and a half ago, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has experienced enormous growth in both size and complexity—as has the industry it seeks to serve. Today the USDA is among the largest federal employers and its 2014 budget exceeded $160 billion. Its spectrum of activities span from the protection of rural farm interests to urban food assistance. Consequently, the department is the target of a wide range of interest groups besides farmers, including food assistance advocates and advocacy groups interested in issues such as obesity, animal welfare, food safety, the environment, and more. The disparate agendas of these groups make it difficult for Congress to assemble a unified policy package each time USDA’s programs are due for reauthorization. The latest reauthorization, the Agricultural Act of 2014, was signed into law two years late in February 2015.
In a new study for the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, economist Jayson L. Lusk documents the changes in American agriculture since the USDA’s inception and the expansion of the department’s mission. Much of the USDA’s regulation is outdated, wasteful, and conflicting.
Near-zero GDP growth. Strong dollar. Weak exports. Factory recession. Fed hesitancy. Low inflation and low interest rates. Solid consumer spending. Accelerating construction. Rising home sales. China turning the corner? These keywords seen frequently in recent news stories pretty well describe the 2016 midyear economy.
A new study for the Mercatus Center at George Mason University ranks each US state’s financial health based on short- and long-term debt and other key fiscal obligations, such as unfunded pensions and healthcare benefits.
A new study for the Mercatus Center at George Mason University examines recent trends in state fiscal policy and details how well these efforts conform to widely accepted “best practices” in tax reform. It examines the tax and the expenditure patterns of five states and finds that, while there is no one correct way to enact economically beneficial tax reform, it is possible to discern some clear trends.
Economist Robert Krol examines the problem of highway congestion, looking at how congestion pricing has been successful in the past and why it could be an attractive option in the future. There is mixed evidence about whether congestion pricing is regressive, but governments implementing congestion pricing could use several policy solutions to help reduce inequity. These include reducing other regressive taxes such as the gasoline tax and giving commuters the option to choose between toll lanes and toll-free lanes.
Puerto Rico is facing a severe fiscal crisis, and new crises will be almost inevitable in the absence of major institutional changes in the commonwealth. History has bequeathed the island inefficient state-run enterprises and a government unable to balance its budget, but Puerto Rico could have a bright future if it undertakes the right reforms.
Alabama currently lags behind its regional neighbors and the nation in economic growth and performance. This study undertakes a comprehensive analysis of Alabama's current fiscal situation as well as the reforms necessary to put Alabama on the road to economic prosperity.
The system for international corporate income taxation is at risk of losing its most valuable feature—diversity and competition. The Base Erosion and Profit Shifting Project of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development attempts to change the international tax system by transferring control of corporate taxation from individual nations to an international body. This shift favors consolidated and uniform tax rules but sacrifices compliance efficiency, taxpayer rights, and nations’ ability to set the tax policies best suited to their populations.
With falling exports induced by a strong dollar, declining investment in the energy sector driven by falling oil prices, and a Chinese economy that continues to weaken, the US economy seems to be locked in low gear. GDP growth for 4Q2015 came in at a snail-paced 0.7 percent, giving 2.4 percent growth for the year, the same as for 2014. Pass the word. The world is flat!
Medicaid’s complex federal-state financing structure has long created perverse incentives that discourage efficient care. Key to the problem is the federal government’s uncapped reimbursement of state Medicaid expenditures, which encourages states to artificially inflate their Medicaid spending. Such schemes have significantly increased over the past several years and they likely add tens of billions in generally low-value Medicaid spending each year.
Richard Williams talked about his concerns with the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) redesign of food nutrition labels. He assisted in the creation of the original label, which he says was not able to change consumers' eating habits.
As the world’s first decentralized digital currency, Bitcoin has the potential to revolutionize online payment systems and commerce in ways that benefit both consumers and businesses. Individuals can now avoid using an intermediary such as PayPal or submitting credit card information to a third party for verification—both of which often involve transaction fees, restrictions, and security risks—and instead use bitcoins to pay each other directly for goods or services.