Research Programs

The State of the US and World Economies

The State of the US and World Economies

This program's central focus is the use of Levy Institute macroeconomic models in generating strategic analyses of the US and world economies. The outcomes of alternative scenarios are projected and analyzed, with the results—published as Strategic Analysis reports—serving to help policymakers understand the implications of various policy options.

The Levy Institute macroeconomic models, created by Distinguished Scholar Wynne Godley, are accounting based. The US model employs a complete and consistent system (in that all sectors “sum up,” with no unaccounted leakages) of stocks and flows (such as income, production, and wealth). The world model is a “closed” system, in which 11 trading blocs—of which the United States, China, Japan, and Western Europe are four—are represented. This model is based on a matrix in which each bloc’s imports are described in terms of exports from the other 10 blocs. From this information, and using alternative assumptions (e.g., growth rates, trade shares, and energy demands and supplies), trends are identified and patterns of trade and production analyzed.

The projections derived from the models are not presented as short-term forecasts. The aim is to display, based on analysis of the recent past, what it seems reasonable to expect if current trends, policies, and relationships continue. To inform policy, it is not necessary to establish that a particular projection will come to pass, but only that it is something that must be given serious consideration as a possibility. The usefulness of such analyses is strategic: they can serve to warn policymakers of potential dangers and serve as a guide to policy instruments that are available, or should be made available, to deal with those dangers, should they arise.



United States

Europe

  • Public Policy Brief No. 151 | June 2020
    Recent Experience and Future Prospects in the Post-COVID-19 Era
    This policy brief provides a discussion of the relationships between austerity, Greece’s macroeconomic performance, debt sustainability, and the provision of healthcare and other social services over the last decade. It explains that austerity was imposed in the name of debt sustainability. However, there was a vicious cycle of recession and austerity: each round of austerity measures led to a deeper recession, which increased the debt-to-GDP ratio and therefore undermined the goal of debt sustainability, leading to another round of austerity. One of the effects of these austerity policies was the significant reduction in healthcare expenditure, which made Greece more vulnerable to the recent pandemic. Finally, it shows how recent pre-COVID debt sustainability analyses projected that Greek public debt would become unsustainable even under minor deviations from an optimistic baseline. The pandemic shock will thus lead to an explosion of public debt. This brings the need for a restructuring of the Greek public debt to the fore once again, as well as other policies that will address the eurozone’s structural imbalances.

  • Working Paper No. 958 | June 2020
    Macroeconomists and political officers need rigorous, albeit realistic, quantitative models to forecast the future paths and dynamics of some variables of interest while being able to evaluate the effects of alternative scenarios. At the heart of all these models lies a standard macroeconomic module that, depending on the degree of sophistication and the research questions to be answered, represents how the economy works. However, the complete absence of a realistic monetary framework, along with the abstraction of banks and more generally of real–financial interactions—not only in dynamic stochastic general equilibrium (DSGE) models but also in central banks’ structural econometric models—made it impossible to detect the rising financial fragility that led to the Great Recession.

    In this paper, we show how to address the missing links between the real and financial sectors within a post-Keynesian framework, presenting a quarterly stock-flow consistent (SFC) structural model of the Italian economy. We set up the accounting structure of the sectoral transactions, describing our “transaction matrix” and “balance sheet matrix,” starting from the appropriate sectoral data sources. We then “close” all sectoral financial accounts, describe portfolio choices, and define the buffer stocks for each class of assets and sector in the model. We describe our estimation strategy, present the main stochastic equations, and, finally, discuss the main channels of transmissions in our model.

  • Strategic Analysis | May 2020
    Greece’s fragile economic recovery was halted by the COVID-19 pandemic: GDP, employment, exports, and investment are expected to record significantly negative trends. While some projections for GDP growth show a quick V-shaped recovery beginning in 2021, this is rather improbable given the Greek economy’s structural inefficiencies.
     
    This strategic analysis explores the consequences of various assumptions about the fall in the different sources of aggregate demand in order to produce a baseline projection for the Greek economy. A more optimistic scenario is also analyzed, in which the European Commission’s recently announced Recovery Fund materializes, allowing the government to increase public consumption as well as investment through EU grants and loans. The authors recommend additional measures to alleviate the impact of the shock and help put Greece’s economy back on track when the epidemic has died out.

  • Working Paper No. 948 | February 2020
    This paper analyzes recent macroeconomic developments in the eurozone, particularly in Germany. Several economic indicators are sending signals of a looming German recession. Geopolitical tensions caused by trade disputes between the United States and China, plus the risk of a disorderly Brexit, began disrupting the global supply chain in manufacturing. German output contraction has been centered on manufacturing, particularly the automobile sector. Despite circumstances that call for fiscal intervention to rescue the economy, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government was overdue with corrective measures. This paper explains Germany’s hesitancy to protect its economy, which has been based on a political and historical ideology that that rejects issuing new public debt to increase public spending, thus leaving the economy exposed to the doldrums. The paper also considers serious shortcomings in the European Union’s (EU) foreign and defense policies that recently surfaced during the Syrian refugee crisis. The eurocrisis revealed near-fatal weaknesses of the European Monetary Union (EMU), which is still incomplete without a common fiscal policy, a common budget, and a banking union. Unless corrected, such deficiencies will cause both the EU and the EMU to dissolve if another asymmetric shock occurs. This paper also analyzes recent geopolitical developments that are crucial to the EU/eurozone’s existential crisis.

  • Strategic Analysis | January 2020
    2019 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.

  • Policy Note 2019/1 | April 2019
    While a consensus has formed that the eurozone’s economic governance mechanisms must be reformed, and some progress has been made on this front, what has been agreed to so far falls short of what is needed to address the central imbalances caused by the eurozone setup, according to Paolo Savona.

    The key elements that are missing from the current package of reforms are interrelated: a common insurance scheme for bank deposits, the possible regulation of banks’ sovereign exposure, and the existence of a common safe asset. Savona outlines a proposal to increase the supply of safe assets provided by a common European issuer (the European Stability Mechanism) and explains how the plan could be made economically and politically satisfactory to all member states while facilitating progress on the deposit insurance and sovereign exposure issues.

  • Public Policy Brief No. 147 | March 2019
    As global market integration collides with growing demands for national political sovereignty, Senior Scholar Jan Kregel contrasts two diametrically opposed approaches to managing the tensions between international financial coordination and national autonomy. The first, a road not taken, is John Maynard Keynes’s proposal to reform the postwar international financial system. The second is the approach taken in the establishment of the eurozone and the development of its settlement and payment system. Analysis of Keynes’s clearing union proposal and its underlying theoretical approach highlights the flaws of the current eurozone setup.

  • Working Paper No. 919 | January 2019
    While 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.

  • Strategic Analysis | November 2018
    The 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.

Asia

  • Working Paper No. 938 | October 2019
    Nominal yields for Japanese government bonds (JGBs) have been remarkably low for several decades. Japanese government debt ratios have continued to increase amid a protracted period of stagnant nominal GDP, low inflation, and deflationary pressures. Many analysts are puzzled by the phenomenon of JGBs’ low nominal yields because Japanese government debt ratios are elevated. However, this paper shows that the Bank of Japan’s (BoJ) highly accommodative monetary policy is primarily responsible for keeping JGB yields low for a protracted period. This is consistent with Keynes’s view that the short-term interest rate is the key driver of the long-term interest rate. This paper also relates the BoJ’s monetary policy and economic developments in Japan to the evolution of JGBs’ long-term interest rates.

  • Book Series | October 2019
    The principle of fiscal federalism enshrined in India's Constitution is under severe strain today. This book is a key addition to understanding the challenges involved. The authors capture the implications of the abolition of the Planning Commission, the introduction of the controversial Goods and Services Tax regime, and formulation of Terms of Reference of the 15th Finance Commission. These include the increase in vertical fiscal inequity, distortion of fairness in inter-State distribution, and erosion of policy autonomy at the level of the States.

    Published by: Leftword Press
  • Policy Note 2019/2 | May 2019
    Against the background of an ongoing trade dispute between the United States and China, Senior Scholar Jan Kregel analyzes the potential for achieving international adjustment without producing a negative impact on national and global growth. Once the structure of trade in the current international system is understood (with its global production chains and large imbalances financed by international borrowing and lending), it is clear that national strategies focused on tariff adjustment to reduce bilateral imbalances will not succeed. This understanding of the evolution of the structure of trade and international finance should also inform our view of how to design a new international financial system capable of dealing with increasingly large international trade imbalances.

  • Working Paper No. 906 | May 2018
    This paper employs a Keynesian perspective to explain why Japanese government bonds’ (JGBs) nominal yields have been low for more than two decades. It deploys several vector error correction (VEC) models to estimate long-term government bond yields. It shows that the low short-term interest rate, induced by the Bank of Japan’s (BoJ) accommodative monetary policy, is mainly responsible for keeping long-term JGBs’ nominal yields exceptionally low for a protracted period. The results also demonstrate that higher government debt and deficit ratios do not exert upward pressure on JGBs’ nominal yields. These findings are relevant to ongoing policy debates in Japan and other advanced countries about government bond yields, fiscal sustainability, fiscal policy, functional finance, monetary policy, and financial stability.

  • Working Paper No. 881 | January 2017

    This paper investigates the long-term determinants of Indian government bonds’ (IGB) nominal yields. It examines whether John Maynard Keynes’s supposition that short-term interest rates are the key driver of long-term government bond yields holds over the long-run horizon, after controlling for various key economic factors such as inflationary pressure and measures of economic activity. It also appraises whether the government finance variable—the ratio of government debt to nominal income—has an adverse effect on government bond yields over a long-run horizon. The models estimated here show that in India, short-term interest rates are the key driver of long-term government bond yields over the long run. However, the ratio of government debt and nominal income does not have any discernible adverse effect on yields over a long-run horizon. These findings will help policymakers in India (and elsewhere) to use information on the current trend in short-term interest rates, the federal fiscal balance, and other key macro variables to form their long-term outlook on IGB yields, and to understand the implications of the government’s fiscal stance on the government bond market.

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    Associated Program(s):
    Author(s):
    Tanweer Akram Anupam Das
    Related Topic(s):
    Region(s):
    Asia

  • Working Paper No. 872 | August 2016
    Do Fiscal Rules Impose Hard Budget Constraints?

    The primary objective of rule-based fiscal legislation at the subnational level in India is to achieve debt sustainability by placing a ceiling on borrowing and the use of borrowed resources for public capital investment by phasing out deficits in the budget revenue account. This paper examines whether the application of fiscal rules has contributed to an increase in fiscal space for public capital investment spending in major Indian states. Our analysis shows that, controlling for other factors, there is a negative relationship between fiscal rules and public capital investment spending at the state level under the rule-based fiscal regime.

  • Working Paper No. 862 | March 2016

    Japan has experienced stagnation, deflation, and low interest rates for decades. It is caught in a liquidity trap. This paper examines Japan’s liquidity trap in light of the structure and performance of the country’s economy since the onset of stagnation. It also analyzes the country’s liquidity trap in terms of the different strands in the theoretical literature. It is argued that insights from a Keynesian perspective are still quite relevant. The Keynesian perspective is useful not just for understanding Japan’s liquidity trap but also for formulating and implementing policies that can overcome the liquidity trap and foster renewed economic growth and prosperity. Paul Krugman (1998a, b) and Ben Bernanke (2000; 2002) identify low inflation and deflation risks as the cause of a liquidity trap. Hence, they advocate a credible commitment by the central bank to sustained monetary easing as the key to reigniting inflation, creating an exit from a liquidity trap through low interest rates and quantitative easing. In contrast, for John Maynard Keynes (2007 [1936]) the possibility of a liquidity trap arises from a sharp rise in investors’ liquidity preference and the fear of capital losses due to uncertainty about the direction of interest rates. His analysis calls for an integrated strategy for overcoming a liquidity trap. This strategy consists of vigorous fiscal policy and employment creation to induce a higher expected marginal efficiency of capital, while the central bank stabilizes the yield curve and reduces interest rate volatility to mitigate investors’ expectations of capital loss. In light of Japan’s experience, Keynes’s analysis and proposal for generating effective demand might well be a more appropriate remedy for the country’s liquidity trap.

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    Associated Program(s):
    Author(s):
    Tanweer Akram
    Related Topic(s):
    Region(s):
    Asia

  • In the Media | June 2015
    Economia, June 23, 2015. All Rights Reserved.

    All'interno del quadro economico internazionale, Jan Kregel, direttore del programma “Politica Monetaria” presso il Levy Economic Institute negli USA, analizza qual è stato il ruolo degli Stati Uniti all'interno della crisi economica. Uno degli elementi che viene messo maggiormente in evidenza, è l' importanza data al settore finanziario, rispetto all'economia reale: ciò ha portando ad una minore attenzione a problemi come la disoccupazione, che rappresenta ancora una delle questioni irrisolte dell'Europa, ma soprattutto dell'Italia. 

    Una volta che la crisi economica è scoppiata negli Usa, si è diffusa a macchia d'olio specie nel continente europeo, dove la forbice presente tra europa meridionale e settentrionale, si è notevolmente ampliata.   A tale ritratto, Kregel, aggiunge anche un'attenta le politiche economiche messe in atto da Cina e Giappone e dalle loro ripercussioni sul sistema economico mondiale.

    intervista videoregistrata:
    http://www.economia.rai.it/articoli/la-crisi-negli-usa-il-punto-di-vista-di-jan-kregel/30575/default.aspx
    Associated Program:
    Author(s):
    Region(s):
    United States, Asia
  • Working Paper No. 834 | March 2015

    John Maynard Keynes held that the central bank’s actions determine long-term interest rates through short-term interest rates and various monetary policy measures. His conjectures about the determinants of long-term interest rates were made in the context of advanced capitalist economies, and were based on his views on ontological uncertainty and the formation of investors’ expectations. Are these conjectures valid in emerging markets, such as India? This paper empirically investigates the determinants of changes in Indian government bonds’ nominal yields. Changes in short-term interest rates, after controlling for other crucial variables such as changes in the rates of inflation and economic activity, take a lead role in driving changes in the nominal yields of Indian government bonds. This vindicates Keynes’s theories, and suggests that his views on long-term interest rates are also applicable to emerging markets. Higher fiscal deficits do not appear to raise government bond yields in India. It is further argued that Keynes’s conjectures about investors’ outlooks, views, and expectations are fairly robust in a world of ontological uncertainty.

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    Associated Program(s):
    Author(s):
    Tanweer Akram Anupam Das
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    Region(s):
    Asia

  • Working Paper No. 813 | August 2014
    For Economic Stimulus, or for Austerity and Volatility?

    The implementation of economic reforms under new economic policies in India was associated with a paradigmatic shift in monetary and fiscal policy. While monetary policies were solely aimed at “price stability” in the neoliberal regime, fiscal policies were characterized by the objective of maintaining “sound finance” and “austerity.” Such monetarist principles and measures have also loomed over the global recession. This paper highlights the theoretical fallacies of monetarism and analyzes the consequences of such policy measures in India, particularly during the period of the global recession. Not only did such policies pose constraints on the recovery of output and employment, with adverse impacts on income distribution; but they also failed to achieve their stated goal in terms of price stability. By citing examples from southern Europe and India, this paper concludes that such monetarist policy measures have been responsible for stagnation, with a rise in price volatility and macroeconomic instability in the midst of the global recession.

Latin America

Russia and Eastern Europe

  • 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.
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    Associated Program(s):
    Author(s):
    Liudmila Malyshava
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    Region(s):
    Russia and Eastern Europe

Pacific Rim

  • Working Paper No. 910 | August 2018
    An Empirical Analysis
    The short-term interest rate is the main driver of the Commonwealth of Australia government bonds’ nominal yields. This paper empirically models the dynamics of government bonds’ nominal yields using the autoregressive distributed lag (ARDL) approach. Keynes held that the central bank exerts decisive influence on government bond yields because the central bank’s policy rate and other monetary policy actions determine the short-term interest rate, which in turn affects long-term government bonds’ nominal yields. The models estimated here show that Keynes’s conjecture applies in the case of Australian government bonds’ nominal yields. Furthermore, the effect of the budget balance ratio on government bond yields is small but statistically significant. However, there is no statistically discernable effect of the debt ratio on government bond yields.
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    Associated Program(s):
    Author(s):
    Tanweer Akram Anupam Das
    Related Topic(s):
    Region(s):
    Pacific Rim