Jason J. Fichtner

Jason J. Fichtner

  • Senior Research Fellow

Jason J. Fichtner is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. His research focuses on Social Security, federal tax policy, federal budget policy, retirement security, and policy proposals to increase saving and investment.

Previously, he served in several positions at the Social Security Administration, including as deputy commissioner of social security (acting), chief economist, and associate commissioner for retirement policy. He also served as senior economist with the Joint Economic Committee of the US Congress.

His work has been featured in the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Investor’s Business Daily, the Los Angeles Times, the Atlantic, and USA Today, as well as on broadcasts by PBS, NBC, and NPR.

He also serves as an adjunct professor at the Georgetown McCourt School of Public Policy, the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and the Virginia Tech Center for Public Administration and Policy, where he teaches courses in economics, public finance, public policy process, public management, and public budgeting processes.

Fichtner earned his BA from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; his MPP from Georgetown University; and his PhD in public administration and policy from Virginia Tech.

Published Research

Jason J. Fichtner, Adam Michel | Jul 14, 2015
A new study published by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University surveys the current economic literature on research and development tax incentives. The study investigates design and implementation problems the R&D credit faces, including legal ambiguities, policy uncertainty, insufficient definitions of “research,” and special-interest lobbying.
Charles Blahous, Jason J. Fichtner, Mark J. Warshawsky | Mar 19, 2015
Social Security’s trustees have long warned Congress to address the troubled finances of the Disability Insurance (DI) program. Given the DI trust fund’s projected exhaustion date of 2016, legislation will be required during this Congress to prevent large, sudden benefit cuts.
Jason J. Fichtner, Adam Michel | Jan 29, 2015
The tax code is often manipulated by arbitrarily shortening depreciation timelines through accelerated depreciation or bonus expensing. As a solution to the current inequity and inefficiency of depreciation policies, this paper advocates full expensing. Expensing incentivizes investment by allowing businesses to write off all expenditures in the year they occur, resulting in a zero effective tax rate on equity-financed capital.
Jason J. Fichtner, John Pulito | Dec 11, 2013
This paper provides an overview of the intent of the Medicaid program and its budgetary implications. In 1965, when Medicaid was created under Title XIX of the Social Security Act to provide health insurance for low-income individuals, the program was considered an afterthought to Medicare. Today, however, more Americans receive coverage from Medicaid than any other health insurance program, including Medicare. Today Medicaid costs nearly $500 billion annually, funded by taxpayer dollars at the state and federal levels. This paper explains the budgetary implications of Medicaid for federal and state budgets and how these obligations will grow under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Working Papers

Jason J. Fichtner, Patrick McLaughlin | Jun 02, 2015
The current legislative and regulatory processes may not adequately inform Congress about the scope and economic consequences of legislation. Even if Congress had such information, no mechanism exists to allow Congress to easily act upon it. The budget process permits Congress to monitor and fund programs based on fiscal impact information. These processes could be improved to provide more, better, and actionable information about legislative and regulatory actions, especially through a reform that we term “legislative impact accounting.”…
Jason J. Fichtner, Jason S. Seligman | Mar 05, 2015
This paper focuses on disability insurance but makes the case for considering reforms in tandem—that is, (1) developing disability program reforms that accommodate plausible retirement program reforms while properly aligning incentives to support work and savings and (2) providing a financially secure, vital safety net for disabled Americans.
Jason J. Fichtner, Robert Greene | Sep 30, 2014
In this paper, we examine existing literature on the prevalence, consequences, wastefulness, and causes of year-end spending surges. We then report executive departments’ year-end obligated federal contract expenditure patterns using data obtained from USASpending.gov. We review literature on purported solutions to curb year-end spending surges, and conclude with a policy recommendation of our own.
Jason J. Fichtner, Jacob Feldman | Jun 19, 2014
The $69 billion mortgage interest deduction (MID) is often viewed as an element of the tax code that promotes middle-class prosperity. However, 64 percent of the benefits, as measured by effective tax reduction, goes to households earning more than $100,000 per year. The large variation in nominal benefits is one of the reasons why many economists state that the MID is regressive.

Charts

Jason J. Fichtner, Adam Michel | Aug 05, 2015
The research and development (R&D) tax credit—which is one of the largest corporate “tax expenditures,” with an annual cost of more than $9 billion—is one of about 50 “tax extenders” that Congress reauthorizes on a temporary basis. While the tax credit is intended to encourage economic growth by functioning as an incentive for investment in new and innovative technologies, it may not be the best policy to achieve growth.
Veronique de Rugy, Jason J. Fichtner | Feb 24, 2015
This week’s chart is an updated comparison of the different measurements of the unemployment rate from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). It includes new data on the official and alternative unemployment measurements for January 2015. The widely reported official unemployment rate, which remains the primary measure of labor market performance, is not the most realistic representation of the current state of the economy, because it fails to capture, among other things, individuals who have simply stopped looking for work. The limited perspective on the labor market offered by the official unemployment rate is readily apparent when compared to alternative measures of unemployment.
Veronique de Rugy, Jason J. Fichtner | Jan 13, 2015
This week’s chart presents improper payments made by the thirteen programs that the Office of Management and Budget has labeled “high-error.” The chart ranks transfer programs that allocate at least $750 million in payments from those with the lowest improper payments to those with the highest. The chart also displays the total improper-payment rates as a percentage of total program outlays for each program.
Jason J. Fichtner, Jacob Feldman | Jul 07, 2014
One of the most commonly cited justifications for the mortgage interest deduction (MID) is the claim that the deduction promotes homeownership among the middle class and supports industries that employ middle-class workers. But with 65.2 percent of all tax filers claiming to make less than $50,000, only 9.8 percent of these returns used the mortgage interest deduction.
Veronique de Rugy, Jason J. Fichtner | Feb 17, 2014
This week’s chart, which uses 2012 data from the Office of Management and Budget’s “High-Error Programs Report” to display improper payment amounts and improper payment rates of federal transfer programs, shows that over $100 billion in taxpayer funds were improperly spent in 2012.
Jason J. Fichtner | Jan 27, 2014
The IRS’s mission statement is to “provide America's taxpayers top quality service by helping them understand and meet their tax responsibilities and enforce the law with integrity and fairness to all.” Yet the Economix blog of the New York Times recently posted the following graph on declining performance of IRS customer service representatives (CSR). The data come from a series of annual reports released by Taxpayer Advocate Service—an independent organization within the IRS.
Veronique de Rugy, Jason J. Fichtner | Jan 13, 2014
This week’s chart is an updated comparison of the different measurements of the unemployment rate from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). It includes new data on the official and alternative unemployment measurements for 2012 and 2013. The BLS data are used to assess labor market conditions from several perspectives.
Jason J. Fichtner | Jan 06, 2014
This chart uses data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to show the growth in national health expenditures (NHE) after adjusting for inflation and population. The data show an up-and-down trend, leading to uncertainty over the growth in national health expenditures.

Policy Briefs

Testimony & Comments

Research Summaries & Toolkits

Jason J. Fichtner, Veronique de Rugy | Dec 03, 2013
Some in Washington claim the federal spending and deficit problem is solved. While the deficit has been cut in half (from a record-high of $1.4 trillion in FY09 to $680 billion in FY13), this reduction can be attributed to several singular events, such as the end of the payroll tax “holiday” and higher receipts from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Over the longer term, deficits and debt are projected to continue increasing.
Veronique de Rugy, Jason J. Fichtner | Oct 10, 2013
As federal government borrowing is set to exceed yet another debt limit, most are quick to recall—and wish to avoid a repeat of—the 2011 debt-limit showdown. If current rhetoric is any indication, it appears many of the last debate’s lessons have been forgotten. Regrettably, it seems many of the debate’s facts have been forgotten as well.
Jason J. Fichtner, Jacob Feldman, Jeremy Horpedahl, Brandon Pizzola, Bruce Yandle, Veronique de Rugy | Jul 15, 2013
The most basic goal of tax policy is to raise enough revenue to meet the government’s spending requirements, preferably with minimal impact on market behavior. The US tax code has long failed to achieve this goal; by severely distorting market decisions and the allocation of resources, it impedes both potential economic growth and potential tax revenue. The nation’s persistently sluggish economic growth and dire long-term fiscal outlook have increased the urgency to reform the federal revenue system. But what does successful, sustainable tax reform look like? What are its key elements? And what would it achieve?
Veronique de Rugy, Jason J. Fichtner, Charles Blahous, Matthew Mitchell | Mar 15, 2013
Despite years without a federal budget, trillion-dollar deficits, and ad hoc, crisis-driven fiscal and economic policies that failed to deal with the looming entitlement crisis, leaders on both sides in Washington are now touting seemingly miraculous progress toward a “fix” to our budgetary woes.

Expert Commentary

Jul 27, 2015

Mercatus Center senior research fellow Charles Blahous, along with fellow public trustee for Medicare and Social Security Robert Reischauer, warn not to mistake minor improvements in the projected solvency of either program for "financial viability."
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Jun 09, 2015

For the first time in six years, Congress finally passed a budget resolution. The federal budget process, when it works, permits Congress to monitor and fund programs based on their fiscal impact. Yet every Congressional budget masks the true economic costs of federal spending. Mandatory spending, which makes up the vast majority of federal spending and includes interest on the national debt, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, is not part of the annual budget process.
Apr 03, 2015

Policy makers should not squander this opportunity to begin critical reforms to the disability insurance program. Absent near-term, fundamental reform, Social Security's broader financing problem could grow too large to solve at all. Reforms should focus on improving the program's long-term solvency, incentives for those who can work to do so, and ensuring a reliable safety net for temporarily or partially disabled individuals.
Mar 23, 2015

Medicare is contributing to a potential shortage of 90,000 doctors by 2025. Two Medicare issues, if left unresolved, would limit the future supply of doctors and reduce the ability to find a doctor during retirement: Physician payments under the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) and financing of Graduate Medical Education (GME).

Contact

Jason J. Fichtner

Books

Joseph Antos, Charles Blahous, James C. Capretta, Robert Graboyes, Jason J. Fichtner, June O’Neill , Nina Owcharenko , Thomas P. Miller,, Darcy N. Bryan | Apr 08, 2014
Top experts explain everything you wanted to know about Medicaid—from federal-state financing to potential reforms.

Podcasts

Jason J. Fichtner | April 10, 2015
Numerous opportunities for tax reform have been proposed in recent years including consumption-based taxes and an overhaul of the existing system. Jason Fichtner discusses the strengths and weaknesses of various reform initiatives on C-SPAN Radio.
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