Restraining the Leviathan: property tax limitations in Massachusetts
We examine the effects of Proposition 2-1/2--a property tax limitation law approved by Massachusetts voters in 1980--and assess voter satisfaction with these effects. We find that the proposition had a smaller effect on local revenues and spending than expected, as a result of both amendments to the law and a strong economy. Voters in 1980 believed there was significant waste in local government, partly because of an inability to monitor local officials. Proposition 2-1/2 curbed these agency losses, but direct local override votes and municipal expenditure patterns imply that the proposition ...
The effect of stock prices on the demand for money market mutual funds
During the 1990s, households have sharply increased the share of their portfolios held in equities and mutual funds and sharply reduced the share held in bank accounts. We show that this reallocation has substantially increased the impact of financial-market developments on the demand for money. Specifically, both increases and decreases in the Wilshire 5000 have boosted the demand for money funds during the 1990s, although they had little effect on money funds during the 1980s. The estimated effects in the 1990s are generally statistically significant and economically important.
The effect of interest-rate changes on household saving and consumption: a survey
Direct estimates of the interest elasticity of saving suffer from several serious problems. As an alternative, this survey uses an indirect approach that combines models of individual behavior with estimates of certain features of individuals' preferences. The paper examines the effect of interest-rate changes on the consumption and saving of people who follow the lifecycle model, who plan to leave bequests, who save to reach a fixed target, and who have short planning horizons. The models that likely describe the behavior of the people who account for most of aggregate saving imply positive ...
This paper surveys the literature on the macroeconomic effects of government debt. It begins by discussing the data on debt and deficits, including the historical time series, measurement issues, and projections of future fiscal policy. The paper then presents the conventional theory of government debt, which emphasizes aggregate demand in the short run and crowding out in the long run. It next examines the theoretical and empirical debate over the theory of debt neutrality called Ricardian equivalence. Finally, the paper considers the various normative perspectives about how the government ...
Declining required reserves and the volatility of the federal funds rate.
Low required reserve balances in 1991 led to a sharp increase in the volatility of the federal funds rate, but similarly low balances in 1996 did not. This paper develops and simulates a microeconomic model of the funds market that explains these facts. We show that reductions in reserve balances increase the volatility of the federal funds rate, but that this relationship changes over time in response to observable changes in bank behavior. The model predicts that a continued decline in required reserves could increase funds-rate volatility significantly.
Financial innovation and the Great Moderation: what do household data say?
Aggressive deregulation of the household debt market in the early 1980s triggered innovations that greatly reduced the required home equity of U.S. households, allowing them to cash-out a large part of accumulated equity. In 1982, home equity equaled 71 percent of GDP; so this generated a borrowing shock of huge macroeconomic proportions. The combination of increasing household debt from 43 to 56 percent of GDP with high interest rates during the 1982-1990 period is consistent with such a shock to households? demand for funds. This paper uses a quantitative general equilibrium model of ...
Should America save for its old age? Population aging, national saving, and fiscal policy
While popular wisdom holds that the United States should save more now in anticipation of the aging of the baby boom generation, the optimal response to population aging from a macroeconomic perspective is not clear-cut. Indeed, Cutler, Poterba, Sheiner, and Summers ("CPSS",1990) argued that the optimal response to the coming demographic transition was more likely to be a reduction in national saving than an increase. In this paper we reexamine this question. In particular, we ask how the optimal saving response depends on the openness of our economy, on how we view the consumption of ...
The effects of deficit-reduction laws on real interest rates
This paper uses news reports about two deficit-reduction laws of the past decade to identify days when expected fiscal policy clearly became more or less expansionary. The paper also proposes a technique for identifying whether the real interest rate increased or decreased on those days, based on changes in the nominal interest rate, the exchange rate, commodity prices, and stock prices. As economic theory predicts, higher expected government spending and budget deficits raised real interest rates and the value of the dollar, while lower expected spending and deficits reduced real rates and ...
Taxation of labor income and the demand for risky assets
It is well known that the implicit insurance provided by labor income taxes can reduce total saving. We show that this insurance can change the composition of saving as well, because the reduction in labor-income risk may affect the amount of financial risk that an individual chooses to bear. Given plausible restrictions on preferences, any change in taxes that reduces an individual's labor-income risk and does not make her worse off will lead her to invest more in risky assets. This effect can be quantitatively important for realistic changes in tax rates.