Issue Brief posted February 14, 2014
Blank Check: What It Means to Suspend the Debt Limit
Some commentators have criticized use of the phrase “blank check” to describe the recent vote to suspend the debt limit for more than a year. They argue that the debt limit suspension merely means that the Treasury is allowed to borrow for the purpose of covering spending Congress already approved.
That is only part of the story. Here is why the “blank check” analogy…
Issue Brief posted February 6, 2014
Economy Better, but Still Growing Too Slowly Because of Anti-Growth Policy
The new Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) report measuring how fast the economy grew in the fourth quarter of 2013 and for the entire year of 2013 confirms that while the U.S. economy has clearly picked up steam, it is still in the grip of a subpar recovery from the recession that ended in 2009.
The cost of this slack-paced expansion—compared to past recoveries—has been…
Issue Brief posted November 14, 2013
America’s Austerity: It’s the Tax Increases
U.S. policymakers pursued deficit reduction (also called “fiscal consolidation” or “austerity”) twice in 2013. As economists have shown in dozens of papers, how a country goes about reducing deficits matters a lot in determining the economic impact of the deficit reduction. As Alberto Alesina of Harvard, Daniel Leigh of the International Monetary Fund, and Kevin Hassett…
Issue Brief posted October 31, 2013
A Repatriation Holiday Would Not Create Jobs
The House and Senate have convened a conference committee in an attempt to reconcile the very different budgets they passed earlier this year.
Some have suggested that, if the Senate refuses to agree to tax reform in the course of negotiations, the House should seek a repatriation holiday instead. A repatriation holiday would eliminate almost all the tax liability…
Issue Brief posted September 19, 2013
Tax Reform Should Eliminate the Deduction for State and Local Taxes
House Ways and Means Committee chairman Dave Camp (R–MI) and Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus (D–MT) will face many difficult decisions as they proceed on tax reform. Among them will be whether to retain certain deductions currently in the tax code, including the deduction for state and local taxes.
Tax reform should eliminate the state and local tax…
Issue Brief posted August 13, 2013
CBO Should Measure Long-Term Obligations and Policy Impact
Senators John Thune (R–SD) and Tim Kaine (D–VA) have introduced legislation to require the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to conduct long-term fiscal scoring and annual measurement of the fiscal gap. Their effort is timely.
Today, the largest fiscal questions facing Congress concern policies that will determine the health of America’s finances decades in the…
Issue Brief posted August 2, 2013
Detroit’s Bankruptcy Marks the Tip of the Iceberg
Detroit’s recent filing for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection would protect the city from its creditors while allowing it to restructure its debts. The proceedings that follow will, in many respects, set precedents for the swell of municipal bankruptcies that are likely to follow. Some of these precedents will be set through the courts, but federal policymakers have the…
Issue Brief posted July 17, 2013
House Can Save $2.3 Billion More on the Commerce, Justice, and Science Bill
House appropriators are considering the fiscal year (FY) 2014 Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) appropriations bill in full committee this week. The bill would allocate $47.4 billion for commerce, justice, science, and related agencies—only $350 million (1 percent) less than the FY 2013 post-sequestration level. House appropriators can do better than that.
Issue Brief posted June 27, 2013
History Suggests Social Security Insolvency Is Coming Sooner Than Projected
This year’s Social Security trustees report was released with little fanfare, as the projected date of Social Security’s financial insolvency held steady at 2033. Many analysts and lawmakers have pointed to 20 years of alleged solvency as an excuse to delay meaningful Social Security reform. However, if history is any guide to future solvency, the Social Security…
Issue Brief posted June 18, 2013
Soaring National Debt Remains a Grave Threat
Federal government debt has nearly doubled since President Barack Obama took office and is projected to increase 50 percent over the next decade—and then rise rapidly thereafter—under existing policies. As federal debt has soared, so have concerns about America’s future.
Used properly, debt can safely finance private and government investment in productive capital to…
Issue Brief posted June 12, 2013
Did Tax Increases or Spending Cuts Preface the 1990s Boom?
Following Senate Budget Committee testimony, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D–RI) asked me seven “questions for the record.” The entire exchange will be publicly available, but a question about the U.S. economic boom of the 1990s deserves more attention.
Senator Whitehouse asked, “Are you familiar with the U.S. experience in the 1990s, during which tax rate increases in 1993…
Issue Brief posted June 4, 2013
Social Security Analysis of Immigration Bill Opaque and Too Narrow
Proponents of the Senate immigration bill have been touting a recent analysis by the Social Security Chief Actuary which alleges a $4.6 trillion immigration boon for Social Security’s 75-year financial outlook. Despite a total lack of transparency in the actuarial analysis, a number of problems are quite clear—the largest being a failure to account for all future…
Issue Brief posted June 4, 2013
CBO Report on “Tax Expenditures” Has It Wrong
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report on the distribution of “tax expenditures” that some are wrongly using to push for additional tax increases. This was inevitable because the report takes the wrong approach to the issue.
The CBO misnames “tax expenditures.” Congress has explicitly inserted these provisions (routinely called…
Issue Brief posted May 31, 2013
Social Security Trust Fund Reports Massive Deficits, Benefit Cuts by 2033
Social Security ran a $55 billion deficit in 2012, closing out three years of consecutive cash-flow deficits as the program’s unfunded obligations continue to grow.
The combined 75-year unfunded obligation of the Social Security and Disability trust funds (referred to as the OASDI trust fund) is $12.3 trillion. This is a $1 trillion increase from last year’s unfunded…
Issue Brief posted May 16, 2013
Net Tax Increase in Obama’s Budget Over $1 Trillion
President Obama released his fiscal year 2014 budget almost two months after it was due by law. With all that extra time, the President had plenty of opportunity to clearly account for his tax increases. But like his budgets from previous years, this year’s effort hides the total tax increase he proposes.
For example, rather than put it with the other major tax…