Mercatus Toolkits

Members of Congress are grappling with a variety of complicated and critical issues regarding the U.S. economy, such as job creation, government spending, tax policy, and regulation. To help members and staff separate facts from rhetoric, the Mercatus Center’s Toolkits offer a concise reference guide on key information to find and important questions to ask for the purposes of public policy development and congressional oversight.

The Mercatus Center’s Toolkit series includes:

Spending and Budget Toolkit

Guidance for identifying and examining:

  • The spending effects of bills.
  • Accounting tricks and budget gimmicks.
  • Whether or not a bill increases spending.
  • Attempts to restrict scrutiny of certain spending.
  • Efforts to alter the policy-making process to encourage more or less spending in the future.

Performance and Accountability Toolkit

Assistance in:

  • Preparing statements and questions that can effectively probe the performance records of individual agencies, specific programs, and programs targeting the same policy issue (e.g., literacy, job training).
  • Identifying oversight resources, such as existing performance reports and related data produced by agencies in accordance with the Government Performance and Results Act and other performance-related statutes (e.g., financial management laws).
  • Develop requests to agencies for important information that is missing from current agency or program performance reports.

Guidance for examining:

  • An agency’s core statutory mission; how many goals/objectives an agency is responsible for pursuing in accordance with that mission; whether or not the agency has a clear plan to achieve its goals/objectives; and whether or not it is making any headway in achieving it goals/objectives.
  • Performance data to identify and evaluate the outcomes (i.e., progress toward goals/objectives) achieved by government spending on specific programs.
  • Gathered information to pinpoint programs that should be downsized or eliminated due to ineffectiveness, duplicative/overlapping missions, or cost-inefficiency.

Regulatory Oversight Toolkit

Assistance in:

  • Preparing statements and questions for oversight hearings, investigations, and inquiry letters addressing federal regulation.
  • Identifying informative resources about the agency rulemaking process and the quality and use of regulatory analysis by agencies.
  • Identifying the types of analysis that an agency has or has not included in a proposed rulemaking.
  • Assessing which key factors were included, excluded, insufficiently addressed, or potentially mischaracterized in an agency’s regulatory analysis.

Background information on:

  • What a regulatory impact analysis is and its role in agency rulemaking.
  • The minimum standards by which an agency should conduct regulatory impact analysis.

Guidance for examining whether or not an agency rulemaking:

  • Identifies a significant, systemic problem that it is authorized by Congress to address.
  • Describes the outcomes that the agency seeks to achieve.
  • Identifies and examines the baseline and alternative solutions to address the problem.
  • Evaluates the pros and cons of the identified solutions, including costs and benefits.
  • Demonstrates that the regulatory impact analysis was used by the agency in its decision-making process.