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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

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    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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    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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