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Manufacturing Risk-free Government Debt

Author

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  • Zhengyang Jiang
  • Hanno Lustig
  • Stijn Van Nieuwerburgh
  • Mindy Z. Xiaolan

Abstract

Governments face a trade-off between insuring bondholders and insuring taxpayers against output risk. If they insure bondholders by manufacturing risk-free zero-beta debt, then their capacity to insure taxpayers by lowering tax rates or raising government spending during recessions is limited. Using asset pricing tools, we develop a sufficient statistic for taxpayer insurance possibilities over different horizons, and characterize it analytically as a function of the debt/output, spending/output, and pricing kernel dynamics. With permanent shocks, taxpayers can only be insured over short horizons through counter-cyclical debt issuance. The horizon shrinks as the debt/output ratio reverts faster to its mean. The trade-off worsens if the output shocks are transitory instead of permanent. As the world’s safe asset supplier, the U.S. relies on strongly counter-cyclical debt issuance to provide more short-run insurance to its taxpayers.

Suggested Citation

  • Zhengyang Jiang & Hanno Lustig & Stijn Van Nieuwerburgh & Mindy Z. Xiaolan, 2020. "Manufacturing Risk-free Government Debt," NBER Working Papers 27786, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:27786
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    2. Van Nieuwerburgh, Stijn & Elenev, Vadim & Landvoigt, Tim & Shultz, Patrick, 2021. "Can Monetary Policy Create Fiscal Capacity?," CEPR Discussion Papers 16414, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    3. Alexandre Corhay & Thilo Kind & Howard Kung & Gonzalo Morales, 2021. "Discount Rates, Debt Maturity, and the Fiscal Theory," Staff Working Papers 21-58, Bank of Canada.
    4. Chien, YiLi & Wen, Yi, 2022. "The determination of public debt under both aggregate and idiosyncratic uncertainty," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 203(C).
    5. Jiang, Zhengyang, 2021. "US Fiscal cycle and the dollar," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 124(C), pages 91-106.
    6. Corhay, Alexandre & Kind, Thilo & Kung, Howard & Morales, Gonzalo, 2021. "Discount rates, debt maturity, and the fiscal theory," SAFE Working Paper Series 323, Leibniz Institute for Financial Research SAFE.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • F34 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - International Lending and Debt Problems
    • G12 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Asset Pricing; Trading Volume; Bond Interest Rates
    • H62 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt - - - Deficit; Surplus
    • H63 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt - - - Debt; Debt Management; Sovereign Debt

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