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On the Case for a Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

Author

Listed:
  • Marina, Azzimonti
  • Marco, Battaglini
  • Stephen, Coate

Abstract

This paper uses the political economy model of Battaglini and Coate (2008) to analyze the impact of a balanced budget rule that requires that legislators do not run deficits. It considers both a strict rule which cannot be circumvented and a rule that can be overridden by a super-majority of legislators. A strict rule leads to a gradual but substantial reduction in the level of public debt. In the short run, citizens will be worse off as public spending is reduced and taxes are raised to bring down debt. In the long run, the benefits of a lower debt burden must be weighed against the costs of greater volatility in taxes and less responsive public good provision. To quantify these effects, the model is calibrated to the U.S. economy using data from 1940-2005. While the long run net benefits are positive, they are outweighed by the short run costs of debt reduction. A rule with a super-majority override has no effect on citizen welfare or fiscal policy.

Suggested Citation

  • Marina, Azzimonti & Marco, Battaglini & Stephen, Coate, 2010. "On the Case for a Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution," MPRA Paper 25935, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:25935
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Besley, Timothy & Smart, Michael, 2007. "Fiscal restraints and voter welfare," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(3-4), pages 755-773, April.
    2. Marco Battaglini & Stephen Coate, 2008. "A Dynamic Theory of Public Spending, Taxation, and Debt," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(1), pages 201-236, March.
    3. Shanna Rose, 2006. "Do fiscal rules dampen the political business cycle?," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 128(3), pages 407-431, September.
    4. Barseghyan, Levon & Battaglini, Marco & Coate, Stephen, 2013. "Fiscal policy over the real business cycle: A positive theory," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 148(6), pages 2223-2265.
    5. Chari, V V & Christiano, Lawrence J & Kehoe, Patrick J, 1994. "Optimal Fiscal Policy in a Business Cycle Model," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(4), pages 617-652, August.
    6. George J. Hall & Stefan Krieger, 2000. "Tax Smoothing Implications of the Federal Debt Paydown," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 31(2), pages 253-302.
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    8. Poterba, James M, 1994. "State Responses to Fiscal Crises: The Effects of Budgetary Institutions and Politics," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(4), pages 799-821, August.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Balanced Budget Amendment; Political Economy; Markov Equilibrium; Bargaining;

    JEL classification:

    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation
    • C70 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - General
    • D60 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - General
    • E60 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - General

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