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):
Working Paper No. 879 | December 2016
This paper presents a methodological discussion of two recent “endogeneity” critiques of the Kaleckian model and the concept of distribution-led growth. From a neo-Keynesian perspective, and following Kaldor (1955) and Robinson (1956), the model is criticized because it treats distribution as quasi-exogenous, while in Skott (2016) distribution is viewed as endogenously determined by a series of (exogenous) institutional factors and social norms, and therefore one should focus on these instead of the functional distribution of income per se. The paper discusses how abstraction is used in science and economics, and employs the criteria proposed by Lawson (1989) for what constitutes an appropriate abstraction. Based on this discussion, it concludes that the criticisms are not valid, although the issues raised by Skott provide some interesting directions for future work within the Kaleckian framework.Download:Associated Program(s):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):
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):
Working Paper No. 844 | July 2015
We present a model where the saving rate of the household sector, especially households at the bottom of the income distribution, becomes the endogenous variable that adjusts in order for full employment to be maintained over time. An increase in income inequality and the current account deficit and a consolidation of the government budget lead to a decrease in the saving rate of the household sector. Such a process is unsustainable because it leads to an increase in the household debt-to-income ratio, and maintaining it depends on some sort of asset bubble. This framework allows us to better understand the factors that led to the Great Recession and the dilemma of a repeat of this kind of unsustainable process or secular stagnation. Sustainable growth requires a decrease in income inequality, an improvement in the external position, and a relaxation of the fiscal stance of the government.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):
Working Paper No. 814 | September 2014
The paper examines the long-run fluctuations in growth and distribution through the prism of wage-and profit-led growth. We argue that the relation between distribution of income and growth changes over time. We propose an endogenous mechanism that leads to fluctuations between wage- and profit-led periods. Our model is a linear version of Goodwin’s predator–prey model, but with a reversal of the roles for predator and prey: the growth rate acts as the predator and the distribution of income as the prey. These fluctuations need to be taken into account when someone estimates empirically the effect of a change in distribution on utilization and growth. We also examine our argument in relation to the double movement of Karl Polanyi, the Kuznets curve, and the theories of long swings proposed by Albert Hirschman and Michal Kalecki.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: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):
Policy Note 2013/9 | October 2013
A Scenario of Hitting the Debt Ceiling
The United States entered the second week of a government shutdown on Monday, with no end to the deadlock in sight. The cost to the government of a similar shutdown in 1995–96 amounted to $2.1 billion in today’s dollars. However, the cost and broader consequences of today’s shutdown are not yet clear—especially since the US economy is in the midst of an anemic recovery from the biggest economic crisis of the last eight decades.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Related Topic(s):
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):
Working Paper No. 771 | August 2013
In Search of CausalityThis paper analyzes the trajectories of the Greek public deficit and sovereign debt over the last three decades and their connection to the political and economic environment, paying special attention to the causality between the public and the foreign deficit. The authors argue that, from 1980 to 1995, causality ran from the public deficit to the foreign deficit but has since reversed, a result of the European monetary unification process and the adoption of the common currency. This hypothesis is tested and verified econometrically using the Granger causality and cointegration analyses.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Michalis Nikiforos Laura Carvalho Christian Schoder
Working Paper No. 770 | July 2013
An Essay on the Business CycleThis paper presents a discussion of the forces at play behind the economic fluctuations in the medium run and their relation with the short-run macroeconomic equilibrium. The business cycle is the result of two separate phenomena. On the one hand, there is the instability caused by the discrepancy between expected and realized outcomes. On the other hand, this instability is contained by the inherent contradictions of capitalism; the upswing carries within it “the seeds of its own destruction.” The same happens with the downswing. The paper provides a formal exposition of these insights, a discussion of how the formulation of this mechanism resembles the simple harmonic motion of classical mechanics, and an empirical evaluation.Download:Associated Program:Author(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):
Policy Note 2013/3 | April 2013
This policy note discusses the prospects for job creation in the US based on the most recent Levy Economics Institute Strategic Analysis report, Is the Link between Jobs and Output Broken? The results of our analysis confirm the continued weakness of the US economy in terms of job creation—a phenomenon that has come to be known as a “jobless recovery.” We argue that to understand the problem we must look beyond the unemployment rate, which can conceal changes in the labor force. A prolonged recession can discourage workers, causing them to drop out of the labor market, thus lowering the unemployment rate without increasing employment. Therefore, the total number of people employed should be considered in tandem with the unemployment rate.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Strategic Analysis | March 2013
As this report goes to press, the official unemployment rate remains tragically elevated, compared even to rates at similar points in previous recoveries. The US economy seems once again to be in a “jobless recovery,” though the unemployment rate has been steadily declining for years. At the same time, fiscal austerity has arrived, with the implementation of the sequester cuts, following tax increases and the ending of emergency extended unemployment benefits just two months ago.
Our new report provides medium-term projections of employment and economic growth under four different scenarios. The baseline scenario starts by assuming the same growth rates and government deficits as the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) baseline projection from earlier this year. The result is a new surge of the unemployment rate to nearly 8 percent in the third quarter of this year, followed by a very gradual new recovery. Scenarios 1 and 2 seek to reach unemployment-rate goals of 6.5 percent and 5.5 percent, respectively, by the end of next year, using new fiscal stimulus.
We find in these simulations that reaching the goals requires large amounts of fiscal stimulus, compared to the CBO baseline. For example, in order to reach 5.5 percent unemployment in 2014, scenario 2 assumes 11 percent growth in inflation-adjusted government spending and transfers, along with lower taxes.
As an alternative, scenario 3 adds an extra increase to growth abroad and to private borrowing, along with the same amount of fiscal stimulus as in scenario 1. In this last scenario of the report, the unemployment rate finally pierces the 5.5 percent threshold from the previous scenario in the third quarter of 2015. We conclude with some thoughts about how such an increase in demand from all three sectors—government, private, and external—might be realistically obtained.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Related Topic(s):
Working Paper No. 739 | November 2012
A Theoretical and Empirical Discussion of the Kaleckian Model of Growth and Distribution
This paper examines the “utilization controversy” around the Kaleckian model of growth and distribution. We show that the Federal Reserve data on capacity utilization, which have been used by both sides of this debate, are the wrong kind of data for the issue under examination. Instead, a more appropriate measurement can be derived from the data on the Average Workweek of Capital. We argue that the long-run dynamic adjustment proposed by Kaleckian scholars lacks a coherent economic rationale, and provide an alternative path toward the endogeneity of the desired utilization at the micro and macro levels. Finally, we examine the proposed adjustment mechanism econometrically. Our results verify the endogeneity of the normal utilization rate.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Related Topic(s):
Working Paper No. 737 | November 2012
This paper examines the endogeneity (or lack thereof) of the rate of capacity utilization in the long run at the firm level. We provide economic justification for the adjustment of the desired rate of utilization toward the actual rate on behalf of a cost-minimizing firm after examining the factors that determine the utilization of resources. The cost-minimizing firm has an incentive to increase the utilization of its capital if the rate of the returns to scale decreases as its production increases. The theory of economies of scale provides justification for this kind of behavior. In this manner, the desired rate of utilization becomes endogenous.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Related Topic(s):