A Better Way to Budget for Federal Lending Programs

Brief

A Better Way to Budget for Federal Lending Programs

September 29, 2014

Abstract

Policy analysts have long debated how best to budget for student loans, mortgage guarantees, and other federal lending programs. Under official budget rules, these programs appear highly profitable; under an alternative, favored by many analysts, they appear to lose money. That discrepancy confuses policy deliberations. In this brief, Donald Marron proposes a new budgeting approach, known as expected returns, that would eliminate this confusion. Unlike existing approaches, expected returns accurately reports the fiscal effects of lending over time and provides a natural way to distinguish the fiscal gains from bearing financial risk from the subsidies given to borrowers.

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