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Fiscal Austerity in Ambiguous Times
This paper analyzes optimal fiscal policy with ambiguity aversion and endogenous government spending. We show that, without ambiguity, optimal surplus-to-output ratios are acyclical and that there is no rationale for either reduction or further accumulation of public debt. In contrast, ambiguity about the cycle can generate optimally policies that resemble "austerity" measures. Optimal policy prescribes higher taxes in adverse times and front-loaded fiscal consolidations that lead to a balanced primary budget in the long-run. This is the case when interest rates are sufficiently responsive to ...
How to Starve the Beast: Fiscal Policy Rules
Countries have widely imposed fiscal rules designed to constrain government spending and ensure fiscal responsibility. This paper studies the effectiveness and welfare implications of revenue, deficit and debt rules when governments are discretionary and profligate. The optimal prescription is a revenue ceiling coupled with a balance budget requirement. For the U.S., the optimal revenue ceiling is about 15% of output, 3 percentage points below the postwar average, and yields welfare gains equivalent to 10% of consumption. Most of the benefits can still be reaped with a milder constraint or ...
How to Starve the Beast: Fiscal and Monetary Policy Rules
Societies often rely on simple rules to restrict the size and behavior of governments. When fiscal and monetary policies are conducted by a discretionary and profligate government, I find that revenue ceilings vastly outperform debt, deficit and monetary rules, both in effectiveness at curbing public spending and welfare for private agents. However, effective revenue ceilings induce an increase in deficit, debt and inflation. Under many scenarios, including recurrent adverse shocks, the optimal ceiling on U.S. federal revenue is about 15% of GDP, which leads to welfare gains for private ...