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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.

Suggested Citation

  • Aizenman, Joshua & Marion, Nancy, 2011. "Using inflation to erode the US public debt," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 33(4), pages 524-541.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jmacro:v:33:y:2011:i:4:p:524-541 DOI: 10.1016/j.jmacro.2011.09.001
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    Keywords

    Inflation; Public debt; Debt overhang; Debt maturity;

    JEL classification:

    • E6 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook
    • F4 - International Economics - - Macroeconomic Aspects of International Trade and Finance
    • H6 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt

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