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Game Over: Simulating Unsustainable Fiscal Policy

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  • Richard W. Evans
  • Laurence J. Kotlikoff
  • Kerk L. Phillips

Abstract

Fiscal sustainability is one of the most pressing policy issues of our time. Yet it remains difficult to quantify. Official debt is plagued with a number of measurement difficulties since its measurement reflects the choice of words, not policies. And forming the fiscal gap-the imbalance in the government's intertemporal budget-requires strong discount rate assumptions. An alternative approach, taken here, is specifying a stochastic general equilibrium model and determining via simulation how long it takes for the economy to reach game over-the point where current policy can no longer be maintained. Our simulations, based on an OLG model calibrated to the U.S. economy, produce an average duration to game over of roughly one century, with a 35 percent chance of reaching the fiscal limit in roughly 30 years. The prospect of man-made economic collapse produces large equity premia, like those observed in the data. Our simulations show that both the fiscal gap and the equity premium rise as the economy gets closer to hitting its fiscal limit, suggesting that the fiscal gap and the equity premium may be good indicators of unsustainable policy.

Suggested Citation

  • Richard W. Evans & Laurence J. Kotlikoff & Kerk L. Phillips, 2012. "Game Over: Simulating Unsustainable Fiscal Policy," NBER Working Papers 17917, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17917
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. When is the US going to reach its fiscal limit?
      by Economic Logician in Economic Logic on 2012-04-06 20:12:00

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    Cited by:

    1. Sheng-Ti Hung & Kevin X.D. Huang & Hui He, 2013. "Substituting Leisure for Health Expenditure: A General Equilibrium-Based Empirical Investigation," 2013 Meeting Papers 1310, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    2. Juessen, Falko & Linnemann, Ludger & Schabert, Andreas, 2016. "Default Risk Premia On Government Bonds In A Quantitative Macroeconomic Model," Macroeconomic Dynamics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 20(01), pages 380-403, January.
    3. Eugene Goryunov & Maria Kazakova & Laurence J. Kotlikoff & Arseny Mamedov & Kristina Nesterova & Vladimir Nazarov & Elena Grishina & Pavel Trunin & Alexey Shpenev, 2013. "Russia's Fiscal Gap," NBER Working Papers 19608, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
      • Goryunov, Eugene & Kazakova, Marija & Kotlikoff, Laurence J. & Mamedov, Arseny & Nesterova, Kristina & Nazarov, Vladimir & Grišina, Elena & Trunin, Pavel V. & Shpenev, Alexey, 2013. "Russia's Fiscal Gap," EconStor Preprints 121938, ZBW - German National Library of Economics.
    4. Sergey Sinelnikov-Murylev & Eugene Goryunov & Laurence Kotlikoff, 2015. "Theoretical foundations of fiscal gap as a long-term fiscal sustainability indicator and its estimates for Russia," Research Paper Series, Gaidar Institute for Economic Policy, issue 168P, pages 1-58.
    5. repec:eee:rujoec:v:1:y:2015:i:3:p:240-256 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Bouton, Laurent & Lizzeri, Alessandro & Persico, Nicola, 2016. "The Political Economy of Debt and Entitlements," CEPR Discussion Papers 11459, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    7. Berrittella, Maria & Zhang, Jian, 2015. "Fiscal sustainability in the EU: From the short-term risk to the long-term challenge," Journal of Policy Modeling, Elsevier, vol. 37(2), pages 261-280.
    8. Gabriel Cuadra & Manuel Ramos Francia, 2014. "Stimulus vs. Austerity vs. Default," Working Papers 2014-10, Banco de México.
    9. Frank N. Caliendo & Aspen Gorry & Sita Slavov, 2015. "The Cost of Uncertainty about the Timing of Social Security Reform," NBER Working Papers 21585, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C63 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Mathematical Methods; Programming Models; Mathematical and Simulation Modeling - - - Computational Techniques
    • C68 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Mathematical Methods; Programming Models; Mathematical and Simulation Modeling - - - Computable General Equilibrium Models
    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy
    • H55 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Social Security and Public Pensions

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