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Fiscal policy over the real business cycle: A positive theory

  • Barseghyan, Levon
  • Battaglini, Marco
  • Coate, Stephen

This paper explores the implications of the political economy model of Battaglini and Coate (2008) [8] for the behavior of fiscal policy over the business cycle. The model predicts that fiscal policy is counter-cyclical with debt increasing in recessions and decreasing in booms. Public spending increases in booms and decreases during recessions, while tax rates decrease during booms and increase in recessions. In both booms and recessions, fiscal policies are set so that the marginal cost of public funds obeys a submartingale. When calibrated to the US economy, the model broadly matches the empirical distribution of debt and also its negative correlation with output. However, the predictions of pro-cyclical spending and counter-cyclical taxation do not find empirical support. The calibrated model generates the same fit of the data as a benevolent government model in which the government faces an exogenous lower bound on debt. Nonetheless, the two models have very different comparative static implications.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Economic Theory.

Volume (Year): 148 (2013)
Issue (Month): 6 ()
Pages: 2223-2265

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Handle: RePEc:eee:jetheo:v:148:y:2013:i:6:p:2223-2265
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  18. V. V. Chari & Lawrence J. Christiano & Patrick J. Kehoe, 1993. "Optimal Fiscal Policy in a Business Cycle Model," NBER Working Papers 4490, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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