Publications on Fiscal stimulus
Working Paper No. 948 | February 2020This 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.Download:Associated Programs:Author(s):George Zestos Rachel N. Cooke
Strategic Analysis, October 2013 | 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):
One-Pager No. 35 | October 2012Should we allow the fiscal cliff, with its across-the-board spending cuts and big tax increases that will affect almost every American, to take effect? Economists have been weighing in on such fiscal policy questions in what seems to be the most intense election-year debate in many years. To help our readers keep track of this debate, we offer a list of some of the specious arguments against fiscal stimulus and for austerity, together with our responses.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Strategic Analysis, April 2012 | 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):
Strategic Analysis, December 2011 | 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):
One-Pager No. 10 | June 2011With quantitative easing winding down and the latest payroll tax-cut measures set to expire at the end of this year, pressing questions loom about the current state of the US economic recovery and its ability to sustain itself in the absence of support from monetary and fiscal policy.
Public Policy Brief No. 118, 2011 | April 2011
Four Fragile Markets, Four Years Later
In this brief, Research Scholar Greg Hannsgen and President Dimitri B. Papadimitriou focus on the risks and possibilities ahead for the US economy. Using a Keynesian approach and drawing from the commentary of other observers, they analyze publicly available data in order to assess the strength and durability of the expansion that probably began in 2009. They focus on four broad groups of markets that have shown signs of stress for the last several years: financial markets, markets for household goods and services, commodity markets, and labor markets. This kind of analysis does not yield numerical forecasts but it can provide important clues about the short-term outlook for the country’s economic well-being, and cast light on some longer-run threats. In particular, dangers and stresses in the financial and banking systems are presently very serious, and labor market data show every sign of a widespread and severe weakness in aggregate demand. Unless there is new resolve for effective government action on the jobs front, drastic cuts in much-needed federal, state, and local programs will become the order of the day in the United States, as in much of Europe.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Strategic Analysis, March 2011 | 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):
One-Pager No. 8 | February 2011
The economic crisis that has gripped the US economy since 2007 has highlighted Congress’s limited oversight of the Federal Reserve, and the limited transparency of the Fed’s actions. And since a Fed promise is ultimately a Treasury promise that carries the full faith and credit of the US government, the question is, Should the Fed be able to commit the public purse in times of national crisis?Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Scott Fullwiler L. Randall Wray
Strategic Analysis, March 2010 | 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):
Strategic Analysis, December 2009 | 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):
Working Paper No. 581 | October 2009
Did the New Deal Prolong or Worsen the Great Depression?
Since the current recession began in December 2007, New Deal legislation and its effectiveness have been at the center of a lively debate in Washington. This paper emphasizes some key facts about two kinds of policy that were important during the Great Depression and have since become the focus of criticism by new New Deal critics: (1) regulatory and labor relations legislation, and (2) government spending and taxation. We argue that initiatives in these policy areas probably did not slow economic growth or worsen the unemployment problem from 1933 to 1939, as claimed by a number of economists in academic papers, in the popular press, and elsewhere. To substantiate our case, we cite some important economic benefits of New Deal–era laws in the two controversial policy areas noted above. In fact, we suggest that the New Deal provided effective medicine for the Depression, though fiscal policy was not sufficiently countercyclical to conquer mass unemployment and prevent the recession of 1937–38; 1933’s National Industrial Recovery Act was badly flawed and poorly administered, and the help provided by the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 came too late to have a big effect on the recovery.Download:Associated Programs:Author(s):
Strategic Analysis, April 2008 | 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):
Strategic Analysis, November 2007 | 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):