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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.

Suggested Citation

  • Troy Davig & Eric M Leeper, 2011. "Temporarily Unstable Government Debt and Inflation," IMF Economic Review, Palgrave Macmillan;International Monetary Fund, vol. 59(2), pages 233-270, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:pal:imfecr:v:59:y:2011:i:2:p:233-270
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    Cited by:

    1. Daniel, Betty C. & Shiamptanis, Christos, 2013. "Pushing the limit? Fiscal policy in the European Monetary Union," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 37(11), pages 2307-2321.
    2. Richter, Alexander W. & Throckmorton, Nathaniel A., 2015. "The consequences of an unknown debt target," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 78(C), pages 76-96.
    3. Gliksberg, Baruch, 2013. "Monetary policy and fiscal limits with no-default," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 64(C), pages 285-304.
    4. Richter, Alexander W., 2015. "Finite lifetimes, long-term debt and the fiscal limit," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 51(C), pages 180-203.
    5. Daniel, Betty C. & Shiamptanis, Christos, 2012. "Fiscal risk in a monetary union," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 56(6), pages 1289-1309.
    6. Barthélemy, Jean & Marx, Magali, 2017. "Solving endogenous regime switching models," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 77(C), pages 1-25.
    7. Christos Shiamptanis, 2015. "Risk Assessment Under A Nonlinear Fiscal Policy Rule," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 53(3), pages 1539-1555, July.
    8. Libich, Jan & Nguyen, Dat Thanh & Stehlík, Petr, 2015. "Monetary exit and fiscal spillovers," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 40(PA), pages 184-206.
    9. Guilherme Bandeira, 2018. "Fiscal transfers in a monetary union with sovereign risk," Working Papers 1807, Banco de España;Working Papers Homepage.
    10. 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.
    11. Troy Davig & Eric M Leeper, 2011. "Temporarily Unstable Government Debt and Inflation," IMF Economic Review, Palgrave Macmillan;International Monetary Fund, vol. 59(2), pages 233-270, June.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E31 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Price Level; Inflation; Deflation
    • E52 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit - - - Monetary Policy
    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy
    • E63 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Comparative or Joint Analysis of Fiscal and Monetary Policy; Stabilization; Treasury Policy

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