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

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

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.

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Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 25935.

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Date of creation: 2010
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Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:25935
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  1. Poterba, James M., 1995. "Balanced Budget Rules and Fiscal Policy: Evidence From the States," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 48(3), pages 329-36, September.
  2. 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.
  3. Marco Battaglini & Stephen Coate, 2006. "A Dynamic Theory of Public Spending, Taxation and Debt," NajEcon Working Paper Reviews 321307000000000026, www.najecon.org.
  4. Henning Bohn & Robert P. Inman, 1996. "Balanced Budget Rules and Public Deficits: Evidence from the U.S. States," NBER Working Papers 5533, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Barro, Robert J, 1979. "On the Determination of the Public Debt," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(5), pages 940-71, October.
  6. 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.
  7. James M. Poterba, 1996. "Budget Institutions and Fiscal Policy in the U.S. States," NBER Working Papers 5449, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. 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.
  9. Buchanan, James M., 1995. "Clarifying Confusion About the Balanced Budget Amendment," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 48(3), pages 347-55, September.
  10. Shanna Rose, 2006. "Do fiscal rules dampen the political business cycle?," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 128(3), pages 407-431, September.
  11. Marco Bassetto, 2006. "Politics and Efficiency of Separating Capital and Ordinary Government Budgets," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 121(4), pages 1167-1210.
  12. Marcet, Albert & Scott, Andrew, 2001. "Debt and Deficit Fluctuations and the Structure of Bond Markets," CEPR Discussion Papers 3029, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  13. William A. Niskanen, 1992. "The Case for a New Fiscal Constitution," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 6(2), pages 13-24, Spring.
  14. V. V. Chari & Lawrence J. Christiano & Patrick J. Kehoe, 1993. "Optimal fiscal policy in a business cycle model," Staff Report 160, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  15. Corsetti, Giancarlo & Roubini, Nouriel, 1996. "European versus American Perspectives on Balanced-Budget Rules," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(2), pages 408-13, May.
  16. Besley, Timothy & Smart, Michael, 2007. "Fiscal restraints and voter welfare," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(3-4), pages 755-773, April.
  17. Lucas, Robert Jr. & Stokey, Nancy L., 1983. "Optimal fiscal and monetary policy in an economy without capital," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(1), pages 55-93.
  18. Robert P. Inman, 1996. "Do Balanced Budget Rules Work? U.S. Experience and Possible Lessons for the EMU," NBER Working Papers 5838, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. Greenwood, Jeremy & Hercowitz, Zvi & Huffman, Gregory W, 1988. "Investment, Capacity Utilization, and the Real Business Cycle," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(3), pages 402-17, June.
  20. Azzimonti, Marina & de Francisco, Eva & Krusell, Per, 2008. "Production subsidies and redistribution," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 142(1), pages 73-99, September.
  21. L. Wade, 1988. "Review," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 58(1), pages 99-100, July.
  22. Tamim Bayoumi & Barry Eichengreen, 1995. "Restraining Yourself: The Implications of Fiscal Rules for Economic Stabilization," IMF Staff Papers, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 42(1), pages 32-48, March.
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