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The Excess Burden of Government Indecision

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  • Francisco J. Gomes
  • Laurence J. Kotlikoff
  • Luis M. Viceira

Abstract

Governments are known for procrastinating when it comes to resolving painful policy problems. Whatever the political motives for waiting to decide, procrastination distorts economic decisions relative to what would arise with early policy resolution. In so doing, it engenders excess burden. This paper posits, calibrates, and simulates a life cycle model with earnings, life span, investment return, and future policy uncertainty. It then measures the excess burden from delayed resolution of policy uncertainty. The first uncertain policy we consider concerns the level of future Social Security benefits. Specifically, we examine how an agent would respond to learning in advance whether she will experience a major Social Security benefit cut starting at age 65. We show that having to wait to learn materially affects consumption, saving, labor supply, and portfolio decisions. It also reduces welfare. Indeed, we show that the excess burden of government indecision can, in this instance, range as high as 0.6% of the agent’s economic resources. This is a significant distortion in and of itself. It is also significant when compared to other distortions measured in the literature. The second uncertain policy we consider concerns marginal tax rates. We obtain similar results once we adjust for the impact of tax rates on income.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by University of Chicago Press in its journal Tax Policy and the Economy.

Volume (Year): 26 (2012)
Issue (Month): 1 ()
Pages: 125 - 164

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Handle: RePEc:ucp:tpolec:doi:10.1086/665505

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Cited by:
  1. Lubos Pastor & Pietro Veronesi, 2011. "Political Uncertainty and Risk Premia," Working Papers 2011-007, Becker Friedman Institute for Research In Economics.
  2. Pástor, Luboš & Veronesi, Pietro, 2010. "Uncertainty about Government Policy and Stock Prices," CEPR Discussion Papers 7897, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. Laurence J. Kotlikoff & Ben Marx & Pietro Rizza, 2006. "Americans' Dependency on Social Security," NBER Working Papers 12696, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Alex Armstrong & Nick Draper & André Nibbelink & Ed Westerhout, 2007. "Fiscal prefunding in response to demographic uncertainty," CPB Discussion Paper 85, CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis.
  5. repec:cge:warwcg:46 is not listed on IDEAS
  6. Siciliani, Luigi, 2007. "Paying for Performance with Altruistic or Motivated Providers," CEPR Discussion Papers 6452, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.

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