Spending & Budget

Spending & Budget

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.
David R. Henderson | Jun 30, 2015
Many observers think that it is impossible to cut federal government spend- ing as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). But it can be done. And the evidence is hidden in plain sight: it’s called the 1990s. Between 1990 and 2000, federal spending fell from 21.85 percent of GDP to 18.22 percent, a drop of 3.6 percentage points. Most of the reduction was in defense spending after the Cold War ended. Domestic spending also fell slightly as a percentage of GDP. This drop cannot be attributed to higher economic growth in the 1990s because average growth in the 1990s was the same as growth in the previous two decades.
Whitney Afonso | Jun 24, 2015
While the federal government has taken the lead in implementing efforts toward greater transparency—for example, by creating the easy-to-access website Recovery.gov to enable visitors to track the spending of stimulus money —state and local governments are following suit by providing more online information about how they spend taxes. Proponents of increased transparency in the public sector, including elected officials and citizens, believe that transparency is an important tool for holding governments accountable and reducing corruption. In a period when trust in government has hit a record low (24 percent in 2014 and a record low of 19 percent in 2013), increased transparency is viewed as a way of promoting trust and cooperation between government and its citizens.
Mark J. Warshawsky | Jun 09, 2015
As the baby boom generation begins to retire, fewer and fewer private-sector workers have traditional defined benefit pension plans, which usually pay lifetime annuity benefits. Instead, they have accumulated considerable assets in 401(k) plans and individual retirement accounts (IRAs) that have no particular method of payout. Federal government policy, which has regulated defined benefit plans heavily and mandated plan designs for distributions, has tread more lightly on defined contribution plans because of their historical secondary nature.
Laurence Kotlikoff, Adam Michel | Jun 03, 2015
The true US debt is 16 times larger than what the government reports. Closing this fiscal gap with taxes alone would require a massive, immediate, and permanent tax increase on every American family. The burden grows with each year of congressional and presidential inaction, threatening future standards of living. How would such a tax hike affect individual American households? A new study published by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University details how much Americans would have to pay to actually close the true fiscal gap with tax increases.
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.”…

Testimony & Comments

David M. Primo | Jul 28, 2015
My three-part message today is this. First, Congress should treat the budget process as a means, not an end, and enact reforms accordingly. Second, given the fiscal challenges facing the country, now is not the time for minor tweaking. Instead, now is the time to think big and craft a process that drives legislators to produce credible and sustainable fiscal policy by constraining federal spending both today and tomorrow. Third, any reform should include effective enforcement mechanisms, preferably constitutional in nature, to prevent the new process from suffering the same fate as the current one.
Veronique de Rugy | Jun 02, 2015
Contrary to what you will hear from its supporters and beneficiaries, the Ex-Im Bank plays a marginal role in export financing—backing a mere 2 percent of US exports each year. The vast majority of exporters secure financing from a wide variety of private banks and other financial institutions without government interference or assistance. With US exports hitting record high levels, it is obvious that such financing is abundant and government assistance is superfluous.
Veronique de Rugy | Mar 24, 2015
Policymakers who are interested in supporting the entrepreneurs and companies that will deliver the next generation of energy supplies and products should focus their attention on correcting the federal government’s hostile tax climate and dispense with the futile hopes of outsmarting the marketplace.
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.

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 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."
Jul 06, 2015

Warshawsky discusses a recent prominent critique by professors Konstantin Kashin, Gary King, and Samir Soneji of the methods and assumptions underlying the trustees’ forecasts regarding the financial status of the Social Security and Medicare trust funds, and he analyzes the authors’ conclusion that the forecasts are increasingly and systematically flawed.
Jun 26, 2015

If you Google “crumbling highways and bridges” you get quite a few hits. Yet government statistics suggest that our transportation infrastructure is not in bad shape. People’s personal experience partly explains the divergence between hype and reality. Another reason is that our elected officials in Washington can capture votes by sending gasoline tax dollars home. They have much to gain by pushing the idea that our highways and bridges are falling apart.
Jun 24, 2015

With its June 30 expiration date quickly approaching, there are very few working days left should Congress want to address the termination of the Export-Import Bank - a federal outfit that mainly extends loans and loan guarantees to successful, well-connected foreign companies. At the center of the debate has been House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Dallas, who noted last month: "The American people do not want privilege and subsidy. What they want is freedom and opportunity." Chairman Hensarling was referring to Ex-Im's problematic, and often corrupt, history.
Jun 24, 2015

Does it seem as if some lawmakers have the attention span of a toddler? Several years ago, concerns about the debt and overspending were all the rage. These worries have dissipated almost entirely as deficit levels have gone down from their sky-high summit in 2009. And just like that, lawmakers have gone back to overlooking our long-term fiscal situation and the unsustainable path the nation is on.
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Jun 01, 2015

As a currently-serving trustee I have been asked for my view of the Kashin-King-Soneji work. Summarizing very roughly, their factual observations and analyses strike me as essentially correct, though I disagree with many of their interpretative conclusions (full disclosure: I was one of many sources interviewed by the authors in the course of their extensive research). In this piece I will review some of their critiques pertaining to the trustees' projection history. In a follow-up piece I will turn to their criticisms and recommendations with respect to the process by which the projections are developed.

Charts

The following chart shows projected revenues and spending under the president’s proposal according to the new figures provided by the MSR. The first graph displays the data in dollar amounts while the second shows revenues and spending as a share of the economy (GDP).

Experts

Veronique de Rugy is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and a nationally syndicated columnist. Her primary research interests include the U.S. 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 has served as 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

Charles Blahous | July 10, 2015
Charles Blahous discusses how the costs of the Affordable Care Act has impacted the federal deficit on the nationally-syndicated John Batchelor show.

Recent Events

The Mercatus Center at George Mason University invites you to join Dr. Jerry Ellig, Dr. Jason Fichtner, and Dr. Patrick McLaughlin for a Regulation University to discuss how the budget and regulatory process operate in isolation to each other, and reform options that could improve both systems.

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.
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