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

Marc Joffe | Apr 02, 2014
The high and rising cost of US medical care is partially attributable to legally enforced rigidities in the health care system. By relaxing restrictions, the government can unlock competitive forces that drive prices down and empower individuals to avoid unnecessary, expensive medical services. A more open health care market would give providers incentives to innovate in ways that not only improve the quality of care but also reduce the cost of offering it.
David M. Primo | Mar 11, 2014
Alternative presentations of the same budget data tend to offer very different impressions, creating opportunities for a deeper understanding of fiscal health. However, these measures sometimes reflect hidden assumptions about government finances, so even a seemingly neutral way of presenting data often isn’t so neutral. The ability to give different impressions with the same budget data creates the opportunity for policy mischief, as one can tell very different stories about fiscal policy depending on the measure used. We can assess the appropriateness of various spending adjustments by understanding the underlying assumptions in the measures, how to use the measures analytically, and how they might be used strategically. The paper looks at measures of government spending over time, as well as budget forecasts, to demonstrate this logic in practice. It concludes with a case study of President Obama’s fiscal year 2014 budget.
Bruce Yandle | Mar 03, 2014
Quivering financial markets in a post-taper economy remind me once again to always follow the money when trying to predict where this world is headed. New Fed chair Janet Yellen spoke truth to power when she testified in February that the Fed had stopped watering the money tree and that US labor markets were a long way from normal.
Tracy C. Miller | Feb 22, 2014
While replacing gas taxes with VMT charges could raise commuting costs for many drivers and users of mass transit in urban areas, it would reduce the wastage of time and fuel due to congestion.
David M. Primo | Jan 21, 2014
The United States faces severe fiscal challenges—most notably, the unsustainable growth of entitlement spending and a mounting debt burden that raises concerns about the government’s ability to pay it back without strangling economic growth. These threats reflect the inability of Congress and presidents to make the hard choices necessary to restore fiscal responsibility to the federal budget. …
Charles Blahous | Jan 14, 2014
According to a new paper published by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, the slowdown in health care cost growth is extremely unlikely to solve Medicare’s financing problems. Indeed, such a suggestion primarily reflects an incomplete understanding of how current Medicare cost projections are done.

Testimony & Comments

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.
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.
Veronique de Rugy | May 22, 2013
Good morning, Chairman Murray, Ranking Member Sessions, and members of the committee. Thank you for the chance to discuss the effect of tax increases and spending cuts on economic growth. I appreciate the opportunity to testify today.
Keith Hall | Jun 19, 2012
In his testimony, Keith Hall discusses the economic statistics produced by the federal statistical system. He comments on some of the challenges that the current system is struggling to meet and a handful of specific inadequacies in data coverage.
Veronique de Rugy | Jun 19, 2012
For obvious reasons, more than any other recent events, the waste of taxpayers’ money due to Solyndra’s failure has attracted much attention. However, the problems with loan guarantees are much more fundamental than the cost of one or more failed projects.

Research Summaries & Toolkits

Charts

Veronique de Rugy | Apr 15, 2014
This week’s chart uses data from the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center to update a chart on average effective federal rates. The chart compares the average effective rate at which earners in different income quintiles are taxed by the federal government using newly available numbers for 2011.

Experts

Videos

Podcasts

Veronique de Rugy | February 11, 2014
Veronique De Rugy Discusses the Debt Ceiling on Butler on Business

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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