Spending & Budget

Spending & Budget

Research

Veronique de Rugy, Andrea Castillo | Jul 16, 2014
This paper provides a brief overview of the history and operations of the Ex-Im Bank, followed by an examination of the key justifications for the bank’s continued authorization.
Cecil Bohanon | Jul 01, 2014
How have federal personal income tax obligations evolved over the past 60 years? A common perception is that the federal income tax burden on the poor has increased while the tax burden on the rich has declined. This study focuses on three archetypical households.
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.
Clifford Winston | Jun 17, 2014
Transportation infrastructure, including roads, bridges, airports, and the like, significantly contributes to America’s prosperity by facilitating access to the workplace, shopping, and leisure activities, as well as giving employers easy access to labor, capital, and potential consumers. However, current capacity for transport has become increasingly strained, and travelers and shippers have experienced more congestion and delays. The public sector’s “strategy” to increase infrastructure spending fails to generate the large promised benefits because its pricing and investment and operating policies are so inefficient.
Bruce Yandle | May 29, 2014
Have you ever had a car break down just as you felt you were beginning to get somewhere? And had to get out and hitchhike, hoofing it while hoping for a ride? If so, you know what it’s like to have your speed reduced to a crawl and to be hoping for a better ride. That’s the current situation with the economy.
Christopher Coyne, Lotta Moberg | May 16, 2014
The governments of American states often attempt to incentivize businesses to locate within their borders by offering targeted benefits to particular industries and companies. These benefits come in many forms, including business tax credits for investments, property tax abatements, and reductions in the sales tax. Despite good intentions, policymakers often overlook the unseen and unintended negative consequences of targeted-benefit policies. This paper analyzes two major downsides of these policies: (1) they lead to a misallocation of resources, and (2) they encourage rent-seeking and thus cronyism. We argue that these costs, which are often longer-term and not readily observable at the time the targeted benefits are granted, may very well outweigh any possible short-term economic benefits.

Testimony & Comments

Antony Davies | Jul 28, 2014
There are two important unintended consequences of raising the federal contractor minimum wage: first, it can adversely affect the most vulnerable workers; and second, the rule as currently stated could be enforced in a manner so that its impact would extend to far more businesses than originally intended.
David M. Primo | Jul 24, 2014
Constitutional rules, unlike statutory or internal rules, are difficult to change. If written to cover the entire budget, avoid loopholes, and make waivers difficult to obtain, Constitutional rules can provide the enforcement mechanism that will help ensure that specific reforms to entitlements, defense, and other spending areas will not be undone by future Congresses.
Veronique de Rugy | Jun 25, 2014
The Bank has long outlived its purpose and cannot manage to meet the standards of the new missions that have been developed to validate its existence. For policymakers who have the facts, the choice is clear: the Export-Import Bank must go.
Jason J. Fichtner | May 21, 2014
Social Security faces real financial challenges. Dismissing the real and current fiscal challenges facing the Social Security system and kicking the “reform can” further down the road will only increase the severity of the burden associated with reforms when they inevitably must take place.
Keith Hall | Jul 09, 2013
The biggest problem with the US labor is a lack of economic growth. And according to our biggest job creators, small business owners, government is playing a big role in holding back the economy.
Jason J. Fichtner | May 23, 2013
My testimony focuses on the Social Security program’s incentives—specifically, how the current structure provides disincentives to work and save. I will also discuss how Social Security reform, if done correctly, can increase US savings, labor force participation, economic growth, and federal revenues.

Research Summaries & Toolkits

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.
| Sep 24, 2013
The Mercatus State Policy Guide is intended to summarize and condense the best research available on the most relevant topics. It’s a starting point for discussion, not a comprehensive overview of economic policy. Each statement is supported by academic research, with links provided in the endnotes. Mercatus scholars are available to further explain the results of their studies. We hope the guide will prove to be a valuable tool in your economic policy research.
| Jul 23, 2013
The Mercatus Policy Guide is intended to summarize and condense the best research available on the most pressing topics. It serves as a starting point for discussion, not a comprehensive overview of economic policy. Anyone who wants to go deeper into these studies should consult the references listed at the back. Mercatus scholars are available to further explain the results of their studies. We hope the guide will prove to be a valuable tool in your evaluation of economic policy.
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.
Jason J. Fichtner, Veronique de Rugy | Jan 25, 2013
The debt ceiling, or the legal limit the federal government may borrow, is set currently at $16.4 trillion.[1] In his latest report, Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner predicts that the United States will need to increase the debt ceiling sometime between February 15, 2013, and early March 2013.[2] The Congressional Research Service estimates the federal government will have to issue an additional $700 billion in debt above the current statutory limit to finance obligations for the remainder of FY2013…

Expert Commentary

Jul 28, 2014

The Medicare and Social Security annual report, released today, shows that the insolvency date for the Social Security Old Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) trust fund is now 2034, one year earlier than estimated in last year’s report, while the insolvency dates for the Social Security Disability Insurance (DI) trust fund (2016) and the combined trust funds (2033) remain unchanged.
Jul 27, 2014

It is simply not true that “the St. Louis metropolitan area benefits greatly” from the Ex-Im Bank. In fact, Ex-Im contributed to less than 0.63 percent of St. Louis-area exports from 2007 to 2014. The bank benefited roughly 1.5 percent of all Missouri exports and 1.38 percent of all Illinois exports at the same time.
By Keith Hall |
Jul 25, 2014

The labor force participation rate for the prime working-age population — those between 25 and 54 years old — has been declining in the U.S. since 1997. One of the big reasons is a rise in the disability rate, which hit a record 5.2 percent in 2013. Since the start of the Great Recession, the withdrawal rate due to disability has accelerated.
Jul 22, 2014

These giant corporations that Ex-Im serves - such as the mining group Hancock Prospecting (which is owned by the richest woman in Australia) and Pemex, Mexico's government-owned oil company - would have no problem arranging financing without Ex-Im. They simply would not get a government-granted discount courtesy of U.S. taxpayers.
Jul 22, 2014

Subsidized firms undoubtedly enjoy their government privileges — but we must remember the other 98 percent of us who do not have friends down at the Export-Import Bank.
Jul 21, 2014

At their worst, Ex-Im loan programs introduce political incentives into business decisions, creating the conditions for companies to seek financial rewards by pleasing political interests rather than customers. The economic costs this cronyism imposes are real and inexcusable.

Charts

This chart shows the relationship between the relative minimum wage (the minimum wage as a fraction of the average hourly wage) and unemployment rates for workers with different educational attainments.

Experts

Veronique de Rugy is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. Her primary research interests include the US economy, the federal budget, homeland security, taxation, tax competition, and financial privacy. Her popular weekly charts, published by the Mercatus Center, address economic issues ranging from lessons on creating sustainable economic growth to the implications of government tax and fiscal policies. She has testified numerous times in front of Congress on the effects of fiscal stimulus, debt and deficits, and regulation on the economy.
Charles Blahous is the director of the Spending and Budget Initiative, a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and a public trustee for Social Security and Medicare. He specializes in domestic economic policy and retirement security (with an emphasis on Social Security), as well as federal fiscal policy, entitlements, demographic change, and health-care reform.
Tyler Cowen is Holbert L. Harris Chair of Economics at George Mason University and serves as chairman and general director of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. With colleague Alex Tabarrok, Cowen is coauthor of the popular economics blog Marginal Revolution and cofounder of the online educational platform Marginal Revolution University.
Antony Davies is a Mercatus Center–affiliated senior scholar at George Mason University and associate professor of economics at Duquesne University. He also is a member of the Research Program on Forecasting at George Washington University. He specializes in econometrics, public policy, and economic psychology.
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.

Podcasts

Veronique de Rugy | July 17, 2014
Veronique de Rugy Discusses the Export Import Bank on John Batchelor

Recent Events

Please join us for breakfast on Tuesday, May 6, with one of Mercatus’ affiliated scholars, Dr. Antony Davies, Associate Professor of Economics at Duquesne University, to discuss intended and unintended consequences of the current U.S. debt and deficit.

Books

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

Media Clippings

Charles Blahous | Jun 04, 2014
This excerpt originally appeared in CQ and also appeared Roll Call.
Veronique de Rugy | May 20, 2014
This excerpt originally appeared in Wall Street Journal.
Veronique de Rugy | May 15, 2014
Veronique de Rugy quoted at CNN Money.
Sarah Arnett | Jan 17, 2014
The Mercatus Center cited at Philly.com.
Tyler Cowen | Oct 23, 2013
Tyler Cowen's book, "Average is Over" cited at Los Angeles Times.
' '