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Temporarily Unstable Government Debt and Inflation

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  • Troy Davig
  • Eric M Leeper

Abstract

Many advanced economies are heading into an era of fiscal stress: populations are aging and governments have made substantially more promises of old-age benefits than they have made provisions to finance. This paper models the era of fiscal stress as stemming from growing promised government transfers that initially are fully honored, being financed by new sales of government debt that bring forth higher future income taxes. As debt levels and tax rates rise, the population's tolerance for taxation declines and the probability of reaching the fiscal limit increases. At the limit a fixed tax rate is adopted, adjustments in taxes no longer stabilize debt, and, temporarily, debt grows rapidly. Eventually, a new stabilizing combination of policies is adopted. We examine how, in the period before the fiscal limit, rapidly rising debt interacts with expectations of how and when policies will adjust. If households believe it is possible that in the future monetary policy will shift from targeting inflation to stabilizing debt, then temporarily explosive debt feeds directly into the path of inflation. News that reduces expected primary surpluses can bring future inflation into the present, well before the news shows up in fiscal measures. This paper makes the point that even if long-run policies give monetary policy perfect control over inflation, in the transition to that long run, monetary policy can spectacularly lose control.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Palgrave Macmillan in its journal IMF Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 59 (2011)
Issue (Month): 2 (June)
Pages: 233-270

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Handle: RePEc:pal:imfecr:v:59:y:2011:i:2:p:233-270

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References

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  1. Ben S. Bernanke & Julio J. Rotemberg, 1997. "NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1997, Volume 12," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number bern97-1, May.
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  7. Troy Davig & Eric M. Leeper, 2009. "Monetary-Fiscal Policy Interactions and Fiscal Stimulus," NBER Working Papers 15133, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  10. Willem H. Buiter, 2002. "The Fiscal Theory Of The Price Level: A Critique," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(481), pages 459-480, July.
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  12. Eric M. Leeper, 2010. "Monetary science, fiscal alchemy," Proceedings - Economic Policy Symposium - Jackson Hole, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, pages 361-434.
  13. Troy Davig, 2005. "Periodically expanding discounted debt: a threat to fiscal policy sustainability?," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 20(7), pages 829-840.
  14. Todd Walker & Eric Leeper & Troy Davig, 2010. "Inflation and the Fiscal Limit," 2010 Meeting Papers 837, Society for Economic Dynamics.
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  17. Stefano Eusepi & Bruce Preston, 2012. "Debt, Policy Uncertainty, And Expectations Stabilization," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 10(4), pages 860-886, 08.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Christos Shiamptanis, 2014. "Risk Assessment Under A Nonlinear Fiscal Policy Rule," LCERPA Working Papers lm0063, Laurier Centre for Economic Research and Policy Analysis, revised Jun 2014.
  2. Troy Davig & Eric M. Leeper, 2011. "Temporarily Unstable Government Debt and Inflation," NBER Working Papers 16799, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Betty Daniel & Christos Shiamptanis, 2012. "Pushing the Limit? Fiscal Policy in the European Monetary Union," Working Papers 033, Ryerson University, Department of Economics.
  4. Richard W. Evans & Laurence J. Kotlikoff & Kerk L. Phillips, 2012. "Game Over: Simulating Unsustainable Fiscal Policy," NBER Chapters, in: Fiscal Policy after the Financial Crisis, pages 177-202 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Gliksberg, Baruch, 2013. "Monetary policy and fiscal limits with no-default," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 64(C), pages 285-304.
  6. Daniel, Betty C. & Shiamptanis, Christos, 2012. "Fiscal risk in a monetary union," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 56(6), pages 1289-1309.

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