Thursday, October 6, 2016

Jason Furman — The New View of Fiscal Policy and Its Application

A decade ago, the prevalent view about fiscal policy among academic economists could be summarized in four admittedly stylized principles:

  1. Discretionary fiscal policy is dominated by monetary policy as a stabilization tool because of lags in the application, impact, and removal of discretionary fiscal stimulus. 
  2. Even if policymakers get the timing right, discretionary fiscal stimulus would be somewhere between completely ineffective (the Ricardian view) or somewhat ineffective with bad side effects (higher interest rates and crowding-out of private investment).
  3. Moreover, fiscal stabilization needs to be undertaken with trepidation, if at all, because the biggest fiscal policy priority should be the long-run fiscal balance. 
  4. Policymakers foolish enough to ignore (1) through (3) should at least make sure that any fiscal stimulus is very short-run, including pulling demand forward, to support the economy before monetary policy stimulus fully kicks in while minimizing harmful side effects and long-run fiscal harm. …

The New View of fiscal policy largely reverses the four principles of the Old View—and adds a bonus one. In stylized form, the five principles of this view are:
  1. Fiscal policy is often beneficial for effective countercyclical policy as a complement to monetary policy. 
  2. Discretionary fiscal stimulus can be very effective and in some circumstances can even crowd in private investment. To the degree that it leads to higher interest rates, that may be a plus, not a minus. 
  3. Fiscal space is larger than generally appreciated because stimulus may pay for itself or may have a lower cost than headline estimates would suggest; countries have more space today than in the past; and stimulus can be combined with longer-term consolidation. 
  4. More sustained stimulus, especially if it is in the form of effectively targeted investments that expand aggregate supply, may be desirable in many contexts. 
  5. There may be larger benefits to undertaking coordinated fiscal action across countries. 
I will discuss each of these five in turn.…

The New View of Fiscal Policy and Its Application
Jason Furman
Chairman, Council of Economic Advisers
ht Brad DeLong


peterc said...

Whether old view or new view, mainstream macro is still voodoo.

Ralph Musgrave said...

Item No.3 in the "old view" (“Moreover fiscal stabilisation needs…”) is a joke. Haven’t so called “professional” economists caught up with the fact that the monetary base and national debt basically increase year after year (in nominal terms, i.e. in $ terms)? I mean why don’t they just look at the figures made available by the St Louis Fed?

And there’s only one way of constantly topping up the base and debt, and that’s via a deficit. Thus the idea that “biggest fiscal policy priority should be the long-run fiscal balance” is just BS.

The actual size of that deficit is significant: roughly 4% of GDP every year – decade after decade.