One-Pager No. 61 | March 2020The rapidly growing uncertainty about the potential global fallout from an emerging pandemic is occurring against a background in which there is evidence US corporate sector balance sheets are significantly overstretched, exhibiting a degree of fragility that, according to some measures, is unmatched in the postwar historical record. The US economy is vulnerable to a shock that could trigger a cascade of falling asset prices and private sector deleveraging, with severe consequences for both the real and financial sides of the economy.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Related Topic(s):
Strategic Analysis | January 2020
2020 and BeyondThis Strategic Analysis examines the US economy’s prospects for 2020–23 and the risks that lie ahead. The baseline projection generated by the Levy Institute’s stock-flow consistent macroeconomic model shows that, given current fiscal arrangements and the slowdown in the global economy, the pace of the US recovery will slacken somewhat, with a growth rate that will average 1.5 percent over the next several years.
The authors then point to three factors that can derail this already weak baseline trajectory: (1) an overvalued stock market; (2) evidence that the corporate sector’s balance sheets are more fragile than they have ever been in the postwar period; and (3) risks in the foreign sector stemming from the slowdown of the global economy, an overvalued dollar, and the current administration’s erratic trade policy.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Related Topic(s):
Strategic Analysis | January 20202019 marked the third year of the continuing economic recovery in Greece, with real GDP and employment rising, albeit at modest rates. In this Strategic Analysis we note that the expansion has mainly been driven by net exports, with tourism playing a dominant role. However, household consumption and investment are still too far below their precrisis levels, and a stronger and sustainable recovery should target these components of domestic demand as well.
Fiscal austerity imposed on the Greek government has achieved its target in terms of public finances, such that some fiscal space is now available to stimulate the economy. Our simulations for the 2019–21 period show that under current conditions the economy is likely to continue on a path of modest growth, and that the amount of private investment needed for a stronger recovery is unlikely to materialize.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Related Topic(s):
One-Pager No. 60 | July 2019Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, along with Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, recently proposed to increase the rate of taxation on very high incomes and net worth. One of the primary justifications for such policies is that reducing inequality would help safeguard political equality. However, Dimitri B. Papadimitriou, Michalis Nikiforos, and Gennaro Zezza show how these tax policies, if matched by comparable increases in government spending, have the potential to boost aggregate demand while helping reform the unstable structure of the US economy.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Related Topic(s):
Strategic Analysis | April 2019Although the ongoing recovery is about to become the longest in the history of the United States, it is also the weakest in postwar history, and as we enter the second quarter of 2019, many clouds have gathered.
This Strategic Analysis considers the recent trajectory, the present state, and the future prospects of the US economy. The authors identify four main structural problems that explain how we arrived at the crisis of 2007–09 and why the recovery that has followed has been so weak—as well as why the prospect of a recession is increasingly likely.
The US economy is in need of deep structural reforms that will deal with these problems. This report analyzes a pair of policies that begin to move in that direction, both involving an increase in the tax rate for high-income and high-net-worth households. Even if the primary justification for these policies is not economic, this report shows that if such an increase in taxes is accompanied by an equivalent increase in government outlays, the redistributive impact will have a positive macroeconomic effect while moving the US economy toward a more sustainable future.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Related Topic(s):
Working Paper No. 919 | January 2019While the literature on theoretical macroeconomic models adopting the stock-flow-consistent (SFC) approach is flourishing, few contributions cover the methodology for building a SFC empirical model for a whole country. Most contributions simply try to feed national accounting data into a theoretical model inspired by Wynne Godley and Marc Lavoie (2007), albeit with different degrees of complexity.
In this paper we argue instead that the structure of an empirical SFC model should start from a careful analysis of the specificities of a country’s sectoral balance sheets and flow of funds data, given the relevant research question to be addressed. We illustrate our arguments with examples for Greece, Italy, and Ecuador.
We also provide some suggestions on how to consistently use the financial and nonfinancial accounts of institutional sectors, showing the link between SFC accounting structures and national accounting rules.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Gennaro Zezza Francesco ZezzaRelated Topic(s):
Strategic Analysis | November 2018The Greek government has managed to exit the stability support program and achieve a higher-than-required primary surplus so as not to require further austerity measures to depress domestic demand. At the same time, the economy has started to recover, mainly due to the good performance of both exports of goods and tourism and modest increases in investment
In this report, we review recent developments in the determinants of aggregate demand and net exports, and provide estimates of two scenarios: one which assumes business as usual and the other an alternate scenario simulating the medium-term impact of an acceleration in investment.
We conclude with a discussion on the sustainability of Greek government debt, showing that it is crucial that the cost of borrowing remains below the nominal growth of national income.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Related Topic(s):
Strategic Analysis | April 2018The US economy has been expanding continuously for almost nine years, making the current recovery the second longest in postwar history. However, the current recovery is also the slowest recovery of the postwar period.
This Strategic Analysis presents the medium-run prospects, challenges, and contradictions for the US economy using the Levy Institute’s stock-flow consistent macroeconometric model. By comparing a baseline projection for 2018–21 in which no budget or tax changes take place to three additional scenarios, the authors isolate the likely macroeconomic impacts of: (1) the recently passed tax bill; (2) a large-scale public infrastructure plan of the same “fiscal size” as the tax cuts; and (3) the spending increases entailed by the Bipartisan Budget Act and omnibus bill. Finally, Nikiforos and Zezza update their estimates of the likely outcome of a scenario in which there is a sharp drop in the stock market that induces another round of private-sector deleveraging.
Although in the near term the US economy could see an acceleration of its GDP growth rate due to the recently approved increase in federal spending and the new tax law, it is increasingly likely that the recovery will be derailed by a crisis that will originate in the financial sector.
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Working Paper No. 891 | May 2017
The stock-flow consistent (SFC) modeling approach, grounded in the pioneering work of Wynne Godley and James Tobin in the 1970s, has been adopted by a growing number of researchers in macroeconomics, especially after the publication of Godley and Lavoie (2007), which provided a general framework for the analysis of whole economic systems, and the recognition that macroeconomic models integrating real markets with flow-of-funds analysis had been particularly successful in predicting the Great Recession of 2007–9. We introduce the general features of the SFC approach for a closed economy, showing how the core model has been extended to address issues such as financialization and income distribution. We next discuss the implications of the approach for models of open economies and compare the methodologies adopted in developing SFC empirical models for whole countries. We review the contributions where the SFC approach is being adopted as the macroeconomic closure of microeconomic agent-based models, and how the SFC approach is at the core of new research in ecological macroeconomics. Finally, we discuss the appropriateness of the name “stock-flow consistent” for the class of models we survey.Download:Associated Program(s):Author(s):Related Topic(s):
Strategic Analysis | April 2017From a macroeconomic point of view, 2016 was an ordinary year in the post–Great Recession period. As in prior years, the conventional forecasts predicted that this would be the year the economy would finally escape from the “new normal” of secular stagnation. But just as in every previous year, the forecasts were confounded by the actual result: lower-than-expected growth—just 1.6 percent.
The radical policy changes promoted by the new Trump administration dominated economic conditions in the closing quarter of the year and the first quarter of 2017. Markets have responded with exuberance since the November elections, on the expectation that the proposed policy measures would increase profitability by boosting growth and cutting personal and corporate taxes. However, an evaluation of the US economy’s structural characteristics reveals three key impediments to a robust, sustainable recovery: income inequality, fiscal conservatism, and weak net export demand. The new administration’s often conflicting policy proposals are unlikely to solve any of these fundamental problems—if anything, the situation will worsen.
Our latest Strategic Analysis provides two medium-term scenarios for the US economy. The “business as usual” baseline scenario (built on CBO estimates) shows household debt and GDP growth roughly maintaining their moribund postcrisis trends. The second scenario assumes a sharp correction in the stock market beginning in 2017Q3, combined with another round of private sector deleveraging. The results: negative growth and a government deficit of 8.3 percent by 2020—essentially a repeat of the crisis of 2007–9.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Related Topic(s):
Strategic Analysis | October 2016
The Greek government has agreed to a new round of fiscal austerity measures consisting of a sharp increase in taxes on income and property and further reductions in pension and other welfare-related expenditures. Based on our model of the Greek economy, policies aimed at reducing the government deficit will cause a recession, unless other components of aggregate demand increase enough to more than offset the negative impact of fiscal austerity on output and employment.
In this report we argue that the troika strategy of increasing net exports to restart the economy has failed, partly because of the low impact of falling wages on prices, partly because of the low trade elasticities with respect to prices, and partly because of other events that caused a sharp reduction in transport services, which used to be Greece’s largest export sector.
A policy initiative to boost aggregate demand is urgently needed, now more than ever. We propose a fiscal policy alternative based on innovative financing mechanisms, which could trigger a boost in confidence that would encourage renewed private investment.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Related Topic(s):
Working Paper No. 867 | May 2016
This paper examines the issue of the Greek public debt from different perspectives. We provide a historical discussion of the accumulation of Greece’s public debt since the 1960s and the role of public debt in the recent crisis. We show that the austerity imposed since 2010 has been unsuccessful in stabilizing the debt while at the same time taking a heavy toll on the Greek economy and society. The experience of the last six years shows that the country’s public debt is clearly unsustainable, and therefore a bold restructuring is needed. An insistence on the current policies is not justifiable either on pragmatic or on moral or any other grounds. The experience of Germany in the early post–World War II period provides some useful hints for the way forward. A solution to the Greek public debt problem is a necessary but not sufficient condition for the solution of the Greek and wider European crisis. A broader agenda that deals with the malaises of the Greek economy and the structural imbalances of the eurozone is of vital importance.Download:Associated Program(s):The State of the US and World Economies Monetary Policy and Financial Structure Economic Policy for the 21st CenturyAuthor(s):Related Topic(s):
Working Paper No. 866 | May 2016
Proposals for the Eurozone Crisis
After reviewing the main determinants of the current eurozone crisis, this paper discusses the feasibility of introducing fiscal currencies as a way to restore fiscal space in peripheral countries, like Greece, that have so far adopted austerity measures in order to abide by their commitments to eurozone institutions and the International Monetary Fund. We show that the introduction of fiscal currencies would speed up the recovery, without violating the rules of eurozone treaties. At the same time, these processes could help transition the euro from its current status as the single currency to the status of “common clearing currency,” along the lines proposed by John Maynard Keynes at Bretton Woods as a system of international monetary payments. Eurozone countries could therefore move from “Plan B,” aimed at addressing member-state domestic problems, to a “Plan A” for a better European monetary system.Download:Associated Program(s):Author(s):Related Topic(s):
Strategic Analysis | March 2016Our latest strategic analysis reveals that the US economy remains fragile because of three persistent structural issues: weak demand for US exports, fiscal conservatism, and a four-decade trend in rising income inequality. It also faces risks from stagnation in the economies of the United States’ trading partners, appreciation of the dollar, and a contraction in asset prices. The authors provide a baseline and three alternative medium-term scenarios using the Levy Institute’s stock-flow consistent macro model: a dollar appreciation and reduced growth in US trading partners scenario; a stock market correction scenario; and a third scenario combining scenarios 1 and 2. The baseline scenario shows that future growth will depend on an increase in private sector indebtedness, while the remaining scenarios underscore the linkages between a fragile US recovery and instability in the global economy.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Related Topic(s):
One-Pager No. 52 | January 2016
Even under optimistic assumptions, the policy status quo being enforced in Greece cannot be relied upon to help recover lost incomes and employment within any reasonable time frame. And while a widely discussed public investment program funded by European institutions would help, a more innovative, better-targeted solution is required to address Greece’s protracted unemployment crisis: an “employer of last resort” (ELR) plan offering paid work in public projects, financed by issuing a nonconvertible “fiscal currency”—the Geuro.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Related Topic(s):
Strategic Analysis | January 2016The Greek economy has not succeeded in restoring growth, nor has it managed to restore a climate of reduced uncertainty, which is crucial for stabilizing the business climate and promoting investment. On the contrary, the new round of austerity measures that has been agreed upon implies another year of recession in 2016.
After reviewing some recent indicators for the Greek economy, we project the trajectory of key macroeconomic indicators over the next three years. Our model shows that a slow recovery can be expected beginning in 2017, at a pace that is well below what is needed to alleviate poverty and reduce unemployment. We then analyze the impact of a public investment program financed by European institutions, of a size that is feasible given the current political and economic conditions, and find that, while such a plan would help stimulate the economy, it would not be sufficient to speed up the recovery. Finally, we revise our earlier proposal for a fiscal stimulus financed through the emission of a complementary currency targeted to job creation. Our model shows that such a plan, calibrated in a way that avoids inflationary pressures, would be more effective—without disrupting the targets the government has agreed upon in terms of its primary surplus, and without reversing the improvement in the current account.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Related Topic(s):
Strategic Analysis | May 2015
The Greek economy has the potential to recover, and in this report we argue that access to alternative financing sources such as zero-coupon bonds (“Geuros”) and fiscal credit certificates could provide the impetus and liquidity needed to grow the economy and create jobs. But there are preconditions: the existing government debt must be rolled over and austerity policies put aside, restoring trust in the country’s economic future and setting the stage for sustainable income growth, which will eventually enable Greece to repay its debt.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Related Topic(s):
Strategic Analysis | May 2015View More View LessIn this latest Strategic Analysis, the Institute’s Macro Modeling Team examines the current, anemic recovery of the US economy. The authors identify three structural obstacles—the weak performance of net exports, a prevailing fiscal conservatism, and high income inequality—that, in combination with continued household sector deleveraging, explain the recovery’s slow pace. Their baseline macro scenario shows that the Congressional Budget Office’s latest GDP growth projections require a rise in private sector spending in excess of income—the same unsustainable path that preceded both the 2001 recession and the Great Recession of 2007–9. To better understand the risks to the US economy, the authors also examine three alternative scenarios for the period 2015–18: a 1 percent reduction in the real GDP growth rate of US trading partners, a 25 percent appreciation of the dollar over the next four years, and the combined impact of both changes. All three scenarios show that further dollar appreciation and/or a growth slowdown in the trading partner economies will lead to an increase in the foreign deficit and a decrease in the projected growth rate, while heightening the need for private (and government) borrowing and adding to the economy’s fragility.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Related Topic(s):
Policy Note 2015/2 | February 2015
The Greek economic crisis started as a public debt crisis five years ago. However, despite austerity and a bold “haircut,” public debt is now around 175 percent of Greek GDP. In this policy note, we argue that Greece’s public debt is clearly unsustainable, and that a significant restructuring of this debt is needed in order for the Greek economy to start growing again. Insistence on maintaining the current policy stance is not justifiable on either pragmatic or moral grounds.
The experience of Germany in the early post–World War II period provides some useful insights for the way forward. In the aftermath of the war, there was a sweeping cancellation of the country’s public and foreign debt, which was part of a wider plan for the economic and political reconstruction of Germany and Europe. Seven decades later, while a solution to the unsustainability of the Greek public debt is a necessary condition for resolving the Greek and European crisis, it is not, in itself, sufficient. As the postwar experience shows, a broader agenda that deals with both Greece’s domestic economic malaise and the structural imbalances in the eurozone is also of vital importance.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Related Topic(s):
Strategic Analysis | December 2014With the anti-austerity Syriza party continuing to lead in polls ahead of Greece’s election on January 25, what is the outlook for restoring growth and increasing employment following six years of deep recession?Despite some timid signs of recovery, notably in the tourism sector, recent short-term indicators still show a decline for 2014. Our analysis shows that the speed of a market-driven recovery would be insufficient to address the urgent problems of poverty and unemployment. And the protracted austerity required to service Greece’s sovereign debt would merely ensure the continuation of a national crisis, with spillover effects to the rest of the eurozone—especially now, when the region is vulnerable to another recession and a prolonged period of Japanese-style price deflation.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Related Topic(s):
Strategic Analysis | August 2014What are the prospects for economic recovery if Greece continues to follow the troika strategy of fiscal austerity and internal devaluation, with the aim of increasing competitiveness and thus net exports? Our latest strategic analysis indicates that the unprecedented decline in real and nominal wages may take a long time to exert its effects on trade—if at all—while the impact of lower prices on tourism will not generate sufficient revenue from abroad to meet the targets for a surplus in the current account that outweighs fiscal austerity. The bottom line: a shift in the fiscal policy stance, toward lower taxation and job creation, is urgently needed.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Related Topic(s):
Strategic Analysis | April 2014The US economy has been expanding moderately since the official end of the Great Recession in 2009. The budget deficit has been steadily decreasing, inflation has remained in check, and the unemployment rate has fallen to 6.7 percent. The restrictive fiscal policy stance of the past three years has exerted a negative influence on aggregate demand and growth, which has been offset by rising domestic private demand; net exports have had only a negligible (positive) effect on growth.As Wynne Godley noted in 1999, in the Strategic Analysis Seven Unsustainable Processes, if an economy faces sluggish net export demand and fiscal policy is restrictive, economic growth becomes dependent on the private sector’s continuing to spend in excess of its income. However, this continuous excess is not sustainable in the medium and long run. Therefore, if spending were to stop rising relative to income, without either fiscal relaxation or a sharp recovery in net exports, the impetus driving the expansion would evaporate and output could not grow fast enough to stop unemployment from rising. Moreover, because growth is so dependent on “rising private borrowing,” the real economy “is at the mercy of the stock market to an unusual extent.” As proved by the crisis of 2001 and the Great Recession of 2007–09, Godley’s analysis turned out to be correct.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Related Topic(s):
Strategic Analysis | February 2014In this report, we discuss alternative scenarios for restoring growth and increasing employment in the Greek economy, evaluating alternative policy options through our specially constructed macroeconometric model (LIMG). After reviewing recent events in 2013 that confirm our previous projections for an increase in the unemployment rate, we examine the likely impact of four policy options: (1) external help through Marshall Plan–type capital transfers to the government; (2) suspension of interest payments on public debt, instead using these resources for increasing demand and employment; (3) introduction of a parallel financial system that uses new government bonds; and (4) adoption of an employer-of-last-resort (ELR) program financed through the parallel financial system. We argue that the effectiveness of the different plans crucially depends on the price elasticity of the Greek trade sector. Since our analysis shows that such elasticity is low, our ELR policy option seems to provide the best strategy for a recovery, having immediate effects on the Greek population's standard of living while containing the effects on foreign debt.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Related Topic(s):
Strategic Analysis | October 2013If the Congressional Budget Office’s recent projections of government revenues and outlays come to pass, the United States will not grow fast enough to bring down the unemployment rate between now and 2016. The public sector deficit will decline from present levels, endangering the sustainability of the recovery. But as this new Strategic Analysis shows, a public sector stimulus of a little over 1 percent of GDP per year focused on export-oriented R & D investment would increase US competitiveness through export-price effects, resulting in a rise of net exports, and slowly lower unemployment to less than 5 percent by 2016. The improvement in net export demand would allow the US economy to enter a period of aggregate-demand rehabilitation—with very encouraging consequences at home.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Related Topic(s):
In the Media | September 2013Financial Times, September 27, 2013. © The Financial Times Ltd.
Sir, Professor Christopher Gilbert in his letter of September 25 suggests that "some of the most important southern countries [including Italy] ... do so little to help themselves" that they therefore should not seek greater co-operation from euro institutions, as advocated by Professors Emiliano Brancaccio and other economists including myself (Letters, September 23). Prof Gilbert himself does not offer suggestions on which further reforms should be implemented in Italy to restore prosperity through "serious adjustment".
Italy has already undergone a major reform in its pension system, which implied a large structural reduction in perspective payments from the public sector. It should also be noted that the number of parttime workers has risen from about 13 per cent of total employment in 2004 to about 18 per cent this year, with full-time employment steadily declining since the beginning of the recession period in 2007, surely a sign of increased flexibility ("serious adjustment?") in the labour market. Public employees' wages have been frozen and public employment has been in free fall since 2007.
It seems that "more radical domestic efforts" in these directions, as advocated by Prof Gilbert, would surely imply a further increase in poverty and social exclusion, further weakening of the industrial structure due to depressed domestic demand and stronger political support to nationalistic parties, exactly the fears that motivated the letter of warning from economists.
Gennaro Zezza, Associate Professor, Università di Cassino, Italy
One-Pager No. 41 | September 2013
Why the Troika’s Greek Strategy Is Failing
Greece’s unemployment rate just hit 27.6 percent. That wasn’t supposed to happen. Why has the troika—the European Commission, International Monetary Fund (IMF), and European Central Bank—been so consistently wrong about the effects of its handpicked policies? The strategy being imposed on Greece depends in large part on the idea of “internal devaluation”: that reducing wages will make its products more attractive, thus spurring a return to economic growth powered by rising exports. Our research, based on a macroeconomic model specifically constructed for Greece, indicates that this strategy is not working. Achieving significant growth in net exports through internal devaluation would, at best, take a very long time—and a great deal of immiseration and social disintegration would take place while we waited for this theory to bear fruit. Despite some recent admissions of error along these lines by the IMF, the troika still relies on a theory of how the economy works that badly underestimates the negative effects of austerity.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Related Topic(s):
Research Project Reports | July 2013
Technical PaperIn this report Levy Institute President Dimitri B. Papadimitriou and Research Scholars Gennaro Zezza and Michalis Nikiforos present the technical structure of the Levy Institute's macroeconomic model for the Greek economy (LIMG). LIMG is a stock-flow consistent model that reflects the “New Cambridge” approach that builds on the work of Distinguished Scholar Wynne Godley and the current Levy Institute model for the US economy. LIMG is a flexible tool for the analysis of economic policy alternatives for the medium term and is also the analytic framework for a forthcoming Strategic Analysis series focusing on the Greek economy.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Related Topic(s):
Strategic Analysis | July 2013
A Strategic AnalysisEmployment in Greece is in free fall, with more than one million jobs lost since October 2008—a drop of more than 28 percent. In March, the “official” unemployment rate was 27.4 percent, the highest level seen in any industrialized country in the free world during the last 30 years.
In this report, Levy Institute President Dimitri B. Papadimitriou and Research Scholars Michalis Nikiforos and Gennaro Zezza present their analysis of Greece’s economic crisis and offer policy recommendations to restore growth and increase employment. This analysis relies on the Levy Institute’s macroeconomic model for the Greek economy (LIMG), a stock-flow consistent model similar to the Institute’s model of the US economy. Based on the LIMG simulations, the authors find that a continuation of “expansionary austerity” policies will actually increase unemployment, since GDP will not grow quickly enough to arrest, much less reverse, the decline in employment. They critically evaluate recent International Monetary Fund and European Commission projections for the Greek economy, and find these projections overly optimistic. They recommend a recovery plan, similar to the Marshall Plan, to increase public consumption and investment. Toward this end, the authors call for an expanded direct public-service job creation program.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Related Topic(s):
Research Project Reports | October 2012
Interim ReportIn this interim report, we discuss the evolution of major macroeconomic variables for the Greek economy, focusing in particular on the sources of growth before and after the euro era, the causes and consequences of the continuing recession, and the likely results of the policies currently being implemented. Some preliminary suggestions for alternative policies are included. These alternatives will be tested in a more robust econometric framework in a subsequent report.
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Book Series | June 2012
Edited by Dimitri B. Papadimitriou and Gennaro Zezza
In the 1970s, at a time of shock, controversy and uncertainty over the direction of monetary and fiscal policy, Wynne Godley and the Cambridge Department of Applied Economics rose to prominence, challenging the accepted Keynesian wisdom of the time. This collection of essays brings together eminent scholars who have been influenced by Godley's enormous contribution to the field of monetary economics and macroeconomic modeling.
Godley's theoretical, applied and policy work is explored in detail, including an analysis of the insightful New Cambridge 'three balances' model, and its use in showing the progression of real capitalist economies over time. Godley's prescient concerns about the global financial crash are also examined, demonstrating how his work revealed structural imbalances and formed the foundations of an economics relevant to the instability of finance.
Published By: Palgrave MacMillan
Strategic Analysis | April 2012
Though the economy appears to be gradually gaining momentum, broad measures indicate that 14.5 percent of the US labor force is unemployed or underemployed, not much below the 16.2 percent rate reached a full year ago. In this new report in our Strategic Analysis series, we first discuss several slow-moving factors that make it difficult to achieve a full and sustainable economic recovery: the gradual redistribution of income toward the wealthiest 1 percent of households; a failure to fully stabilize and reregulate finance; serious fiscal troubles for state and local governments; and detritus from the financial crisis that remains on household and corporate balance sheets. These factors contribute to a situation in which employment has not risen fast enough since the (supposed) end of the recession to significantly increase the employment-population ratio. Meanwhile, public investment at all levels of government fell from roughly 3.7 percent of GDP in 2008 to 3.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011, helping to explain the weak economic picture.
For this report, we use the Levy Institute macro model to simulate the economy under the following three scenarios: (1) a private borrowing scenario, in which we find the appropriate amount of private sector net borrowing/lending to achieve the path of employment growth projected under current policies by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), in a report characterized by excessive optimism and a bias toward deficit reduction; (2) a more plausible scenario, in which we assume that the federal government extends certain key tax cuts and that household borrowing increases at a more reasonable rate than in the previous scenario; and (3) a fiscal stimulus scenario, in which we simulate the effects of a fully “paid for” 1 percent increase in government investment.
The results show the importance of debt accumulation as a consideration in macro policymaking. The first scenario reproduces the CBO’s relatively optimistic employment projections, but our results indicate that this private-sector-led growth scenario quickly brings household and business debt to new all-time highs as percentages of GDP. We note that the CBO makes its projections using an orthodox model with several common, but fundamental, flaws. This makes possible the agency’s result that current policies will reduce the unemployment rate without a run-up in the private sector’s debt—“business as usual,” in the words of our report’s title.
The policies weighed in the second scenario do not perform much better, despite a looser fiscal stance. Finally, our third scenario illustrates that a small, tax-financed increase in government investment could lower the unemployment rate significantly—by about one-half of 1 percent. A stimulus package of this size might be within the realm of political possibility at this juncture. However, our results lead us to surmise that it would take a much more substantial fiscal stimulus to reduce unemployment to a level that most policymakers would regard as acceptable.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Related Topic(s):
Strategic Analysis | December 2011
Fiscal austerity is now a worldwide phenomenon, and the global growth slowdown is highly unfavorable for policymakers at the national level. According to our Macro Modeling Team's baseline forecast, fears of prolonged stagnation and a moribund employment market are well justified. Assuming no change in the value of the dollar or interest rates, and deficit levels consistent with the Congressional Budget Office’s most recent “no-change” scenario, growth will remain very weak through 2016 and unemployment will exceed 9 percent.
In an alternate scenario, the authors simulate the effect of new austerity measures that are commensurate with the implementation of large federal budget cuts. Here, growth falls to 0.06 percent in the second quarter of 2014 before leveling off at approximately 1 percent and unemployment rises to 10.7 percent by the end of 2016. In their fiscal stimulus scenario, real GDP growth increases very quickly, unemployment declines to 7.2 percent, and the US current account balance reaches 1.9 percent by the end of 2016—with a debt-to-GDP ratio that, at 97.4 percent, is only slightly higher than in the baseline scenario.
An export-led growth strategy may accomplish little more than drawing a small number of scarce customers away from other exporting nations, and the authors expect no net contribution to aggregate demand growth from the financial sector. A further fiscal stimulus is clearly in order, they say, but an ill-timed round of fiscal austerity could result in a perilous situation for Washington.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Related Topic(s):
Strategic Analysis | March 2011
The US economy grew reasonably fast during the last quarter of 2010, and the general expectation is that satisfactory growth will continue in 2011–12. The expansion may, indeed, continue into 2013. But with large deficits in both the government and foreign sectors, satisfactory growth in the medium term cannot be achieved without a major, sustained increase in net export demand. This, of course, cannot happen without either a cut in the domestic absorption of US goods and services or a revaluation of the currencies of the major US trading partners.
Our policy message is fairly simple, and one that events over the years have tended to vindicate. Most observers have argued for reductions in government borrowing, but few have pointed out the potential instabilities that could arise from a growth strategy based largely on private borrowing—as the recent financial crisis has shown. With the economy operating at far less than full employment, we think Americans will ultimately have to grit their teeth for some hair-raising deficit figures, but they should take heart in recent data showing record-low “core” CPI inflation—and the potential for export-led growth to begin reducing unemployment.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Related Topic(s):
In the Media | June 2010
Copyright 2010 The Economist; Letters, June 10, 2010
Your obituary of Wynne Godley (May 29th) did an injustice to his considerable intellectual achievements in macroeconomics and his courage in going against the orthodoxy that has ruled the economics profession for the past three decades. That very orthodoxy is now under attack all across the world, its otiose theoretical constructions having been exposed to the harsh light of actual economic events. Godley’s contributions to macroeconomics include his 1978 work on pricing with Kenneth Coutts and William Nordhaus, the textbook written in 1983 with Francis Cripps that inspired the “New Cambridge” group, and his 2006 book on monetary economics, written with Marc Lavoie.
His often-cited success as a macroeconomic forecaster came about precisely because he developed a systematic framework for analysing the impact of potential developments, applied first to the British economy at Cambridge and subsequently to America’s economy at the Levy Economics Institute.
Instead of taking the trouble to address these contributions, your piece settled for personal gossip, ending with a snide comment that “against a background like this, a little waywardness in the world of macroeconomics seems entirely forgivable.”
Professor of Economics
New School for Social Research
Associate Professor of Economics
University of Cassino
Levy Economics Institute
Annandale-on-Hudson, New York
Strategic Analysis | March 2010Research Scholar Gennaro Zezza updates the Levy Institute’s previous Strategic Analysis (December 2009) and finds that the 2009 increase in public sector aggregate demand was a result of the fiscal stimulus, without which the recession would have been much deeper. He confirms that strong policy action is required to achieve full employment in the medium term, including a persistently high government deficit in the short term. This implies a growing public debt, which is sustainable as long as interest rates are kept at the current low level. The alternative is an ongoing unemployment rate above 10 percent that would represent a higher cost to future generations.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Related Topic(s):
Strategic Analysis | December 2009
Though recent market activity and housing reports give some warrant for optimism, United States economic growth was only 2.8 percent in the third quarter, and the unemployment rate is still very high. In their new Strategic Analysis, the Levy Institute’s Macro-Modeling Team project that high unemployment will continue to be a problem if fiscal stimulus policies expire and deficit reduction efforts become the policy focus. The authors—President Dimitri B. Papadimitriou and Research Scholars Greg Hannsgen and Gennaro Zezza—argue that continued fiscal stimulus is necessary to reduce unemployment. The resulting federal deficits would be sustainable, they say, as long as they were accompanied by a coordinated and gradual devaluation of the dollar, especially against undervalued Asian currencies—a step necessary to prevent an increase in the current account deficit and ward off the risk of a currency crash.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Related Topic(s):
Working Paper No. 569 | June 2009
This paper presents the main features of the macroeconomic model being used at The Levy Economics Institute of Bard College, which has proven to be a useful tool in tracking the current financial and economic crisis. We investigate the connections of the model to the “New Cambridge” approach, and discuss other recent approaches to the evolution of financial balances for all sectors of the economy. We will finally show the effects of fiscal policy in the model, and its implications for the proposed fiscal stimulus on the US economy. We show that the New Cambridge hypothesis, which claimed that the private sector financial balance would be stable relative to income in the short run, does not hold for the short term in our model, but it does hold for the medium/long term. This implies that the major impact of the fiscal stimulus in the long run will be on the external imbalance, unless other measures are taken.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Related Topic(s):
Strategic Analysis | January 2009View More View Less
The Federal Reserve’s latest flow-of-funds data reveal that household borrowing has fallen sharply lower, bringing about a reversal of the upward trend in household debt. According to the Levy Institute’s macro model, a fall in borrowing has an immediate effect—accounting in this case for most of the 3 percent drop in private expenditure that occurred in the third quarter of 2008—as well as delayed effects; as a result, the decline in real GDP and accompanying rise in unemployment may be substantial in coming quarters.
For further details on the Macro-Modeling Team’s latest projections, see the December 2008 Strategic Analysis Prospects for the US and the World: A Crisis That Conventional Remedies Cannot Resolve.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Related Topic(s):
Strategic Analysis | December 2008View More View Less
The economic recovery plans currently under consideration by the United States and many other countries seem to be concentrated on the possibility of using expansionary fiscal and monetary policies alone. In a new Strategic Analysis, the Levy Institute’s Macro-Modeling Team argues that, however well coordinated, this approach will not be sufficient; what’s required, they say, is a worldwide recovery of output, combined with sustainable balances in international trade.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Related Topic(s):
Working Paper No. 538 | July 2008
This paper considers a plan proposed by Warren Buffett, whereby importers would be required to obtain certificates proportional to the amount of non-oil goods (and possibly also services) they brought into the country. These certificates would be granted to firms that exported goods, which could then sell certificates to importing firms on an organized market. Starting from a relatively neutral projection of all major variables for the US economy, the authors estimate that the plan would raise the price of imports by approximately 9 percent, quickly reducing the current account deficit to about 2 percent of GDP. They discuss several problems that might arise with the implementation of the Buffett plan, including possible instability in the price of certificates and retaliation by US trade partners. They also consider an alternative version of the plan, in which certificates would be sold at a government auction, rather than granted to exporters. The revenues from certificate sales would then be used to finance a reduction in FICA payroll taxes. The authors report the results of simulations of the alternative plan’s effects on macroeconomic balances and GDP growth. Notably, the alternative plan would lessen the severity of the growth recession expected in our base projection.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Strategic Analysis | April 2008
As the government prepares to dispense the tax rebates that largely make up its recently approved $168 billion stimulus package, President Dimitri B. Papadimitriou and Research Scholars Greg Hannsgen and Gennaro Zezza explore the possibility of an additional fiscal stimulus of about $450 billion spread over three quarters—challenging the notion that a larger and more prolonged additional stimulus is unnecessary and will generate inflationary pressures. They find that, given current projections of even a moderate recession, a fiscal stimulus totaling $600 billion would not be too much. They also find that a temporary stimulus—even one lasting four quarters—will have only a temporary effect. An enduring recovery will depend on a prolonged increase in exports, the authors say, due to the weak dollar, a modest increase in imports, and the closing of the current account gap.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Related Topic(s):
Strategic Analysis | November 2007
In their latest Strategic Analysis, Distinguished Scholar Wynne Godley, President Dimitri B. Papadimitriou, and Research Scholars Greg Hannsgen and Gennaro Zezza review recent events in the housing and financial markets to obtain a likely scenario for the evolution of household spending in the United States. They forecast a significant drop in borrowing and private expenditure in the coming quarters, with severe consequences for growth and unemployment, unless (1) the US dollar is allowed to continue its fall and thus complete the recovery in the US external imbalance, and (2) fiscal policy shifts its course—as it did in the 2001 recession.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Related Topic(s):
Working Paper No. 506 | July 2007
Longstanding speculation about the likelihood of a housing market collapse has given way in the past few months to consideration of just how far the housing market will fall, and how much damage the debacle will inflict on the economy. This paper assesses the magnitude of the impact of housing price decreases on real private expenditure, examines the role of new types of mortgages and mortgage-related securities, and analyzes possible policy responses.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Public Policy Brief No. 90 | July 2007
What Will the Housing Debacle Mean for the U.S. Economy?
With economic growth having cooled to less than 1 percent in the first quarter of 2007, the economy can ill afford a slump in consumption by the American household. But it now appears that the household sector could finally give in to the pressures of rising gasoline prices, a weakening home market, and a large debt burden. The signals are still mixed; for example, while April’s retail sales numbers caused concern, May’s were much improved, and so was the ISM manufacturing index for June. Consumption growth indicates a slowdown. This Public Policy Brief examines the American household and its economic fortunes, concentrating on how falling home prices might hamper economic growth, generate social dislocations, and possibly lead to a full-blown financial crisis.Download:Associated Program(s):Author(s):
Public Policy Brief Highlights No. 90A | July 2007
What Will the Housing Debacle Mean for the U.S. Economy?With economic growth having cooled to less than 1 percent in the first quarter of 2007, the economy can ill afford a slump in consumption by the American household. But it now appears that the household sector could finally give in to the pressures of rising gasoline prices, a weakening home market, and a large debt burden.Download:Associated Program(s):Author(s):
Working Paper No. 503 | June 2007View More View Less
Despite being arguably one of the most active areas of research in heterodox macroeconomics, the study of the dynamic properties of stock-flow consistent (SFC) growth models of financially sophisticated economies is still in its early stages. This paper attempts to offer a contribution to this line of research by presenting a simplified Post-Keynesian SFC growth model with well-defined dynamic properties, and using it to shed light on the merits and limitations of the current heterodox SFC literature.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Strategic Analysis | April 2007
The collapse in the subprime mortgage market, along with multiple signals of distress in the broader housing market, has already drawn forth a large body of comment. Some people think the upheaval will turn out to be contagious, causing a major slowdown or even a recession later in 2007. Others believe that the turmoil will be contained, and that the US economy will recover quite rapidly and resume the steady growth it has enjoyed during the last four years or so.
Yet no participants in the public discussion, so far as we know, have framed their views in the context of a formal model that enables them to draw well-argued conclusions (however conditional) about the magnitude and timing of the impact of recent events on the overall economy in the medium term—not just the next few months.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Related Topic(s):
Strategic Analysis | November 2006
Policies for the U.S. Economy
In this new Strategic Analysis, we review what we believe is the most important economic policy issue facing policymakers in the United States and abroad: the prospect of a growth recession in the United States. The possibility of recession is linked to the imbalances in the current account, government, and private sector deficits. The current account balance, which is a negative addition to US aggregate demand, is now likely to be above 6.5 percent of GDP and has been rising steadily for some time. The government balance has improved, again giving no stimulus to demand, which has therefore relied entirely on a large and growing private sector deficit. A rapidly cooling housing market is one of the signs showing that this growth path is likely to break down.
We focus first on the current account deficit. Our analysis suggests that a necessary and sufficient condition to address this problem, without dire consequences for unemployment and growth, is that net export demand grow by a sufficient amount. For this to happen, three conditions need to be satisfied: foreign saving has to fall, especially in Europe and East Asia; US saving has to rise; and some mechanism, such as a change in relative prices, should be put in place to help the previous two phenomena translate into an improvement in the US balance of trade.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Related Topic(s):
Strategic Analysis | May 2006
The Growing Burden of Servicing Foreign-owned U.S. DebtCan the growth in the current account deficit be sustained? How does the flow of deficits feed the stock of debt? How will the burden of servicing this debt affect future deficits and economic growth? President Dimitri B. Papadimitriou and Research Scholars Edward Chilcote and Gennaro Zezza address these and other questions in a new Strategic Analysis.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Policy Note 2006/4 | April 2006
A Cri de CoeurMany papers published by the Levy Institute during the last few years have emphasized that the American economy has relied too much on the growth of lending to the private sector, most particularly to the personal sector, to offset the negative effect on aggregate demand of the growing current account deficit. Moreover, this growth in lending cannot continue indefinitely.Download:Associated Program(s):Author(s):
Strategic Analysis | January 2006
Rising home prices and low interest rates have fueled the recent surge in mortgage borrowing and enabled consumers to spend at high rates relative to their income. Low interest rates have counterbalanced the growth in debt and acted to dampen the growth in household debt-service burdens. As past Levy Institute Strategic Analyses have pointed out, these trends are not sustainable: household spending relative to income cannot grow indefinitely.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Strategic Analysis | September 2005
Can the Symbiosis Last?
The main arguments in this paper can be simply stated:
1) If output in the United States grows fast enough to keep unemployment constant between now and 2010, and if there is no further depreciation in the dollar, the deficit in the balance of trade is likely to get worse, perhaps reaching 7.5 per cent by the end of the decade.
2) If the trade deficit does not improve, let alone if it gets worse, there will be a large further deterioration in the United States’ net foreign asset position, so that, with interest rates rising, net income payments from abroad will at last turn negative and the deficit in the current account as a whole could reach at least 8.5 per cent of GDP.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Working Paper No. 421 | April 2005
Despite being arguably the most rigorous form of structuralist/post-Keynesian macroeconomics, stock-flow consistent models are quite often complex and difficult to deal with. This paper presents a model that, despite retaining the methodological advantages of the stock-flow consistent method, is intuitive enough to be taught at an undergraduate level. Moreover, the model can easily be made more complex to shed light on a wealth of specific issues.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Strategic Analysis | March 2005
As we projected in a previous Strategic Analysis, the United States' economy experienced growth rates higher than 4 percent in 2004. The question we want to raise in this Strategic Analysis is whether these rates will persist or come back down. We believe that several signs point in the latter direction. In what follows, we analyze the evidence and explore the alternatives facing the US economy.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Strategic Analysis | August 2004
Why Net Exports Must Now Be the Motor for U.S. Growth
The American economy has grown reasonably fast since the second half of 2003, and the general expectation seems to be that satisfactory growth will continue more or less indefinitely. This paper argues that the expansion may indeed continue through 2004 and for some time beyond. But with the government and external deficits both so large and the private sector so heavily indebted, satisfactory growth in the medium term cannot be achieved without a large, sustained, and discontinuous increase in net export demand. It is doubtful whether this will happen spontaneously, and it certainly will not happen without a cut in domestic absorption of goods and services by the United States which would impart a deflationary impulse to the rest of the world. We make no short-term forecast. Instead, using a model rooted in a consistent system of stock and flow variables, we trace out a range of possible medium term scenarios in order to evaluate strategic predicaments and policy options without being at all precise about timing.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Working Paper No. 405 | April 2004
We address the finance motive and the determination of profits in the Monetary Theory of Production associated with the Circuitist School. We show that the "profit paradox" puzzle addressed by many authors who adopt this approach can be solved by integrating a simple Circuit model with a consistent set of stock-flow accounts. We then discuss how to reconcile some crucial differences between the Circuit approach and other Keynesian and post-Keynesian models.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Strategic Analysis | April 2004
Policies and Prospects in an Election Year
Wynne Godley, our Levy Institute colleague, has warned since 1999 that the falling personal saving and rising borrowing trends that had powered the US economic expansion were not sustainable. He also warned that when these trends were reversed, as has happened in other countries, the expansion would come to a halt unless there were major changes in fiscal policy.
Not long ago, official circles insisted that monetary policy was the most desirable tool, that fiscal deficits were not only unnecessary but also harmful (ERP 2000, pp.31–34; Greenspan 2000). Some economists, notably Edmund Phelps of Columbia University, went so far as to suggest that the economic expansion was not caused by rising demand, but rather because growth had become 'structural' (Financial Times, August 9, 2000).Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Working Paper No. 402 | February 2004
Stock-flow consistent models may be considered the rallying point for heterodox authors interested in modeling macroeconomic relations, since these models incorporate real and financial relations in an entirely consistent way, therefore providing macroeconomic constraints to individual behavior. The present model expands on the Godley-Lavoie model of growth, which was based on a two-asset world, with only bank deposits and the shares issued by private corporations. The present model incorporates the financial relations among the central bank, private banks, and the fiscal policy of government, showing the endogeneity of money under different assumptions on banks' behavior. The model is used to analyze the relationship between the distribution of income and growth, and to study the impact of monetary policy.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Strategic Analysis | October 2003
A Reprieve but Not a Pardon
These are fast-moving times. Two years ago, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO, 2001) projected a federal budget surplus of $172 billion for fiscal year 2003. Within a year, the projected figure had changed to a deficit of $145 billion (CBO 2002). The actual figure, near the end of fiscal year 2003, turned out to be a deficit of about $390 billion. And just one month ago, President Bush submitted a request to Congress for an additional $87 billion appropriation for war expenditures, over and above the $166 billion tallied so far. It is widely anticipated that even this will have to be revised upward by the end of the coming year (Stevenson 2003; Firestone 2003).Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Policy Note 2003/6 | September 2003
A Note of Caution
The current account deficit of the United States has been growing steadily as a share of GDP for more than a decade. It is now at an all-time high, over 5 percent of GDP. This steady deterioration has been greeted with an increasing amount of concern (U.S Trade Deficit Review Commission 2000; Brookings Papers 2001; Godley 2001; Mann 2002). At The Levy Economics Institute, we have long argued that this burgeoning deficit is unsustainable. A current account deficit implies a growing external debt, which in turn implies a continuing shift in net income received from abroad (net interest and dividend flows) in favor of foreigners. We have also noted that with the private sector headed toward balance, a growing current account deficit implies a corresponding growing “twin” deficit for the government sector (Papadimitriou et al. 2002; Godley 2003). This latter scenario has already come to pass: the latest figures show that the general government deficit rose to an annual rate of more than 4 percent of GDP in the first quarter of 2003 and will certainly rise even more in the near future, since the federal deficit alone is officially projected to reach 4 percent by the end of this fiscal year (CBO 2003).Download:Associated Program(s):Author(s):
Working Paper No. 387 | September 2003
Methodology and Results
This paper provides the details of the construction of new quarterly measures of the real GDPs of the 36 trading partners that are taken into consideration by the Federal Reserve in its "broad exchange rate" indexes. These new measures have some important advantages. First, they allow the construction of various income aggregates and sub-aggregates, which makes it possible, for example, to match the Federal Reserve's "broad," "major-currency," and "other important" trading partner effective exchange rates and, more broadly, to discuss the geographical and geopolitical determinants of US trade. Second, they allow the construction of variants of the two different types of measures that are utilized in the literature, namely direct and export-share-weighted sums of trading-partner real GDPs. Finally, given that our new measures of GDP for these countries can be directly compared to each other, they can be of interest for other researchers who need a consistent dataset on a quarterly basis.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Strategic Analysis | November 2002
The long economic expansion was fueled by an unprecedented rise in private expenditure relative to income, financed by a growing flow of net credit to the private. On the surface, it seemed that the growing burden of the household sector’s debt was counterbalanced by a spectacular rise in the relative value of its financial assets, but this was never a match among equals, and the great meltdown in the financial markets has proved this imbalance to be true. The private sector has dramatically cut back its acquisition of new credit and reversed the path of its financial balance, but this adjustment has been uneven within the sector: the business sector has suffered a huge drop in investment while the household sector has continued to borrow.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):