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Federal Budget Rules: The US Experience

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  • Alan J. Auerbach

Abstract

Like many other developed economies, the United States has imposed fiscal rules in attempting to impose a degree of fiscal discipline on the political process of budget determination. The federal government has operated under a series of budget control regimes that have been complex in nature and of debatable impact. Much of the complexity of these federal budget regimes relates to the structure of the U.S. federal government. The controversy over the impact of different regimes relates to the fact that the rules have no constitutional standing, leading to the question of whether they do more than clarify a government's intended policies. In this paper, I review US federal budget rules and present some evidence on their possible effects. From an analysis of how components of the federal budget behaved under the different budget regimes, it appears that the rules did have some effects, rather than simply being statements of policy intentions. The rules may also have had some success at deficit control, although such conclusions are highly tentative given the many other factors at work during the different periods. Even less certain is the extent to which the various rules achieved whatever objectives underlay their introduction.

Suggested Citation

  • Alan J. Auerbach, 2008. "Federal Budget Rules: The US Experience," NBER Working Papers 14288, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14288
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Alan J. Auerbach, 2003. "Fiscal Policy, Past and Present," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 34(1), pages 75-138.
    2. Dharmapala, Dhammika, 2006. "The Congressional budget process, aggregate spending, and statutory budget rules," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(1-2), pages 119-141, January.
    3. Auerbach, Alan J., 2006. "Budget windows, sunsets, and fiscal control," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(1-2), pages 87-100, January.
    4. James M. Poterba, 1996. "Do Budget Rules Work?," NBER Working Papers 5550, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Joris de Wind, 2014. "Time variation in the dynamic effects of unanticipated changes in tax policy," CPB Discussion Paper 271, CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis.
    2. Alan J Auerbach, 2016. "Long-Term Fiscal Sustainability in Advanced Economies," Asia and the Pacific Policy Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 3(2), pages 142-154, May.
    3. Buiter, Willem H. & Patel, Urjit R., 2010. "Fiscal Rules in India: Are They Effective?," CEPR Discussion Papers 7810, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    4. Alan J. Auerbach, 2014. "Budget Rules and Fiscal Policy: Ten Lessons from Theory and Evidence," German Economic Review, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 15(1), pages 84-99, February.
    5. Andersen, Jørgen Juel, 2011. "The form of government and fiscal dynamics," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 297-310, June.
    6. Hans Gersbach, 2014. "Government Debt-Threshold Contracts," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 52(1), pages 444-458, January.
    7. Lars P. Feld, 2010. "Sinnhaftigkeit und Effektivität der deutschen Schuldenbremse," Perspektiven der Wirtschaftspolitik, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 11(3), pages 226-245, August.
    8. Alan J. Auerbach & William G. Gale & Benjamin H. Harris, 2010. "Activist Fiscal Policy," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 24(4), pages 141-164, Fall.
    9. repec:bla:pbudge:v:37:y:2017:i:4:p:111-133 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Momi Dahan & Michel Strawczynski, 2010. "Fiscal Rules and Composition Bias in OECD Countries," CESifo Working Paper Series 3088, CESifo Group Munich.
    11. Alberto Botta, 2012. "Conflicting Claims in the Eurozone? Austerity’s Myopic Logic and the Need for a European Federal Union in a post-Keynesian Eurozone Center-Periphery Model," DEM Working Papers Series 011, University of Pavia, Department of Economics and Management.
    12. Alain Geier, 2012. "Application of the Swiss Fiscal Rule to Artificial Data: A Monte Carlo Simulation," Swiss Journal of Economics and Statistics (SJES), Swiss Society of Economics and Statistics (SSES), vol. 148(I), pages 37-55, March.
    13. Pinaki Chakraborty & Bharatee Bhusana Dash, 2017. "Fiscal Reforms, Fiscal Rule, and Development Spending: How Indian States Have Performed?," Public Budgeting & Finance, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 37(4), pages 111-133, December.
    14. Afonso, António & Toffano, Priscilla, 2013. "Fiscal regimes in the EU," Working Paper Series 1529, European Central Bank.
    15. Alan J. Auerbach, 2009. "Implementing the New Fiscal Policy Activism," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(2), pages 543-549, May.
    16. Feld Lars P. & Baskaran Thushyanthan, 2010. "Federalism, Budget Deficits and Public Debt: On the Reform of Germany's Fiscal Constitution," Review of Law & Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 6(3), pages 365-393, December.
    17. Popescu, Razvan-Florin & Prodan, Sergiu, 2010. "The analysis of budget rules and macroeconomic implications in several developed economies," MPRA Paper 25897, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 2010.
    18. Alan Auerbach, 2009. "US Experience with Federal Budget Rules," ifo DICE Report, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 7(1), pages 41-48, 04.
    19. repec:ces:ifodic:v:7:y:2009:i:1:p:14567022 is not listed on IDEAS
    20. Ray, Nikhil. & Velasquez, Agustin. & Islam, Iyanatul., 2015. "Fiscal rules, growth and employment : a developing country perspective," ILO Working Papers 994881313402676, International Labour Organization.
    21. Étienne Farvaque & Martial Foucault & Marcelin Joanis, 2015. "L’endettement public des provinces canadiennes : Les règles d’équilibre budgétaire sont-elles efficaces?," CIRANO Working Papers 2015s-10, CIRANO.
    22. Farvaque, Étienne & Foucault, Martial & Joanis, Marcelin, 2012. "Les règles budgétaires dans les provinces canadiennes : nomenclatures et éléments d’analyse," L'Actualité Economique, Société Canadienne de Science Economique, vol. 88(3), pages 281-315, Septembre.
    23. repec:ilo:ilowps:488131 is not listed on IDEAS
    24. Becker, Johannes Gerd & Gersbach, Hans & Grimm, Oliver, 2010. "Debt-sensitive Majority Rules," CEPR Discussion Papers 7860, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D78 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Positive Analysis of Policy Formulation and Implementation
    • H62 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt - - - Deficit; Surplus
    • J11 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Demographic Trends, Macroeconomic Effects, and Forecasts

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