The Politics of Flat Taxes
We study the determination of flat tax systems using a workhorse macroeconomic model of inequality. Our first result is that, despite the multidimensional policy space, equilibrium policies are typically unique (up to a fine grid numerical approximation). The majority voting outcome features (i) zero labor income taxation, (ii) simultaneous use of capital income and consumption taxation, and (iii) generally low transfers. We discuss the role of three factors?the initial heterogeneity in sources of income, the mobility of income and wealth, and the forward-looking aspect of voting?in ...
Optimal Taxation with Endogenous Default under Incomplete Markets
How are the optimal tax and debt policies affected if the government has the option to default on its debt? We address this question from a normative perspective in an economy with noncontingent government debt, domestic default and labor taxes. On one hand, default prevents the government from incurring future tax distortions that would come along with the service of the debt. On the other hand, default risk gives rise to endogenous credit limits that hinder the government's ability to smooth taxes. We characterize the fiscal policy and show how the option to default alters the near-unit ...
Optimal Time-Consistent Taxation with Default
We study optimal time-consistent distortionary taxation when the repayment of government debt is not enforceable. The government taxes labor income or issues noncontingent debt in order to finance an exogenous stream of stochastic government expenditures. The government can repudiate its debt subject to some default costs, thereby introducing some state-contingency to debt. We are motivated by the fact that domestic sovereign default is an empirically relevant phenomenon, as Reinhart and Rogoff (2011) demonstrated. Optimal policy is characterized by two opposing incentives: an incentive to ...
In a model with a worker-capitalist dichotomy, we show that the relationship between inequality (measured as a ratio of incomes for the two types) and growth is complicated; zero growth generally lowers inequality, except under extreme parameterizations. In particular, the elasticity of substitution between capital and labor in production needs to be considerably greater than 1 in order for income inequality be higher with zero growth. If this condition is not met, factor prices adjust strongly causing the fall in the return to capital (the rise in wages) to reduce income inequality. Our ...
The Piketty Transition
We study the effects on inequality of a "Piketty transition" to zero growth. In a model with a worker-capitalist dichotomy, we show first that the relationship between inequality (measured as a ratio of incomes for the two types) and growth is complicated; zero growth can raise or lower inequality, depending on parameters. Extending our model to include idiosyncratic wage risk we show that growth has quantitatively negligible effects on inequality, and the effect is negative. Finally, following Piketty?s thought experiment, we study how the transition might occur without declining returns; ...
Moldy Lemons and Market Shutdowns
This paper studies competitive market shutdowns due to adverse selection, where sellers post nonexclusive menus of contracts. We first show that the presence of the worst type of agents (moldy lemons) causes markets to fail only if their mass is sufficiently large. We then show that a small mass of moldy lemons can lead to a large cascade of exits when buyers possess outside options. Our results suggest a parsimonious way of generating sudden market shutdowns without relying on institutional details or imposing additional structure on the model. Thus, the simple insights on the properties of ...
International financial integration and crisis contagion
International financial integration helps to diversify risk but also may increase the transmission of crises across countries. We provide a quantitative analysis of this trade-off in a two-country general equilibrium model with endogenous portfolio choice and collateral constraints. Collateral constraints bind occasionally, depending upon the state of the economy and levels of inherited debt. The analysis allows for different degrees of financial integration, moving from financial autarky to bond market integration and equity market integration. Financial integration leads to a significant ...
The redistributional consequences of tax reform under financial integration
I quantify the welfare effects of replacing the US capital income tax with higher labor income taxes under international financial integration using a two-country, heterogeneous-agent incomplete markets model calibrated to represent the US and the rest of the world. Short-run and long-run factor price dynamics are key: after the tax reform, interest rates rise less under financial openness than in autarky. Therefore, wealthy households gain less. Post-tax wages also fall less as a result of the faster capital accumulation, so the poor are hurt less. Hence, the distributional impacts of the ...
Enduring Relationships in an Economy with Capital and Private Information
We study efficient risk sharing in a model where agents operate linear production technologies with private information about idiosyncratic productivity. Capital is the sole factor of production, and accumulable. We establish a time-invariant, one-to-one mapping between the capital allocated to an agent and his lifetime utility entitlement. The mapping implies properties that are distinct from those in models with private information about endowments. In contrast to the latter, the value of the risk-sharing arrangement in our model always remains above the autarky value. There is no need for ...
Appendix for Financial Frictions and Fluctuations in Volatility
This appendix contains five sections. Section 1 provides details for the comparative statics exercise performed in the simple example. Section 2 discusses extending the model to allow firms to default on the wages for managers. Section 3 describes the firm-level and aggregate data. Section 4 contains the details of the computational algorithm. Finally, Section 5 reports the results for our model with a lower labor elasticity.