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Optimal Monetary and Fiscal Policy in a Liquidity Trap

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  • Gauti B. Eggertsson
  • Michael Woodford

Abstract

In previous work (Eggertsson and Woodford, 2003), we characterized the optimal conduct of monetary policy when a real disturbance causes the natural rate of interest to be temporarily negative, so that the zero lower bound on nominal interest rates binds, and showed that commitment to a history-dependent policy rule can greatly increase welfare relative to the outcome under a purely forward-looking inflation target. Here we consider in addition optimal tax policy in response to such a disturbance, to determine the extent to which fiscal policy can help to mitigate the distortions resulting from the zero bound, and to consider whether a history-dependent monetary policy commitment continues to be important when fiscal policy is appropriately adjusted. We find that even in a model where complete tax smoothing would be optimal as long as the zero bound never binds, it is optimal to temporarily adjust tax rates in response to a binding zero bound; but when taxes have only a supply-side effect, the optimal policy requires that the tax rate be raised during the "trap", while committing to lower tax rates below their long-run level later. An optimal policy commitment is still history-dependent, in general, but the gains from departing from a strict inflation target are modest in the case that fiscal policy responds to the real disturbance in an appropriate way.

Suggested Citation

  • Gauti B. Eggertsson & Michael Woodford, 2004. "Optimal Monetary and Fiscal Policy in a Liquidity Trap," NBER Working Papers 10840, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10840
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Michael Woodford, 1999. "Commentary : how should monetary policy be conducted in an era of price stability?," Proceedings - Economic Policy Symposium - Jackson Hole, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, pages 277-316.
    2. Brunner, Karl & Meltzer, Allan H, 1972. "Money, Debt, and Economic Activity," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 80(5), pages 951-977, Sept.-Oct.
    3. Pierpaolo Benigno & Michael Woodford, 2004. "Optimal Monetary and Fiscal Policy: A Linear-Quadratic Approach," NBER Chapters,in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2003, Volume 18, pages 271-364 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Alan J. Auerbach & Maurice Obstfeld, 2005. "The Case for Open-Market Purchases in a Liquidity Trap," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(1), pages 110-137, March.
    5. David B. Gordon & Eric M. Leeper, 2005. "Are Countercyclical Fiscal Policies Counterproductive?," NBER Working Papers 11869, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Tobin, James, 1969. "A General Equilibrium Approach to Monetary Theory," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 1(1), pages 15-29, February.
    7. Marc P. Giannoni & Michael Woodford, 2003. "Optimal Interest-Rate Rules: I. General Theory," NBER Working Papers 9419, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Gauti B. Eggertsson & Michael Woodford, 2003. "The Zero Bound on Interest Rates and Optimal Monetary Policy," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 34(1), pages 139-235.
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    JEL classification:

    • E52 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit - - - Monetary 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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