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Sustainability of Fiscal Deficits : The US Experience 1929-2004

  • Ananda Jayawickrama
  • Tilak Abeysinghe

Recurrent large fiscal deficits and accumulating public debt frequently ring alarm bells around the world on the sustainability of U.S. federal fiscal policy. The present-value borrowing constraint, which states that, for the fiscal policy to be sustainable the current debt stock should match the discounted sum of expected future primary surpluses, provides a framework for analysing fiscal sustainability. Incorporating rational expectations we extend the methodology developed by Hamilton and Flavin (1986) to test the sustainability hypothesis in a cointegrating framework that can accomodate both stationary and non-stationary variables. Our model predicts dynamically diverse episodes of the debt series extremelly well. Our results support the hypothesis that the U.S. government is solvent despite the large increase in debt stock in recent years.

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File URL: http://www.eaber.org/node/21924
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Paper provided by East Asian Bureau of Economic Research in its series Governance Working Papers with number 21924.

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Date of creation: Nov 2006
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Handle: RePEc:eab:govern:21924
Contact details of provider: Postal: JG Crawford Building #13, Asia Pacific School of Economics and Government, Australian National University, ACT 0200
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  1. Willem H. Buiter & Urjit R. Patel, 1990. "Debt, Deficits and Inflation: An Application to the Public Finances of India," NBER Working Papers 3287, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. John Y. Campbell & Robert J. Shiller, 1986. "Cointegration and Tests of Present Value Models," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 785, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  3. 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.
  4. Ahmed, Shaghil & Rogers, John H., 1995. "Government budget deficits and trade deficits Are present value constraints satisfied in long-term data?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 36(2), pages 351-374, November.
  5. Tanner, Evan & Liu, Peter, 1994. "Is the Budget Deficit "Too Large"?: Some Further Evidence," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 32(3), pages 511-18, July.
  6. Hansen, Lars Peter & Sargent, Thomas J., 1980. "Formulating and estimating dynamic linear rational expectations models," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 2(1), pages 7-46, May.
  7. Bajo-Rubio, Oscar & Diaz-Roldan, Carmen & Esteve, Vicente, 2004. "Searching for threshold effects in the evolution of budget deficits: an application to the Spanish case," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 82(2), pages 239-243, February.
  8. Haug, Alfred A, 1991. "Cointegration and Government Borrowing Constraints: Evidence for the United States," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 9(1), pages 97-101, January.
  9. Wallis, Kenneth F, 1980. "Econometric Implications of the Rational Expectations Hypothesis," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 48(1), pages 49-73, January.
  10. Haug, A.A., 1993. "Has Federal Budget Deficit Policy Changed in Recent Years?," Papers 93-8, York (Canada) - Department of Economics.
  11. Hamilton, James D & Flavin, Marjorie A, 1986. "On the Limitations of Government Borrowing: A Framework for EmpiricalTesting," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(4), pages 808-19, September.
  12. Uctum, Merih & Wickens, Michael R., 1997. "Debt and Deficit Ceilings, and Sustainability of Fiscal Policies: An Intertemporal Analysis," CEPR Discussion Papers 1612, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  13. Bohn, Henning, 2007. "Are stationarity and cointegration restrictions really necessary for the intertemporal budget constraint?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(7), pages 1837-1847, October.
  14. 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.
  15. Troy Davig, 2005. "Periodically expanding discounted debt: a threat to fiscal policy sustainability?," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 20(7), pages 829-840.
  16. Henning Bohn, 1998. "The Behavior Of U.S. Public Debt And Deficits," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 113(3), pages 949-963, August.
  17. Martin, G.M., 1998. "U.S. Deficit Sustainability: A New Approach Based on Multiple Endogenous Breaks," Monash Econometrics and Business Statistics Working Papers 1/98, Monash University, Department of Econometrics and Business Statistics.
  18. Hakkio, Craig S & Rush, Mark, 1991. "Is the Budget Deficit "Too Large?"," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 29(3), pages 429-45, July.
  19. Raghbendra Jha & Anurag Sharma, 2004. "Structural Breaks, Unit Roots, and Cointegration: A Further Test of the Sustainability of the Indian Fiscal Deficit," Public Finance Review, , vol. 32(2), pages 196-219, March.
  20. Chryssi Giannitsarou & Andrew Scott, 2006. "Inflation Implications of Rising Government Debt," NBER Working Papers 12654, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  21. Quintos, Carmela E, 1995. "Sustainability of the Deficit Process with Structural Shifts," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 13(4), pages 409-17, October.
  22. Alan J. Auerbach, 1997. "Quantifying the Current U.S. Fiscal Imbalance," NBER Working Papers 6119, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  23. Charles Engel & Kenneth D. West, 2004. "Accounting for Exchange-Rate Variability in Present-Value Models When the Discount Factor Is Near 1," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(2), pages 119-125, May.
  24. Thomas J. Sargent, 1977. "Rational expectations, econometric exogeneity and consumption," Staff Report 25, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  25. Henning Bohn, 2005. "The Sustainability of Fiscal Policy in the United States," CESifo Working Paper Series 1446, CESifo Group Munich.
  26. Corsetti, Giancarlo & Roubini, Nouriel, 1991. "Fiscal deficits, public debt, and government solvency: Evidence from OECD countries," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 5(4), pages 354-380, December.
  27. Bohn, Henning, 1995. "The Sustainability of Budget Deficits in a Stochastic Economy," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 27(1), pages 257-71, February.
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  30. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521002882 is not listed on IDEAS
  31. Raghbendra Jha & Anurag Sharma, 2001. "Structural Breaks and Unit Roots: A Further Test of the Sustainability of the Indian Fiscal Deficit," ASARC Working Papers 2001-08, The Australian National University, Australia South Asia Research Centre.
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