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Using inflation to erode the US public debt

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  • Aizenman, Joshua
  • Marion, Nancy

Abstract

Projections indicate the US Federal debt held by the public may exceed 70–100% of GDP within 10years. In many respects, the temptation to inflate away some of this debt burden is similar to that at the end of World War II. In 1946, the debt ratio was 108.6%. Inflation reduced this ratio by more than a third within a decade. Yet there are some important differences – shorter debt maturities today reduce the temptation to inflate, while the larger share of debt held by foreigners increases it. This paper lays out an analytical framework for determining the impact of a large nominal debt overhang on the temptation to inflate. It suggests that when economic growth is stalled, the US debt overhang may induce an increase in inflation of about 5% for several years that could significantly reduce the debt ratio.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Macroeconomics.

Volume (Year): 33 (2011)
Issue (Month): 4 ()
Pages: 524-541

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Handle: RePEc:eee:jmacro:v:33:y:2011:i:4:p:524-541

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Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/622617

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Keywords: Inflation; Public debt; Debt overhang; Debt maturity;

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References

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  1. Michael Bruno & William Easterly, 1995. "Inflation Crises and Long-Run Growth," NBER Working Papers 5209, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Persson, M & Persson, T & Svensson, L-E-O, 1996. "Debt, Cash Flow and Inflation Incentives : A Swedish Example," Papers 613, Stockholm - International Economic Studies.
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  5. Doepke, Matthias & Schneider, Martin, 2006. "Inflation as a Redistribution Shock: Effects on Aggregates and Welfare," CEPR Discussion Papers 5939, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. Martin Feldstein, 1999. "Tax Avoidance And The Deadweight Loss Of The Income Tax," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 81(4), pages 674-680, November.
  7. Thomas J. Sargent & George J. Hall, 2010. "Interest rate risk and other determinants of post WWII U.S. government debt/GDP dynamics," 2010 Meeting Papers 208, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  8. Missale, Alessandro & Blanchard, Olivier Jean, 1994. "The Debt Burden and Debt Maturity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(1), pages 309-19, March.
  9. Browning, Edgar K, 1987. "On the Marginal Welfare Cost of Taxation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(1), pages 11-23, March.
  10. Menzie Chinn & Jeffrey Frankel, 2008. "Why the Euro Will Rival the Dollar," International Finance, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 11(1), pages 49-73, 05.
  11. Guillermo A. Calvo, 1989. "Is Inflation Effective for Liquidating Short-Term Nominal Debt?," IMF Staff Papers, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 36(4), pages 950-960, December.
  12. Kenneth D. Garbade, 2007. "The emergence of "regular and predictable" as a Treasury debt management strategy," Economic Policy Review, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, issue Mar, pages 53-71.
  13. Benjamin M. Friedman, 1985. "Recent Perspectives in and on Macroeconomics," NBER Working Papers 1208, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Matthias Doepke & Martin Schneider, 2006. "Inflation and the Redistribution of Nominal Wealth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 114(6), pages 1069-1097, December.
  15. Calomiris, Charles W., 1988. "Institutional Failure, Monetary Scarcity, and the Depreciation of the Continental," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 48(01), pages 47-68, March.
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Blog mentions

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  1. Grèce: la sortie de l'euro est proche...
    by contact@captaineconomics.fr (Le Captain') in Captain Economics on 2012-05-08 11:13:42
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Cited by:
  1. Kitchen, John & Chinn, Menzie, 2010. "Financing U.S. debt: Is there enough money in the world – and at what cost?," MPRA Paper 24736, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  2. Eric Mayer & Sebastian Rueth & Johann Scharler, 2012. "Government debt, inflation dynamics and the transmission of fiscal policy shocks," Working Papers 2012-05, Faculty of Economics and Statistics, University of Innsbruck.
  3. Bonatti, Luigi & Fracasso, Andrea, 2013. "Hoarding of international reserves in China: Mercantilism, domestic consumption and US monetary policy," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 32(C), pages 1044-1078.
  4. Ansgar Belke & Niklas Potrafke, 2011. "Does Government Ideology Matter in Monetary Policy? A Panel Data Analysis for OECD Countries," Working Paper Series of the Department of Economics, University of Konstanz 2011-48, Department of Economics, University of Konstanz.
  5. Niemann, Stefan & Pichler, Paul, 2011. "Optimal fiscal and monetary policies in the face of rare disasters," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 55(1), pages 75-92, January.
  6. Vivekanand Jayakumar & Barbara Weiss, 2011. "Global reserve currency system: Why will the dollar standard give way to a tripolar currency order?," Frontiers of Economics in China, Springer, vol. 6(1), pages 92-130, March.
  7. Belke, Ansgar & Schnabl, Gunther, 2010. "Finanzkrise, globale Liquidität und makroökonomischer Exit," IBES Diskussionsbeiträge 184, University of Duisburg-Essen, Faculty for Economics and Business Administration.
  8. Fuad Hasanov & Reda Cherif, 2012. "Public Debt Dynamics: The Effects of Austerity, Inflation, and Growth Shocks," IMF Working Papers 12/230, International Monetary Fund.
  9. Dániel Felcser & Kristóf Lehmann, 2012. "The Fed’s inflation target and the background of its announcement," MNB Bulletin, Magyar Nemzeti Bank (the central bank of Hungary), vol. 7(3), pages 28-37, October.
  10. George J. Hall & Thomas J. Sargent, 2011. "Interest Rate Risk and Other Determinants of Post-WWII US Government Debt/GDP Dynamics," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(3), pages 192-214, July.
  11. Guillermo A. Calvo, 2012. "The Price Theory of Money, Prospero's Liquidity Trap, and Sudden Stop: Back to Basics and Back," NBER Working Papers 18285, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Reda, Cherif & Fuad, Hasanov, 2010. "Public Debt Dynamics and Debt Feedback," MPRA Paper 27918, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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