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 Public Policy Institute, 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, 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.
Jason J. Fichtner, Jacob Feldman | May 20, 2013
The tax code, far beyond simply collecting revenue to fund the operations of the federal government, attempts to perform policy and political functions as well. This paper does not examine the normative value of these provisions, but instead examines the hidden costs of today’s tax code: time and money spent submitting tax forms, foregone economic growth, lobbying expenditures, and gaps in revenue collection. These problems grow larger as the Internal Revenue Code becomes more complicated and temporary.[1] Based on the studies reviewed in this paper, we estimate that hidden costs range from $215 billion to $987 billion and that the tax code results in a $452 billion revenue gap in unreported taxes. The economic costs are substantial relative to the $2.45 trillion in revenues raised by the federal government in 2012.
Jason J. Fichtner, Jakina R. Debnam | Nov 13, 2012
A new Mercatus Center study discusses potential near- and longer-term impacts of high levels of government debt on U.S. economic growth and competitiveness. The study also reviews the experiences of other nations with debt-to-GDP ratios similar to that of the United States.
Charles Blahous, Jason J. Fichtner | Nov 01, 2012
A new Mercatus Center at George Mason University study finds that pro-economic growth entitlement reform must not only rein in unsustainable cost growth, but also remove the barriers to labor force participation and disincentives to personal savings currently embedded in the largest entitlement programs generally, and the Social Security program in particular.

Working Papers

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.
Jason J. Fichtner, Jacob Feldman | Sep 17, 2012
Politicians often stress that marriage is a key institution that promotes family values. However, many aspects of the federal tax code do not promote marriage and may in fact provide disincentives and penalize marriage. As more women enter the labor force and female wages rise, the marriage penalty becomes increasingly important to horizontal tax equity concerns and for economic growth. Today, the United States is one of only seven Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries to employ joint taxation for married couples.1…
Jason J. Fichtner, Jacob Feldman | Nov 14, 2011
This working paper explores how unchecked tax expenditures obscure honest public-policy conversations about the size of government.
Jason J. Fichtner, Nick Tuszynski | Nov 02, 2011
Firms respond to high tax rates and relocate economic activity to lower-tax countries. Thus, the current U.S. corporate tax structure places U.S.-headquartered corporations at a tremendous disadvantage in the global marketplace because other countries have lowered their corporate income tax rates to welcome multinational corporations. This paper discusses the economic implications of corporate taxes.

Charts

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.
Veronique de Rugy, Jason J. Fichtner | Nov 12, 2013
What is the best way for the United States to get its fiscal house in order in the short term? Last week, we analyzed how much the US economy would have to grow by each year for public finances to balance by 2023. This week, we will compare this option to minor changes in public spending. This week’s charts use data from the Congressional Budget Office to highlight the US fiscal position over the next ten years. These charts display revenue and outlay projections over the next ten years under different assumptions of growth rates and spending changes.
Veronique de Rugy, Jason J. Fichtner | Nov 06, 2013
The United States has both a debt and deficit problem, driven by years of overspending and unfunded promises made by politicians of both parties to pay for health care and retirement benefits to current and future seniors. The solution to the problem is relatively straightforward (although far from simple) and involves cutting spending; in particular, reforming programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act.
Veronique de Rugy, Jason J. Fichtner | Jan 14, 2013
Trends in the components of government spending have significantly shifted in the past 40 years and look to become increasingly occupied by spending on mandatory programs—such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid—and interest payments on the national debt. This week’s chart gives a comparative look at trends in the composition of government spending through snapshots from the 1970 budget, today’s budget, and the projected 2040 budget.

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.

Media Clippings

Expert Commentary

Apr 28, 2014

Mercatus Center research finds that a higher number of temporary tax breaks means more spending and investment in lobbying activities. Rather than emphasizing productive jobs, a growing supply of lobbying jobs emerges to protect various industries’ tax privileges. The Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, has noted that the tax extenders’ “stop and go nature obviously contributes to the lack of certainty and predictability needs to create more family wage jobs.”…
Mar 03, 2014

Below, scholars with the Mercatus Center at George Mason University—the world’s premier university source for market-oriented ideas—look ahead to key policy areas the president will likely focus on in his 2015 budget submission.
Jan 24, 2014

Below, scholars with the Mercatus Center at George Mason University look ahead to policy areas the president will likely raise in his State of the Union speech on Tuesday.
Jun 25, 2013

We can't afford to become complacent. We need to keep up the pressure on Congress and the president to act and reform Social Security.
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