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

Aug 10, 2015

There are economically worthwhile transportation infrastructure projects that need funding, but given the limited tax funds available, it makes sense to target the funds to get the biggest bang for the buck. Since the completion of the Interstate Highway System in the 1980s, politicians in Washington have failed to do this. It's time to shift responsibility for the provision of transportation infrastructure back to cities and states.
Aug 06, 2015

The challenge faced by young Americans and the root cause of their tragic situation are perfectly described in a recent book by two scholars at the Manhattan Institute, Diana Furchtgott-Roth and Jared Meyer, called "Disinherited: How Washington Is Betraying America's Young." If you aren't convinced that millennials, unlike past generations, are in a bad way, they have a few facts for you.
e21
Jul 30, 2015

My most recent article for e21 summarized the 2015 Social Security trustees’ report released last week. This companion piece does the same for theMedicare report. These are the last annual reports in which I participated as a public trustee based on my term that ended last autumn. The Medicare report shows that the program is on an unsustainable path. Following is some key information from the report about Medicare finances.
e21
Jul 28, 2015

Last week saw the publication of the annual Social Security and Medicare trustees’ reports, along with an accompanying summary. The occasion was bittersweet for me, these being the last such reports in which I participated as a public trustee on the basis of my term ending last autumn. It has been a high honor to serve, largely because of the privilege of working alongside the other trustees – most especially my remarkable fellow public trustee Robert Reischauer – as well as the many dedicated, knowledgeable staff who strive so hard to put together these vital annual reports.
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 23, 2015

Corporations provide an easy political target for tax-hungry politicians, but the burden of corporate taxes falls on ordinary citizens. Employees, shareholders and investors will bear the brunt of the OECD's corporate tax grab, all because European politicians refuse to accept responsibility for building bigger governments than their economies can sustain.

Charts

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.

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.

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.

Upcoming Events

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.
' '