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GMU - New Ideas for Federal Budgeting: Working Paper Series

Below are our commissioned research papers for new ideas for federal budgeting.

New Ideas for Federal Budgeting:  Working Papers Series

  • Joseph White (Nov. 2016): "Long-Term Budgeting"
    • Professor White questions the conventional arguments regarding the wisdom of developing and strictly adhering to a long-term budget. His critiques center on our inability to accurate project many years into the future (fluctuations of Medicare spending as a percentage of GDP); the lack of a coherent enforcement mechanism; and the discrepancy between ‘totals’ and ‘details’ in long-term budget targets. He ultimately argues that it is not desirable for future generations to be ‘locked into’ the spending decisions of past and current congressional budgeting decisions, and attempting to do so generally results in a bias towards cuts, rather than for a thoughtful deliberation over the details of payment structures (particularly with healthcare spending).
  • Alan Rhinesmith (Sept. 2016): "Budgeting for National Emergencies"
    • In light of the of the financial crisis in 2008, Rhinesmith examines how to effectively account for unexpected emergencies within the federal budget process. As the 'insurer of last resort,' he argues the federal government must take the relevant steps to ensure that the response to unforeseen events is effective and rationally deliberated. In the paper, Rhinesmith first provides a thorough depiction of the financial crisis that occurred in 2008. He then assesses both the fiscal impact and how the budget process was affected by the crisis and subsequent sudden increase in demand for stabilization actions from the federal government. Finally, he describes and evaluates options moving forward to more effectively plan for future crises by incorporating funding within the budget. 
  • Alan M. Jacobs (July 2016): "Budgeting for the Future: Public Investment as Intertemporal Politics"
    • Professor Jacobs examines the problem of 'under-investment' in federal budgeting, particularly in regards to physical infrastructure. Jacobs argues that despite assessments by the American Society of Civil Engineers that the U.S.'s infrastructure is underfunded, Congress has allocates about 60% of what it was in the 1970s. He analyzes this issue as an intertemporal dilemma - a domain in which politicians face trade-offs between delivering goods to their constituents in the short run and pursuing longer-term goods that their constituents value. He explores the prospects for progress, identifying budgetary rules that alter the incentives in such a way as to promote forward thinking and public investment by lawmakers, ensuring prosperity for future decades. 
  • Philip Joyce (April 2016): "Establishing Norms and Institutions to Support a Multi-Year Focus for the Congressional Budget Process"  
    • Professor Joyce discusses the effectiveness of multi-year budgeting and the long term effects it has on policy. He concludes by suggesting institutional reform by replacing the Budget Committees with Committees on National Priorities that would be made up of Congressional leadership, as a way for Congress to consider the long-term effects of current or proposed policies. 
  • James J. Hearn and Marvin Phaup (Feb. 2016): "Federal Budget Reform: A Behaviorally Informed Approach"
    • Professors Hearn and Phaup examine the federal budget process from an microeconomic behavioral perspective. They identify strengths and weaknesses of the behavioral approach in regards to assisting both policymakers and voters in overcoming various human psychological traits that tend to lead to adverse outcomes. They conclude with specific recommendations to improve the federal budget process, including: 1) budget constraint targets with monthly CBO reporting; 2) accrual budgetary accounting with annual re-estimates for deferred payment programs; 3) treating tax expenditures as spending; 4) creating the expectation that policymakers will consider the cost and effectiveness of alternative uses and sources of budget resources; and 5) establish a point of order against a budget resolution or legislation that would increase the fiscal gap.
  • Roy T. Meyers (Sept. 2015): "The Political Feasibility of Doing What is Almost Impossible: Reforming the Federal Budget Process"
    • Professor Meyers draws upon relevant political science literature to explore the conditions that make reforming the federal budget process more probable. Despite the pessimistic outlook by both rationalist and historical institutionalist schools of thought, Meyers remains optimistic that reform can happen. He instead proposes an ideational approach in which elected leaders perceive certain reforms to be in their political self-interest, and thus likely to garner their support. 
  • F. Stevens Redburn and Paul L. Posner (Aug. 2015)"Budgeting for National Goals" 
    • Professors Redburn and Posner explore the various ways in which the federal budget process could be made more in line with national policy goals. Specifically, the suggest adopting a 'portfolio' style of budgeting that would align policy areas under various committee and agency jurisdictions to better align policy goals. 
  • Peter C. Hanson (July 2015): "Restoring the Regular Order in Congressional Appropriations" 
    • Professor Hanson examines how the decline of 'Regular Order' in passing a budget in Congress has hindered the ability to thoughtfully debate tax and spending bills. In his paper, he proposes a number of reforms, including: altering the Senate’s rules to limit or eliminate the filibuster; removing the “House acts first” sequence in appropriating; easing restrictions on earmarking; restricting the use of temporary continuing resolutions; and easing transparency requirements to improve negotiations. 


Click here for a full list of potential research topics.