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. 1007 | May 2022
    Evidence from West Bank Schools
    The current study aims to investigate the impact of academic achievement on child labor. The study utilizes survey data collected from Palestinian children in West Bank schools who are in the primary grades (5th–9th). The results show that increasing a child’s academic achievement is significantly associated with decreasing the probability that a child works for money in the following period. Our findings varied among children according to their gender, age, and parental academic background. Our analyses are subject to different specifications, including two-stage least squares (2SLS) to account for potential endogeneity. The results provide robust evidence about the linkage between school performance and child labor in the West Bank. Further, the study proposes an assessment of the child’s mental health problems by the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) as a potential mechanism through which the child’s achievement at school affects child labor.
    Associated Program:
    Sameh Hallaq Ayman Khalifah
    Related Topic(s):

  • Working Paper No. 1004 | March 2022
    A Theoretical Framework
    Liabilities denominated in foreign currency have established a permanent role on emerging market firms’ balance sheets, which implies that changes in both global liquidity conditions and in the value of the currency may have a long-lasting effect for them. In order to consider the financial conditions that may encourage (discourage) structural change in a small, open economy, we adopt the framework put forward by the “monetary theory of distribution” (MTD). More specifically, we follow the formulation adopted by Dvoskin and Feldman (2019), whereby the financial system is intended as a basic sector that promotes innovation (Schumpeter 1911). In accordance with this, financial conditions are binding only for the innovative entrepreneurs, whose methods of production are not dominant and hence they need to borrow from banks to kickstart their production. Through this device, our model offers an explanation of the technological lock-in experienced by a small, open economy that takes international prices as given.
    Associated Program(s):
    Giuliano Toshiro Yajima Lorenzo Nalin
    Related Topic(s):

  • One-Pager No. 69 | February 2022
    A 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.

  • Working Paper No. 1002 | February 2022
    Empirical Evidence from India
    Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, this paper analyzes the economic stimulus packages announced by the Indian national government and tries to identify some plausible fiscal and monetary policy coordination. The shrinking fiscal space due to revenue uncertainties has led to a theoretical plausibility of a reemergence of finite monetization of deficits in India. However, the empirical evidence confirms no direct monetization of the deficit.

  • Working Paper No. 996 | December 2021
    Modern Money Theory (MMT) has generated considerable scrutiny and discussions over the past decade. While it has gained some acceptance in the financial sector and among some politicians, it has come under strong criticisms from all sides of the academic spectrum and from conservative political circles. MMT has been argued to be both fascist and communist, orthodox and heterodox, dangerous and benign, unworkable and obvious, and unrealistic and clearly nothing new. The contradictory aspects of the range of criticisms suggest that there is at best a superficial understanding of the MMT framework. MMT relies on a well-established theoretical framework and is not inherently about changing the economic system; it is about changing the policymaking praxis to implement a given public purpose. That public purpose can be small or large and can be conservative or progressive; it ought not to be narrowly determined but rather should be set as democratically as possible. While MMT proponents tend to favor a public purpose that deals with what they see as major drawbacks of capitalist economies (persistent nonfrictional unemployment, unfair inequalities, and financial instability), their policy proposals do not lead to a major shift of domestic resources to the public purpose. If a major increase in government spending is implemented, MMT provides some guidance on how to do that in the least disruptive manner by drawing on past economic experiences. The point is to implement the public purpose at a pace that recognizes the potential constraint that comes from domestic resource availability and potential inflationary pressures from bottlenecks, rising import prices, and exchange rate depreciation, among others. In most cases, economies have more flexibility than what is admitted. In all cases, when monetary sovereignty prevails, the fiscal position and the public debt are poor metrics for judging the viability of a public purpose and its pace of implementation.

    As such, applying MMT to policymaking does not mean that a government ought to be encouraged to record fiscal deficits or that the relation between the central bank and the treasury ought to be radically changed to allow direct financing. The fiscal balance is not a proper policy goal because it leads to irrelevant or incorrect policymaking and because it is largely outside the control of policymakers. The financial praxis of monetarily sovereign governments already conforms to MMT. Central banks and treasuries routinely coordinate their financial operations. Some governments have allowed direct financing of the treasury by the central bank; others have not but have developed equivalent ways to coordinate their fiscal and monetary operations that work around existing political constraints. Such routine coordination ensures an elastic financing of government operations that at least deals with domestic resources and is not intrinsically inflationary.

  • Working Paper No. 995 | November 2021
    A Stock-Flow Consistent Analysis
    The health and economic crises of 2020–21 have revived the debate on fiscal policy as a major tool for stabilization and meeting long-term goals. The massive surge in unemployment, due to the economic disruption of the lockdown measures, has increased the interest in policies that target employment directly instead of trying to achieve it via a general “demand push.” One of the proposals currently under debate is the job guarantee. Under such a policy the government would act as an “employer of last resort” by offering a job to everyone that is able and wants to work but cannot find a job in the private sector. This paper argues that a carefully designed scheme of direct employment and public provision by the state—addressing both the low- and high-skill workforce—can have permanent effects and promote the economy’s structural transformation, in particular by fostering energy transition and a lower carbon footprint. Starting from this point, a stock-flow consistent model is developed to study the long-run effect of the job guarantee’s implementation, inspired by the work of Godin (2013) and Sawyer and Passarella (2021).
    Associated Program:
    Giuliano Toshiro Yajima
    Related Topic(s):

  • One-Pager No. 68 | November 2021
    With the US Treasury cutting checks totaling approximately $5 trillion to deal with the COVID-19 crisis, Senior Scholar L. Randall Wray argues that when it comes to the federal government, concerns about affordability and solvency can both be laid to rest. According to Wray, the question is never whether the federal government can spend more, but whether it should. And while there are still strongly held beliefs about the negative impacts of deficits and debt on inflation, interest rates, growth, and exchange rates, with two centuries of experience the evidence for these concerns is mixed at best.

  • e-pamphlets | August 2021
    Modern 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.

  • Working Paper No. 990 | July 2021
    Analyzing the Flypaper Effects
    Using panel data models, we analyze the flypaper effects—whether intergovernmental fiscal transfers or states’ own income determine expenditure commitments—on ecological fiscal spending in India. The econometric results show that the unconditional fiscal transfers, rather than the states’ own income, determine ecological expenditure in the forestry sector at subnational levels in India. The results hold when the models are controlled for ecological outcomes and demographic variables.
    Associated Program:
    Amandeep Kaur Ranjan Kumar Mohanty Lekha S. Chakraborty Divy Rangan
    Related Topic(s):

  • Public Policy Brief No. 155 | June 2021
    Yes, If He Abandons Fiscal “Pay Fors"
    President Biden’s proposals for investing in social and physical infrastructure signal a return to a budget-neutral policymaking framework that has largely been set aside since the outbreak of the COVID-19 crisis. According Yeva Nersisyan and L. Randall Wray, this focus on ensuring revenues keep pace with spending increases can undermine the goals internal to both the public investment and tax components of the administration’s plans: the “pay for” approach limits our spending on progressive policy to what we can raise through taxes, and we will only tax the amount we need to spend.

    Nersisyan and Wray propose an alternative approach to budgeting for large-scale public expenditure programs. In their view, policymakers should evaluate spending and tax proposals on their own terms, according to the goals each is intended to meet. If the purpose of taxing corporations and wealthy individuals is to reduce inequality, then the tax changes should be formulated to accomplish that—not to “raise funds” to finance proposed spending. And while it is possible that general tax hikes might be needed to prevent public investment programs from fueling inflation, they argue that the kinds of taxes proposed by the administration would do little to relieve inflationary pressures should they arise. Under current economic circumstances, however, the president’s proposed infrastructure spending should not require budgetary offsets or other measures to control inflation in their estimation.