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The Sustainability of Fiscal Policy in the United States

  • Henning Bohn

The paper examines the sustainability of U.S. fiscal policy, finding substantial evidence in favor. I summarize the U.S. fiscal record from 1792-2003, critically review sustainability conditions and their testable implications, and apply them to U.S. data. I particularly emphasize the ramifications of economic growth. A “growth dividend” has historically covered the entire interest bill on the U.S. debt. Unit root tests on real series, unscaled by GDP, are distorted by the series’ severe heteroskedasticity. The most credible evidence in favor of sustainability is the robust positive response of primary surpluses to fluctuations in the debt-GDP ratio.

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File URL: http://www.cesifo-group.de/portal/page/portal/DocBase_Content/WP/WP-CESifo_Working_Papers/wp-cesifo-2005/wp-cesifo-2005-04/cesifo1_wp1446.pdf
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Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 1446.

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Date of creation: 2005
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Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_1446
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  1. Canzoneri, Matthew B & Cumby, Robert & Diba, Behzad, 1998. "Is the Price Level Determined by the Needs of Fiscal Solvency?," CEPR Discussion Papers 1772, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Denis Kwiatkowski & Peter C.B. Phillips & Peter Schmidt, 1991. "Testing the Null Hypothesis of Stationarity Against the Alternative of a Unit Root: How Sure Are We That Economic Time Series Have a Unit Root?," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 979, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  3. Trehan, Bharat & Walsh, Carl E., 1988. "Common trends, the government's budget constraint, and revenue smoothing," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 12(2-3), pages 425-444.
  4. Andrew B. Abel & N. Gregory Mankiw & Lawrence H. Summers & Richard J. Zeckhauser, 1986. "Assessing Dynamic Efficiency: Theory and Evidence," NBER Working Papers 2097, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Ahmed, S. & Rogers, J.H., 1993. "Government Budget Deficits and Trade Deficits: Are Present Value Constraints Satisfied in Long-Term Data?," Papers 5-93-6, Pennsylvania State - Department of Economics.
  6. Beveridge, Stephen & Nelson, Charles R., 1981. "A new approach to decomposition of economic time series into permanent and transitory components with particular attention to measurement of the `business cycle'," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 7(2), pages 151-174.
  7. Bharat Trehan & Carl E. Walsh, 1988. "Testing intertemporal budget constraints: theory and applications to U. S. federal budget and current account deficits," Working Papers in Applied Economic Theory 88-03, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  8. James D. Hamilton & Marjorie A. Flavin, 1985. "On the Limitations of Government Borrowing: A Framework for Empirical Testing," NBER Working Papers 1632, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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