Spending and Budget Initiative

Spending and Budget Initiative

The Spending and Budget Initiative draws on a team of university economists and policy practitioners with diverse expertise in government spending and budget reform, assembled to provide policy makers an honest understanding of budgets, spending, deficits, and debt and how these issues relate to economic growth and progress. Mercatus scholars work alongside policy makers to identify fiscally responsible policies and actionable options for budget reform.

Research

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).
Veronique de Rugy, Jason J. Fichtner | Aug 21, 2014
The recent decline in federal deficits should not create a false sense that the national debt is no longer a clear and present threat. While this improvement may be encouraging, it represents only a temporary respite from the government’s growing fiscal imbalances.
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.

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 | Apr 01, 2014
Raising the rate of labor force participation needs to be a central focus of federal policymakers, in order to strengthen our economy and raise the prospects of low-income Americans. To do this, we need to make it easier, not harder, for companies to increase hiring. We also need to encourage individuals to re-enter the labor force, not discourage them. Government assistance for the jobless is important, but the re-employment of the jobless is what we need to reduce poverty and lower income inequality.
Veronique de Rugy | Dec 04, 2013
Despite Washington’s recent focus on the disastrous Affordable Care Act website rollout, policymakers are missing what the rollout glitches symbolize: the fundamental flaws that imbue government intervention. The work of public choice economists such as Nobel laureate James Buchanan, Gordon Tullock, Mancur Olson, and William Niskanen has shown that, despite good intentions and lavish use of taxpayer resources, government solutions are not only unlikely to solve most of our problems—they often make problems worse.

Research Summaries & Toolkits

Charts

Veronique de Rugy | Sep 16, 2014
This week’s charts use data from the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) recently released update to its Budget and Economic Outlook to show the trends and components of projected debt and deficit increases. The charts show that debt and deficits will continue to grow over the coming decade, although enacting certain policy changes—such as freezing most discretionary spending at current levels or extending expiring tax cuts—could over the next decade shrink deficits by $615 billion or add $897 billion to baseline deficit projections, respectively.

Experts

Videos

Robert Graboyes | September 22, 2014
There's a bizarre reason why millions of Americans saw their health plans cancelled in 2013 and, as explained in a new video featuring Robert Graboyes of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, millions more will lose their plans in years to come.

Podcasts

Robert Graboyes | September 25, 2014
Robert Graboyes discusses 3D printing and prosthetic limbs on WTOP.

Recent Events

| March 14, 2013
Please join us for a casual reception where you can take a break from March Madness and meet some of our scholars who can provide the kind of practical information you need to be most effective in your work.

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.
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