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Winter 2025 Course

Federal Budget Policy

Prerequisites: None

Exam Type: No Exam
Students enrolled in the course will be expected to submit a series of reaction papers to daily assignments, some of which may be team reaction papers, as well as a somewhat longer blog post addressing an issue of current policy debate.

The goal of this course is to introduce students to the law and practice of federal budgeting in the United States. We will begin with the basic structure of the federal budget process, including the President’s budget and Congressional budget procedures.  We will explore the roles of all three branches of federal government in setting budget policy in the United States, covering government shut-downs, debt ceiling crises, continuing resolutions, and ongoing debates over budget reforms and fiscal challenges. We will also examine current debates over deficits and public debt levels. Based on student interest, we may also take up entitlement reform, defense spending, budgeting for infrastructure as well as topics related to state budgeting practices and federal-state relations in budget policy.

Readings will be from Fiscal Challenges: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Budget Policy (2007) (Howell Jackson, et al., eds.) and additional distributed materials.

Students interested in writing a research paper on budget policy can sign up to write such a paper for independent credit in the Spring semester. Research topics should be arranged with permission of the instructor. Examples of student papers from past years are available at

Note: This course will be jointly listed with HKS as MLD-420M.

This course will meet over the first two weeks of the term.