Levy Institute Publications
Greece: Higher GDP Growth at What Cost?
Policy Note 2023/1 | May 2023 | Dimitri B. Papadimitriou, Giuliano Toshiro Yajima, Gennaro ZezzaIn 2022, Greek GDP grew at a higher rate than the eurozone average as the nation’s economy rebounded from the COVID-19 shock.
However, it was not all welcome news. In particular, Greece registered its largest current account deficit since 2009. Despite a widespread focus on fiscal profligacy, it is excessive current account and trade deficits—largely caused by private sector imbalances—that are at the root of Greece’s multiple economic challenges. This policy note identifies the major determinants causing the deterioration of the current account balance in order to devise appropriate corrective policies.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Related Topic(s):
An Inquiry Concerning Japanese Yen Interest Rate Swap Yields
Working Paper No. 1019 | May 2023 | Tanweer Akram, Khawaja MamunThis paper econometrically models Japanese yen (JPY)–denominated interest rate swap yields. It examines whether the short-term interest rate exerts an influence on the long-term JPY swap yield after controlling for several key macroeconomic variables, such as core inflation, the growth of industrial production, the percentage change in the equity price index, and the percentage change in the exchange rate. It also tests whether there are structural breaks in the dynamics of Japanese swap yields and related variables. The estimated econometric models show that the short-term interest rate exerts an important influence on the long-term swap yield in some periods but not in other periods in which core inflation exerts a marked influence on the swap yield. The findings from the econometric models reveal a discernable relationship between the call rate and the swap yield of different maturity tenors clearly held prior to April 2014 but did not in the subsequent period. These findings highlight the limits and scope of John Maynard Keynes’s contention that the central bank’s policy rate commands a decisive influence over the long-term market rate through the short-term interest rate. The policy implications of the estimated models’ results are discussed.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Tanweer Akram Khawaja MamunRelated Topic(s):
The Unbearable Weight of Aging
Working Paper No. 1018 | April 2023 | Yeva Nersisyan, Xinhua Liu, L. Randall Wray
How to Deal with the “Demographic Time Bomb”The aging of the global population is in the headlines following a report that China’s population fell as deaths surpassed births. Pundits worry that a declining Chinese workforce means trouble for other economies that have come to rely on China’s exports. France is pushing through an increase of the retirement age in the face of what is called a demographic “time bomb” facing rich nations, created by rising longevity and low birthrates. As we approach the debt limit in the US, while President Biden has promised to protect Social Security, many have returned to the argument that the program is financially unsustainable. This paper argues that most of the discussion and policy solutions proposed surrounding aging of populations are misfocused on supposed financial challenges when they should be directed toward the challenges facing resource provision. From the resource perspective, the burden of caring for tomorrow’s seniors seems far less challenging. Indeed, falling fertility rates and an end to global population growth should be welcomed. With fewer children and longer lives, investment in the workers of the future will ensure growth of productivity that will provide the resources necessary to support a higher ratio of retirees to those of working age. Global population growth will peak and turn negative, reducing demands on earth’s biosphere and making it easier to transition to environmental sustainability. Rather than facing a demographic “time bomb,” we can welcome the transition to a mature-aged profile.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Related Topic(s):
Greece: Recovery, or Another Recession?
Strategic Analysis, October 2022 | October 2022 | Dimitri B. Papadimitriou, Nikolaos Rodousakis, Gennaro ZezzaIn this strategic analysis, Institute President Dimitri B. Papadimitriou, Senior Scholar Gennaro Zezza, and Research Associate Nikolaos Rodousakis discuss the medium-term prospects for the Greek economy in a time of increasing uncertainty—due to the geopolitical turbulence emanating from the Ukraine–Russian conflict, with its impact on the cost of energy, as well as the increase in international prices of some commodities.
Growth projections for the current year are lower than those recorded in 2021, indicating the economy needs to perform much better if it is to continue on the growth path that began in the pre-pandemic period. Similarly, growth projections for 2023 and 2024 appear much weaker, denoting serious consequences may be in store.
With increasing price levels and the euro depreciating, an economy like Greece’s that is highly dependent on increasingly costly imports will become more fragile as the current account deficit widens. In the authors’ view, the continuous recovery of the Greek economy rests with the government’s ability to utilize the NGEU funds swiftly and efficiently for projects that will increase the country’s productive capacity.
Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Related Topic(s):
Rentiers, Strategic Public Goods, and Financialization in the Periphery
Working Paper No. 1017 | April 2023 | Gabriel Porcile, Gilberto Tadeu LimaThis paper revisits a traditional theme in the literature on the political economy of development, namely how to redistribute rents from traditional exporters of natural resources toward capitalists in technology-intensive sectors with a higher potential for innovation and the creation of higher-productivity jobs. Porcile and Lima argue that this conflict has been reshaped in the past three decades by two major transformations in the international economy. The first is the acceleration of technical change and the key role governments play in supporting international competitiveness. This role provides the strategic public goods to foster innovation and the diffusion of technology (what Christopher Freeman called “technological infrastructure”). The second is the impact of financial globalization in limiting the ability of governments in the periphery to tax and/or issue debt to finance those public goods. Capital mobility allows exporters of natural resources to send their foreign exchange abroad to arbitrate between domestic and foreign assets, and to avoid taxation. Using a macroeconomic model for a small, open economy, the authors argue that in this more complex international context, the external constraint on output growth assumes different forms. They focus on two polar cases: the “pure financialization” case, in which legal and illegal capital flights prevent the government from financing the provision of strategic public goods; and the “trade deficit” case, in which private firms in the more technology-intensive sector cannot import the capital goods they need to expand industrial production.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Gabriel Porcile Gilberto Tadeu LimaRelated Topic(s):
The Causes of Pandemic Inflation
One-Pager No. 70 | December 2022 | L. Randall WrayWhile the trigger for the Covid recession was unusual—a collapse of the supply side that produced a drop in demand—the inflation the US economy is now facing is not atypical, according to L. Randall Wray. In this one-pager, he explores the causes of the current inflationary environment, arguing that continuing inflation pressures come mostly from the supply side.
Wray warns that, given federal spending had already been declining substantially before the Fed started raising interest rates, rate hikes make a recession—and potentially stagflation—even more likely. A key part of our fiscal policy response should be focused on well-designed public investment addressing the substantial supply constraints still affecting the US economy—constraints that are not just due to the Covid crisis, but also decades of underinvestment in infrastructure. Such an approach, in Wray's view, would reduce inflationary pressures while supporting growth.
Download:Associated Program(s):The State of the US and World Economies Monetary Policy and Financial Structure Federal Budget PolicyAuthor(s):Related Topic(s):
Monetary Policy and the Gender and Racial Employment Dynamics in Brazil
Working Paper No. 1016 | February 2023 | Patricia Couto, Clara BrenckMonetary policy has been historically concerned with controlling inflation, using the interest rate as its main tool. However, such policies are not gender- or race-neutral. This paper explores econometrically the effect of changes in the interest rate for female and black employment creation in Brazil. We conduct a panel data fixed effects analysis for 13 states between 2012 and 2021 to estimate the effects of changes in interest rates on unemployment, separating the data by gender and race. Our results show that the real interest rate has a positive effect on the relative unemployment of black men to white men, no effect on the relative unemployment of black women to white men, and a negative effect on the relative unemployment of white women to white men. These effects are intensified in regions where the black population ratio is lower. This paper contributes to understanding the challenges to closing gender and racial gaps, particularly in developing economies. We conclude that social stratification, if not considered, can lead to misleading policies that perpetuate unequal socioeconomic outcomes.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Patricia Couto Clara BrenckRelated Topic(s):
CBDC Next-Level: A New Architecture for Financial “Super-Stability”
Working Paper No. 1015 | February 2023 | Biagio Bossone, Michael HainesFractional reserve regimes generate fragile banking, and full reserve regimes (e.g., narrow banking) remove fragility at the cost of suppressing the role of banks as lenders. A Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) could provide safe money, but at the cost of potentially disrupting bank lending. Our aim is to avoid this potential disruption. Building on the recent literature on CBDCs, in this study we propose what we call the “CBDC next-level model,” whereby the central bank creates money by lending to banks, and banks on-lend the proceeds to the economy. The proposed model would allow for deposits to be taken off the balance sheet of banks and into the balance sheet of the central bank, thereby removing significant risk from the banking system without adversely impacting banks’ basic business. Once CBDC is injected in the system, irrespective of however it is used, wherever it accumulates, and whoever holds and uses it, it will always represent central bank equity, and no losses or defaults by individual banks or borrowers can ever dent it or weaken the central bank’s capital position or hurt depositors. Yet, individual borrowers and banks would still be required to honor their debt in full, lest they would be bound to exit the market or even be forced into bankruptcy. The CBDC next-level model solution would eliminate the threat of bank runs and system collapse and induce a degree of financial stability (“super-stability”) that would be unparalleled by any existing banking system.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Biagio Bossone Michael HainesRelated Topic(s):
Avoiding a Recession
Strategic Analysis, August 2022 | August 2022 | Dimitri B. Papadimitriou, Michalis Nikiforos, Gennaro Zezza
The Fed ConundrumIn this report, Institute President Dimitri B. Papadimitriou, Research Scholar Michalis Nikiforos, and Senior Scholar Gennaro Zezza analyze how and why the US economy has achieved a swift recovery in comparison with the last few economic cycles.
This recovery has nevertheless been accompanied by significant increases in the trade deficit and inflation. Papadimitriou, Nikiforos, and Zezza argue that the elevated rate of inflation has been largely unrelated to the level of demand or the pace of the recovery, and has more to do with pandemic-related disruptions, the war in Ukraine, and the beginning of a new commodity super cycle.
The authors also identify persistent Minskyan processes that mean the US economy remains fundamentally unstable, with a risk of financial crisis and potentially severe consequences in terms of output and employment—a risk heightened by the reversal of the loose monetary policy that has prevailed over the last decade and a half. In their first scenario, they simulate the macroeconomic impact of such a financial crisis and private sector deleveraging. In two additional scenarios, the authors analyze the likely effects of a new round of fiscal stimulus that would be necessary in case of a crisis: a deficit-financed expenditure boost with no offsetting revenue increases, and a deficit-neutral scenario in which taxation of high-income households increases by an amount equivalent to the expansion of public expenditure.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Is It Time for Rate Hikes?
Public Policy Brief No. 157 | April 2022 | Yeva Nersisyan, L. Randall Wray
The Fed Cannot Engineer a Soft Landing but Risks Stagflation by TryingRoughly two years into the economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, the topic of elevated inflation dominates the economic policy discourse in the United States. And the aggressive use of fiscal policy to support demand and incomes has commonly been singled out as the culprit. Equally as prevalent is the clamor for the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates to relieve inflationary pressures. According to Research Scholar Yeva Nersisyan and Senior Scholar L. Randall Wray, this narrative is flawed in a number of ways. The problem with the US economy is not one of excess of demand in their view, and the Federal Reserve will not be able to engineer a “soft landing” in the way many seem to be expecting. The authors also deliver a warning: excessive tightening, combined with headwinds in 2022, could lead to stagflation. Moreover, while this recovery looks robust in comparison to the jobless recoveries and secular stagnation that have typified the last few decades, in Nersisyan and Wray’s estimation there are few signs of an overheating economy to be found in the macro data. In their view, this inflation is not centrally demand driven; rather dynamics at the micro-level are playing a much more central role in driving the price increases in question, while significant supply chain problems have curtailed productive capacity by disrupting the availability of critical inputs.
The authors suggest there is a better way to conduct policy—one oriented around targeted investments that would increase our real resource space. This will serve not only to address inflationary pressures, according to Nersisyan and Wray, but also the far more pressing climate emergency.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Still Flying Blind after All These Years
Public Policy Brief No. 156 | December 2021 | Dimitri B. Papadimitriou, L. Randall Wray
The Federal Reserve’s Continuing Experiments with UnobservablesInstitute President Dimitri B. Papadimitriou and Senior Scholar L. Randall Wray contend that the prevailing approach to monetary policy and inflation is influenced by a set of concepts that are a poor guide to action. In this policy brief, they examine two previous cases in which the Federal Reserve misread the data and raised rates too soon, as well as the evolution of the Fed’s thought and practice over the past three decades—a period in which the central bank has increasingly turned to unobservable indicators that are supposed to predict inflation. Noting that their criticisms have now been raised by the Fed’s own members and research staff, the authors highlight the ways in which we need to rethink our overall framework for monetary and fiscal policy. The Fed has far less control over inflation than is presumed, they argue, and, at worst, might have the whole inflation-fighting strategy backwards. Managing inflation, they conclude, should not be left entirely in the hands of central banks.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Related Topic(s):
Chile: The Road to Joy Is Paved with Obstacles
Policy Note 2022/3 | May 2022 | Giuliano Toshiro YajimaIn the second round of the Chilean presidential elections, the coalition led by Gabriel Boric secured a victory under the premise of delivering long-awaited reforms to a financially volatile, structurally fragile, and deeply unequal economic structure. In this policy note, Giuliano Toshiro Yajima sheds light on these three aspects of the Chilean economy, showing that its external and internal fragility feeds back on the excessive specialization and heterogeneity of the productive sectors, which in turn influence income and wealth distribution.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
A Race to the Bottom
Policy Note 2022/2 | April 2022 | Vlassis Missos, Nikolaos Rodousakis, George Soklis
Measuring Income Loss and Poverty in GreeceMore than a decade after the 2009 crisis, the standards of living of the Greek population are still contracting and the prospects are gloomy. In this policy note, Vlassis Missos, Research Associate Nikolaos Rodousakis, and George Soklis deal with how to approach the measurement of income loss and poverty in Greece and argue for the use of household disposable income (HDI) in estimating adjustments, which offers a more accurate appreciation of the burden falling on the Greek population. They underline the significance of replacing a “southern-European model” of social protection with a passive safety net model—and the centrality to the latter model of embracing ideas of internal devaluation and fiscal consolidation—and suggest a better measure of poverty, for the case of Greece specifically and in general for developed economies in which front-loaded neoliberal policies are imposed. Finally, they comment on the sacrifice that would be required if fiscal discipline were to return in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Vlassis Missos Nikolaos Rodousakis George SoklisRelated Topic(s):
What Is MMT’s State of Play in Washington?
e-pamphlet, August 2021 | August 2021 | L. Randall WrayModern Money Theory (MMT) has been frequently mentioned in recent media—first as “crazy talk” that if followed would bankrupt the nation and then, after the COVID-19 pandemic hit, as a way to finance an emergency response. In recent months, however, Washington seems to have returned to the old view that government spending must be “paid for” with new taxes. This raises the question: Has MMT really made headway with policymakers? This e-pamphlet examines the extraordinary interview given recently by Representative John Yarmuth’s (D, KY-03), Chair of the House Budget Committee, in which he explicitly adopts an MMT approach to budgeting. Chairman Yarmuth also lays out a path for realizing the major elements of President Biden’s proposals. Finally, Wray summarizes a recent presentation he gave to the Congressional Budget Office’s Macroeconomic Analysis section that urged reconsideration of the way that fiscal policy impacts are assessed.Download:Associated Program(s):Monetary Policy and Financial Structure Economic Policy for the 21st Century The State of the US and World EconomiesAuthor(s):Related Topic(s):
Statement of Senior Scholar L. Randall Wray to the House Budget Committee, US House of Representatives
Testimony, November 20, 2019 | November 2019 | L. Randall Wray, Yeva Nersisyan
Reexamining the Economic Costs of DebtOn 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 OmarDownload:Associated Program(s):Author(s):Related Topic(s):
Scope and Effects of Reducing Time Deficits via Intrahousehold Redistribution of Household Production
Research Project Report, July 2021 | July 2021 | Ajit Zacharias, Thomas Masterson, Fernando Rios-Avila, Abena D. Oduro
Evidence from sub-Saharan AfricaGender disparity in the division of responsibilities for unpaid care and domestic work (household production) is a central and pervasive component of inequalities between men and women and boys and girls. Reducing disparity in household production figures as one element of the goal of gender equality enshrined in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and feminist scholars and political activists have articulated that the redistribution of household production responsibilities from females to males is important for its own sake, as well as for achieving gender equality in labor market outcomes. A cursory examination of available cross-country data indicates that higher per capita GDP—the neoliberal panacea for most societal malaise—provides little bulwark against the gender inequality in household production.
Ajit Zacharias, Thomas Masterson, Fernando Rios-Avila, and Abena D. Oduro contribute to the literature on the intrahousehold distribution of household production by placing the question within a framework of analyzing deprivation, applying that framework to better understand the interactions between poverty and the gendered division of labor in four sub-Saharan African nations: Ethiopia, Ghana, South Africa, and Tanzania. Central to their framework is the notion that attaining a minimal standard of living requires command over an adequate basket of commodities and sufficient time to be spent on home production, where meeting those requirements produces benefits for all—including those beyond the household.
Their findings motivate questions regarding the feasibility and effectiveness of redistribution of household responsibilities to alleviate time deficits and their impoverishing effects. By developing a framework to assess the mechanics of redistribution among family members and applying it to gender-based redistribution, they derive the maximum extent to which redistribution—either among all family members, between sexes, or between husbands and wives—can lower the incidence of time deficits. The conclude with a discussion of alternative principles of distributing household production responsibilities among family members and examine their impact on the Levy Institute Measure of Time and Income Poverty (LIMTCP) and discuss some policy questions in light of their findings.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Related Topic(s):
Public Service Employment
Research Project Report, April 2018 | April 2018 | L. Randall Wray, Flavia Dantas, Scott Fullwiler, Pavlina R. Tcherneva, Stephanie A. Kelton
A Path to Full EmploymentDespite reports of a healthy US labor market, millions of Americans remain unemployed and underemployed, or have simply given up looking for work. It is a problem that plagues our economy in good times and in bad—there are never enough jobs available for all who want to work. L. Randall Wray, Flavia Dantas, Scott Fullwiler, Pavlina R. Tcherneva, and Stephanie A. Kelton examine the impact of a new “job guarantee” proposal that would seek to eliminate involuntary unemployment by directly creating jobs in the communities where they are needed.
The authors propose the creation of a Public Service Employment (PSE) program that would offer a job at a living wage to all who are ready and willing to work. Federally funded but with a decentralized administration, the PSE program would pay $15 per hour and offer a basic package of benefits. This report simulates the economic impact over a ten-year period of implementing the PSE program beginning in 2018Q1.
Unemployment, hidden and official, with all of its attendant social harms, is a policy choice. The results in this report lend more weight to the argument that it is a policy choice we need no longer tolerate. True full employment is both achievable and sustainable.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):L. Randall Wray Flavia Dantas Scott Fullwiler Pavlina R. Tcherneva Stephanie A. KeltonRelated Topic(s):
The Macroeconomic Effects of Student Debt Cancellation
Research Project Report, February 2018 | February 2018 | Scott Fullwiler, Stephanie A. Kelton, Catherine Ruetschlin, Marshall SteinbaumAmong the more ambitious policies that have been proposed to address the problem of escalating student loan debt are various forms of debt cancellation. In this report, Scott Fullwiler, Research Associate Stephanie Kelton, Catherine Ruetschlin, and Marshall Steinbaum examine the likely macroeconomic impacts of a one-time, federally funded cancellation of all outstanding student debt.
The report analyzes households’ mounting reliance on debt to finance higher education, including the distributive implications of student debt and debt cancellation; describes the financial mechanics required to carry out the cancellation of debt held by the Department of Education (which makes up the vast majority of student loans outstanding) as well as privately owned student debt; and uses two macroeconometric models to provide a plausible range for the likely impacts of student debt cancellation on key economic variables over a 10-year horizon.
The authors find that cancellation would have a meaningful stimulus effect, characterized by greater economic activity as measured by GDP and employment, with only moderate effects on the federal budget deficit, interest rates, and inflation (while state budgets improve). These results suggest that policies like student debt cancellation can be a viable part of a needed reorientation of US higher education policy.
Download:Associated Program(s):Author(s):Scott Fullwiler Stephanie A. Kelton Catherine Ruetschlin Marshall SteinbaumRelated Topic(s):
Time to Celebrate Modern Money Theory?
One-Pager No. 69 | February 2022 | Yeva Nersisyan, L. Randall WrayA recent article in the New York Times asks whether Modern Money Theory (MMT) can declare victory after its policies were (supposedly) implemented during the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The article suggests yes, but for the high inflation it sparked. In the view of Yeva Nersisyan and Senior Scholar L. Randall Wray, the federal government’s response largely validated MMT’s claims regarding public debt and deficits and questions of sovereign government solvency—it did not, however, represent MMT policy.Download:Associated Program(s):Author(s):
A Great Leap Forward
Book Series, January 2020 | January 2020 | L. Randall Wray
Heterodox Economic Policy for the 21st CenturyA Great Leap Forward: Heterodox Economic Policy for the 21st Century investigates economic policy from a heterodox and progressive perspective. Author Randall Wray uses relatively short chapters arranged around several macroeconomic policy themes to present an integrated survey of progressive policy on topics of interest today that are likely to remain topics of interest for many years.
Published by: Elsevier PressAssociated Program:Author(s):Related Topic(s):