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Are Countercyclical Fiscal Policies Counterproductive?

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  • David B. Gordon
  • Eric M. Leeper

Abstract

Economists generally believe that countercyclical fiscal policies have stabilizing effects that work through automatic stabilizers and discretionary actions. Analyses underlying this conventional wisdom focus on intratemporal margins: how employment and personal income respond in the short run to changes in government expenditures and taxes. But in economic downturns, countercyclical policies increase government indebtedness, raising future debt service obligations. These new expenditure commitments must be financed by some mix of higher taxes, lower spending, or higher money growth in the future. Expectations of how future policies will adjust change current savings rates and the efficacy of countercyclical policies. It is thus possible for responses to expected future policies to exacerbate and prolong recessions. This paper highlights these expectations effects. Connecting the theory to U.S. data we find: (1) through this expectations channel, countercyclical policies may create a business cycle when there would be no cycle in the absence of countercyclical policies; (2) nontrivial fractions of variation in investment and velocity can be explained by variation in macro policies alone---without any nonpolicy sources of fluctuation; and (3) persistence in key macro variables can arise solely from expectations of policy.

Suggested Citation

  • David B. Gordon & Eric M. Leeper, 2005. "Are Countercyclical Fiscal Policies Counterproductive?," NBER Working Papers 11869, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11869
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    Cited by:

    1. Leeper, Eric M. & Yang, Shu-Chun Susan, 2008. "Dynamic scoring: Alternative financing schemes," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(1-2), pages 159-182, February.
    2. Orlando Gomes, 2009. "On the stability of endogenous growth models: An evaluation of the agents' response to output fluctuations," Journal of Economic Studies, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 36(1), pages 17-35, January.
    3. V. Anton Muscatelli & Tiziano Ropele & Patrizio Tirelli, 2004. "Macroeconomic Adjustment in the Euro-area: The Role of Fiscal Policy," Working Papers 2005_20, Business School - Economics, University of Glasgow, revised May 2005.
    4. Peter Claeys, 2007. "Estimating the effects of fiscal policy under the budget constraint," IREA Working Papers 200715, University of Barcelona, Research Institute of Applied Economics, revised Jul 2007.
    5. Moldovan, Ioana R., 2010. "Countercyclical taxes in a monopolistically competitive environment," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 54(5), pages 692-717, July.
    6. Maurizio Bovi & Peter Claeys, 2008. "Treasury V Dodgers. A Tale of Fiscal Consolidation and Tax Evasion," ISAE Working Papers 93 Classification-JEL E62, ISTAT - Italian National Institute of Statistics - (Rome, ITALY).
    7. Milani, Fabio, 2007. "Expectations, learning and macroeconomic persistence," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(7), pages 2065-2082, October.
    8. V. Anton Muscatelli & Patrizio Tirelli, 2005. "Analyzing the Interaction of Monetary and Fiscal Policy: Does Fiscal Policy Play a Valuable Role in Stabilisation?," CESifo Economic Studies, CESifo, vol. 51(4), pages 549-585.
    9. Strawczynski, Michel & Zeira, Joseph, 2009. "Cyclicality of Fiscal Policy: Permanent and Transitory Shocks," CEPR Discussion Papers 7271, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    10. Gauti B. Eggertsson & Michael Woodford, 2006. "Optimal Monetary and Fiscal Policy in a Liquidity Trap," NBER Chapters,in: NBER International Seminar on Macroeconomics 2004, pages 75-144 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Apostolis Philippopoulos & Petros Varthalitis & Vanghelis Vassilatos, 2013. "Optimal Fiscal Action in an Economy with Sovereign Premia and without Monetary Independence: An Application to Italy," CESifo Working Paper Series 4199, CESifo Group Munich.
    12. Andrea Colciago & Tiziano Ropele & V. Anton Muscatelli & Patrizio Tirelli, 2008. "The Role of Fiscal Policy in a Monetary Union: are National Automatic Stabilizers Effective?," Review of International Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 16(3), pages 591-610, August.
    13. Luca Gambetti, 2012. "Shocking Policy Coefficients," Working Papers 647, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.
    14. V. Anton Muscatelli & Patrizio Tirelli & Carmine Trescroci, 2003. "Fiscal and Monetary policy Interactions in a New Keynesian Model with Liquidity Constraints," Working Papers 2005_19, Business School - Economics, University of Glasgow, revised Apr 2005.
    15. Giacomo De Giorgi & Luca Gambetti, 2012. "The Effects of Government Spending on the Distribution of Consumption," Working Papers 645, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.
    16. Eric M. Leeper, 2009. "Anchoring fiscal expectations," Reserve Bank of New Zealand Bulletin, Reserve Bank of New Zealand, vol. 72, pages 17-42, September.
    17. M Saifur Rahman, 2008. "Should Dynamic Scoring be done with Heterogeneous Agent-Based Models? Challenging the Conventional Wisdom," Caepr Working Papers 2008-023, Center for Applied Economics and Policy Research, Economics Department, Indiana University Bloomington.
    18. Konstantinou, Panagiotis & Tagkalakis, Athanasios, 2011. "Boosting confidence: Is there a role for fiscal policy?," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 28(4), pages 1629-1641, July.
    19. Anton Muscatelli & Patrizio Tirelli & Carmine Trecroci, 2004. "Can Fiscal Policy Help Macroeconomic Stabilisation? Evidence from a New Keynesian Model with Liquidity Constraints," CESifo Working Paper Series 1171, CESifo Group Munich.
    20. Apostolis Philippopoulos & Petros Varthalitis & Vanghelis Vassilatos, 2012. "On the optimal mix of fiscal and monetary policy actions," Working Papers 150, Bank of Greece.
    21. Minea, Alexandru & Tapsoba, René, 2014. "Does inflation targeting improve fiscal discipline?," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 185-203.
    22. Panayiotis P. Athanasoglou & Ioannis Daniilidis, 2011. "Procyclicality in the banking industry: causes, consequences and response," Working Papers 139, Bank of Greece.
    23. Jimborean, R. & Ferroni, F., 2010. "Did Tax Policies mitigate US Business Cycles?," Working papers 296, Banque de France.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E32 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Business Fluctuations; Cycles
    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal 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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