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Empirical Research Idea

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The following paragraph is from a National Review essay [2] whose author supports “the Child Rearing and Development Leave Empowerment (CRADLE) Act, the latest conservative effort to develop a paid-leave policy that enables parents to stay home with their newborns”:

The budget-neutral plan borrows from a policy paper [3] by Kristin Shapiro of the Independent Women’s Forum and mirrors a similar bill that Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) proposed last Congress, with the backing of Ivanka Trump. It would amend the Social Security Act to allow parents to take up to three months off from work by drawing on their retirement benefits early in exchange for delaying their benefits after retiring. Both natural and adoptive parents could choose to collect benefits while taking time off from work for either one, two, or three months after a child’s birth. Every month taken off would add a two-month delay to activation of Social Security benefits once they reached retirement age, meaning they’d receive their benefits two, four, or six months later than they otherwise would upon retirement.

My purpose here isn’t to evaluate the merits of this particular scheme. (For insightful analysis of proposals such as this one see work – for example, here [4], here [5], here [6], and here [7] – by my intrepid Mercatus Center colleague Veronique de Rugy.)

Instead, I write only to suggest a useful empirical research project to answer this question: How many proposals sold as “budget-neutral” have, when enacted, turned out after, say, ten years to be budget-neutral? My priors tell me that the likely answer is “none.” But perhaps my priors mislead me. The question is, as they say, empirical.

Further research can put a dollar figure on the amount, if any, of the budget overruns of schemes sold to the public as “budget-neutral.”

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