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The Excess Burden of Government Indecision

Author

Listed:
  • Laurence J. Kotlikoff

    (Boston University and NBER)

  • Francisco J. Gomes

    (London Business School and CEPR)

  • Luis M. Viceira

    (Harvard Business School)

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, lifespan, 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 a¤ects 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 percent of the agent?s economic resources. This is a significant distortion in of itself. Its 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.

Suggested Citation

  • Laurence J. Kotlikoff & Francisco J. Gomes & Luis M. Viceira, 2010. "The Excess Burden of Government Indecision," Boston University - Department of Economics - Working Papers Series WP2010-014, Boston University - Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:bos:wpaper:wp2010-014
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    Cited by:

    1. Laurence Kotlikoff & Ben Marx & Pietro Rizza, 2006. "Americans' Dependency on Social Security," Working Papers wp126, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
    2. Albulescu, Claudiu Tiberiu & Demirer, Riza & Raheem, Ibrahim D. & Tiwari, Aviral Kumar, 2019. "Does the U.S. economic policy uncertainty connect financial markets? Evidence from oil and commodity currencies," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 83(C), pages 375-388.
    3. Andreas Fuster & Paul S. Willen, 2011. "Insuring Consumption Using Income-Linked Assets," Review of Finance, European Finance Association, vol. 15(4), pages 835-873.
    4. Adekoya, Oluwasegun B. & Oliyide, Johnson A., 2021. "How COVID-19 drives connectedness among commodity and financial markets: Evidence from TVP-VAR and causality-in-quantiles techniques," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 70(C).
    5. Lubos Pástor & Pietro Veronesi, 2012. "Uncertainty about Government Policy and Stock Prices," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 67(4), pages 1219-1264, August.
    6. Pástor, Ľuboš & Veronesi, Pietro, 2013. "Political uncertainty and risk premia," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 110(3), pages 520-545.
    7. Pástor, Ľuboš & Veronesi, Pietro, 2013. "Political uncertainty and risk premia," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 110(3), pages 520-545.
    8. Gauvin, L. & McLoughlin, C. & Reinhardt, D., 2013. "Policy Uncertainty Spillovers to Emerging Markets - Evidence from Capital Flows," Working papers 435, Banque de France.
    9. Anzuini, Alessio & Rossi, Luca & Tommasino, Pietro, 2020. "Fiscal policy uncertainty and the business cycle: Time series evidence from Italy," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 65(C).
    10. Luigi Siciliani, 2007. "Paying for performance with altruistic or motivated providers," Discussion Papers 07/33, Department of Economics, University of York.
    11. 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.
    12. Roman N. Schulze & Thomas Post, 2010. "Individual Annuity Demand Under Aggregate Mortality Risk," Journal of Risk & Insurance, The American Risk and Insurance Association, vol. 77(2), pages 423-449, June.
    13. Mokni, Khaled, 2021. "When, where, and how economic policy uncertainty predicts Bitcoin returns and volatility? A quantiles-based analysis," The Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 80(C), pages 65-73.
    14. Caliendo, Frank N. & Gorry, Aspen & Slavov, Sita, 2020. "Survival ambiguity and welfare," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 170(C), pages 20-42.
    15. Taufiq Choudhry, 2020. "Economic Policy Uncertainty and House Prices: Evidence from Geographical Regions of England and Wales," Real Estate Economics, American Real Estate and Urban Economics Association, vol. 48(2), pages 504-529, June.
    16. Caliendo, Frank N. & Gorry, Aspen & Slavov, Sita, 2019. "The cost of uncertainty about the timing of Social Security reform," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 118(C), pages 101-125.
    17. Croce, M. & Nguyen, Thien T. & Raymond, S., 2021. "Persistent government debt and aggregate risk distribution," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 140(2), pages 347-367.
    18. Badshah, Ihsan & Demirer, Riza & Suleman, Muhammad Tahir, 2019. "The effect of economic policy uncertainty on stock-commodity correlations and its implications on optimal hedging," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 84(C).

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    JEL classification:

    • H2 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue
    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation
    • H55 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Social Security and Public Pensions
    • H6 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt

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