A narrative analysis of post-World War II changes in federal aid
Because of lags in legislating and implementing fiscal policy, private agents can often anticipate future changes in tax policy and government spending before these changes actually occur, a phenomenon referred to as fiscal foresight. Econometric analysis that fails to model fiscal foresight may obtain tax and spending multipliers that are biased. One way researchers have attempted to deal with the problem of fiscal foresight is by examining the narrative history of government revenue and spending news. The Great Recession and efforts by the federal government through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) to stimulate the economy returned fiscal policy, and in particular the role of state and local governments in such policies, to the center of macro-economic policymaking. In a companion paper, we use federal grants-in-aid to state and local governments to provide an evaluation of the effectiveness of the ARRA. The purpose of this paper is to develop narrative measures of the federal grants-in-aid programs beginning with the Federal Highway Act of 1956 through the ARRA of 2009. The narrative measures we develop will be used as instruments for federal grants-in-aid in our subsequent analysis of the ARRA.
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