Research Programs

Economic Policy for the 21st Century

Economic Policy for the 21st Century

Nearly all Levy Institute research focuses not only on economic analysis, but also on the creation of possible strategies through which policymakers may solve the issue at hand. This program includes research on those macroeconomic policy areas most closely associated with public sector activities: monetary policy and financial institutions, federal budget policy, and the labor market. Examples of studies on monetary policy and financial institutions include explorations of the repercussions the euro’s introduction has had on monetary and fiscal policies and monetary institutions within the European Community; the effectiveness of monetary policy; and Minskyan analyses of the current economic problems in the United States, Japan, and Brazil. Examinations of federal budget policies cover such topics as the effects of budget surpluses on the economy, the need for fiscal expansion to combat economic torpor, and analyses of the Social Security and health care systems.

Associated Programs

Federal Budget Policy
Explorations in Theory and Empirical Analysis
INET–Levy Institute Project



Program Publications

  • Working Paper No. 945 | January 2020
    The present paper emphasizes the role of demand, income distribution, endogenous productivity reactions, and other structural changes in the slowdown of the growth rate of output and productivity that has been observed in the United States over the last four decades. In particular, it is explained that weak net export demand, fiscal conservatism, and the increase in income inequality have put downward pressure on demand. Up until the crisis, this pressure was partially compensated for through debt-financed expenditure on behalf of the private sector, especially middle- and lower-income households. This debt overhang is now another obstacle in the way of demand recovery. In turn, as emphasized by the Kaldor-Verdoorn law and the induced technical change approach, the decrease in demand and the stagnation of wages can lead to an endogenous slowdown in productivity growth. Moreover, it is argued that the increasingly oligopolistic and financialized structure of the US economy also contributes to the slowdown. Finally, the paper argues that there is nothing secular about the current stagnation; addressing the aforementioned factors can allow for growth to resume, as has happened in the past.

  • Public Policy Brief No. 148 | January 2020
    In this policy brief, Yeva Nersisyan and Senior Scholar L. Randall Wray argue that assessing the “affordability” of the Green New Deal is a question of whether there are suitable and sufficient real resources than can be mobilized to implement this ambitious approach to climate policy. Only after a careful resource accounting can we address the question of whether taxes and other means might be needed to reduce private spending to avoid inflation as the Green New Deal is phased in.
     
    Nersisyan and Wray provide a first attempt at resource budgeting for the Green New Deal, weighing available resources—including potential excess capacity and resources that can be shifted away from existing production—against what will be needed to implement the major elements of this plan to fight climate change and ensure a just transition to a more sustainable economic model.

  • Testimony | November 2019
    Reexamining the Economic Costs of Debt
    On November 20, 2019, Senior Scholar L. Randall Wray testified before the House Committee on the Budget on the topic of reexamining the economic costs of debt:

    "In recent months a new approach to national government budgets, deficits, and debts—Modern Money Theory (MMT)—has been the subject of discussion and controversy. [. . .]

    In this testimony I do not want to rehash the theoretical foundations of MMT. Instead I will highlight empirical facts with the goal of explaining the causes and consequences of the intransigent federal budget deficits and the growing national government debt. I hope that developing an understanding of the dynamics involved will make the topic of deficits and debt less daunting. I will conclude by summarizing the MMT views on this topic, hoping to set the record straight."

    Update 1/7/2020: In an appendix, L. Randall Wray responds to a Question for the Record submitted by Rep. Ilhan Omar

  • Working Paper No. 936 | September 2019
    The Modern Money Theory Approach
    This paper will present the Modern Money Theory approach to government finance. In short, a national government that chooses its own money of account, imposes a tax in that money of account, and issues currency in that money of account cannot face a financial constraint. It can make all payments as they come due. It cannot be forced into insolvency. While this was well understood in the early postwar period, it was gradually “forgotten” as the neoclassical theory of the household budget constraint was applied to government finance. Matters were made worse by the development of “generational accounting” that calculated hundreds of trillions of dollars of government red ink through eternity due to “entitlements.” As austerity measures were increasingly adopted at the national level, fiscal responsibility was shifted to state and local governments through “devolution.” A “stakeholder” approach to government finance helped fuel white flight to suburbs and produced “doughnut holes” in the cities. To reverse these trends, we need to redevelop our understanding of the fiscal space open to the currency issuer—expanding its responsibility not only for national social spending but also for helping to fund state and local government spending. This is no longer just an academic debate, given the challenges posed by climate change, growing inequality, secular stagnation, and the rise of Trumpism.

  • Working Paper No. 935 | August 2019
    A Liquidity Preference Theoretical Perspective
    This paper investigates the peculiar macroeconomic policy challenges faced by emerging economies in today’s monetary (non)order and globalized finance. It reviews the evolution of the international monetary and financial architecture against the background of Keynes’s original Bretton Woods vision, highlighting the US dollar’s hegemonic status. Keynes’s liquidity preference theory informs the analysis of the loss of policy space and widespread instabilities in emerging economies that are the consequence of financial hyperglobalization. While any benefits promised by mainstream promoters remain elusive, heightened vulnerabilities have emerged in the aftermath of the global crisis.

  • Working Paper No. 931 | May 2019
    This paper follows the methodology developed by J. M. Keynes in his How to Pay for the War pamphlet to estimate the “costs” of the Green New Deal (GND) in terms of resource requirements. Instead of simply adding up estimates of the government spending that would be required, we assess resource availability that can be devoted to implementing GND projects. This includes mobilizing unutilized and underutilized resources, as well as shifting resources from current destructive and inefficient uses to GND projects. We argue that financial affordability cannot be an issue for the sovereign US government. Rather, the problem will be inflation if sufficient resources cannot be diverted to the GND. And if inflation is likely, we need to put in place anti-inflationary measures, such as well-targeted taxes, wage and price controls, rationing, and voluntary saving. Following Keynes, we recommend deferred consumption as our first choice should inflation pressures arise. We conclude that it is likely that the GND can be phased in without inflation, but if price pressures do appear, deferring a small amount of consumption will be sufficient to attenuate them.

  • Working Paper No. 926 | April 2019
    Lessons for Monetary Unions
    The debate about the use of fiscal instruments for macroeconomic stabilization has regained prominence in the aftermath of the Great Recession, and the experience of a monetary union equipped with fiscal shock absorbers, such as the United States, has often been a reference. This paper enhances our knowledge about the degree of macroeconomic stabilization achieved in the United States through the federal budget, providing a detailed breakdown of the different channels. In particular, we investigate the relative importance and stabilization impact of the federal system of unemployment benefits and of its extension as a response to the Great Recession. The analysis shows that in the United States, corporate income taxes collected at the federal level are the single most efficient instrument for providing stabilization, given that even with a smaller size than other instruments they can provide important effects, mainly against common shocks. On the other hand, Social Security benefits and personal income taxes have a greater role in stabilizing asymmetric shocks. A federal system of unemployment insurance, then, can play an important stabilization role, in particular when enhanced by a discretionary program of extended benefits in the event of a large shock, like the Great Recession.

  • In the Media | March 2019
    By Katia Dmitrieva
    Bloomberg Quick Take with the Washington Post, March 13, 2019. All rights reserved.

    Outlining the basics of Modern Monetary Theory, Bloomberg's Katia Dmitrieva cites the work of Levy Research Associate Pavlina Tcherneva as a leading voice in the field.

    Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/for-overspending-governments-an-alternative-view-on-borrowing-versus-raising-taxes/2019/03/12/13945b5a-44dc-11e9-94ab-d2dda3c0df52_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.ee3a91c52dc5
  • Book Series | February 2019
    This groundbreaking new core textbook encourages students to take a more critical approach to the prevalent assumptions around the subject of macroeconomics, by comparing and contrasting heterodox and orthodox approaches to theory and policy. The first such textbook to develop a heterodox model from the ground up, it is based on the principles of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) as derived from the theories of Keynes, Kalecki, Veblen, Marx, and Minsky, amongst others. The internationally-respected author team offer appropriate fiscal and monetary policy recommendations, explaining how the poor economic performance of most of the wealthy capitalist countries over recent decades could have been avoided, and delivering a well-reasoned practical and philosophical argument for the heterodox MMT approach being advocated.

    Published by: Red Globe Press
    Associated Program:
    Author(s):
    L. Randall Wray William Mitchell Martin Watts
    Related Topic(s):
  • Working Paper No. 909 | July 2018
    Applying Minsky’s Theory of Financial Fragility to International Markets
    This inquiry argues that the successful completion of the transition process in the post-Soviet economies is constrained by the prevailing social structure and low levels of technological progress, both of which require institutional reforms aimed at increasing growth in national income, productivity, and the degree of export competitiveness. Domestic policy implementation has not shown significant improvements on these fronts, given its short-term orientation, but instead resulted in stagnating growth rates, continuously accumulating levels of external debt, and decreasing living standards. The key to a successful completion of the transition process is therefore a combination of policies targeted at the dynamic transformation of production structures within an environment of financial stability and favorable macroeconomic conditions.
    Download:
    Associated Program(s):
    Author(s):
    Liudmila Malyshava
    Related Topic(s):
    Region(s):
    Russia and Eastern Europe