Spending & Budget

Spending & Budget

Research

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 E. Taylor, Andrea Castillo | Jan 13, 2015
A new study published by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University examines the use of expansionary fiscal policy to stimulate a contracting economy. The study concludes that attempts to use fiscal policy to solve broader economic troubles have failed even by the theory proponents’ own standards. In addition to being poorly timed and targeted, stimulus spending has led to permanent increases in the size and scope of government.
Robert Emmet Moffit, Neil Meredith | Jan 13, 2015
In a new study for the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, scholars Robert Emmet Moffit and Neil R. Meredith demonstrate that while the MSP Program grants new power to the OPM by setting standards designed to limit entry into the program, the law may decrease competition and increase consolidation in the health insurance market. Decreased competition in the health care market may lead to higher prices for consumers of health care and could revive calls for a public health insurance option.
Casey B. Mulligan | Oct 07, 2014
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) imposes several types of incentives that will affect work schedules. The largest of them are (1) an explicit penalty on employers who do not offer coverage to their full-time employees; (2) an implicit tax on full-time employment, stemming from the fact that full-time employees at employers that offer affordable coverage are ineligible to receive subsidies on the law’s new health insurance exchanges; and (3) an implicit tax on earnings, stemming from the provisions of the law that give lower subsidies to those with higher incomes.
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.
Courtney A. Collins | Aug 25, 2014
Since its inception, the education system in the United States has been structured in a very decentralized way. The federal government has historically played a limited role in public schools, leaving the majority of decisions to be made at the state and local level. The extent of federal involvement began to widen, however, in 1965 with the passage of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

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

e21
Jan 29, 2015

The current corporate tax code distorts investments, hurting some industries while privileging others. It’s time we move away from temporary tax policy and adopt meaningful reforms. Congress should consider full expensing as a permanent change to the tax code to level the playing field and grow the economy.
e21
Jan 15, 2015

For years Social Security’s trustees (of which I am one) have warned that lawmakers must act to address the troubled finances of the program’s disability insurance (DI) trust fund. Congress has nearly run out of time to do so. Legislation will be required during this Congress or, at the very latest, in a rush at the beginning of the next one, to prevent large sudden benefit cuts. The House of Representatives recently passed a procedural rule to prepare for the coming legislative debate. In this column I explain the issues in play.
Jan 11, 2015

The GOP Congress can make three small but meaningful improvements to our national life, and all it has to do is what it does best: nothing. We often make New Year’s resolutions to improve our lives over the next twelve months. Regardless of the magnitude of the changes we desire, the best way to go about making progress is to commit to attainable goals rather than sweeping ones that we will likely abandon after a few weeks.
e21
Jan 05, 2015

With the term of current Congressional Budget Office (CBO) director Doug Elmendorf expiring, incoming House Budget Committee chairman Tom Price, along with soon-to-be-named Senate Budget Committee chairman Mike Enzi, will need to choose the agency’s next director. I am confident the eventual choice will be strongly credentialed and capable. This piece describes some criteria I believe should guide this critical decision.
Jan 01, 2015

Foreign aid suffers from a principal-agent problem, in which organizations prioritize donors' political and commercial interests over recipients' needs.
Dec 29, 2014

Today I would like to focus on what hasn’t changed: The commitment of Republicans and Democrats to special business interests at the expense of all of us.

Charts

When it comes to funding national defense, policymakers tend to ignore war costs so an accurate assessment on the burden on taxpayer of overseas military ventures is increasingly important as pressure mounts to increase the Pentagon’s regular “base” budget.

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 | January 21, 2015
Veronique de Rugy discusses the economic implications of President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address with KDKA’s Robert Mangino.

Upcoming Events

Recent Events

Please join us for lunch with Mercatus Center Senior Research Fellow Jason Fichtner to discuss pro-growth policy options. He’ll also address the research and ideas Mercatus shares with policymakers in order to advance the debate on economic issues.

Books

Joseph Antos, Charles Blahous, 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

Jason J. Fichtner | Jul 28, 2014
This excerpt originally appeared in The Daily Caller.
Jason J. Fichtner | Jul 24, 2014
This excerpt originally appeared in FOX Business.
Jason J. Fichtner | Jul 17, 2014
This excerpt originally appeared in FOX Business.
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.
' '