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

Author

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  • Marco Battaglini

    (Steve Coate, Marina Azzimonti)

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. 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

  • Marco Battaglini, 2009. "On the Case for a Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution," 2009 Meeting Papers 131, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  • Handle: RePEc:red:sed009:131
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Tetsuo Ono & Yuki Uchida, 2016. "Human Capital, Public Debt, and Economic Growth: A Political Economy Analysis," Discussion Papers in Economics and Business 16-01-Rev.3, Osaka University, Graduate School of Economics and Osaka School of International Public Policy (OSIPP), revised Oct 2017.
    2. Rüdiger Bachmann & Jinhui H. Bai, 2013. "Public consumption over the business cycle," Quantitative Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 4(3), pages 417-451, November.
    3. Tetsuo Ono, 2014. "Intergenerational Politics, Government Debt, and Economic Growth," Discussion Papers in Economics and Business 14-23-Rev.2, Osaka University, Graduate School of Economics and Osaka School of International Public Policy (OSIPP), revised Jun 2015.
    4. Alessandro Riboni & Facundo Piguillem, 2011. "Dynamic Bargaining over Redistribution in Legislatures," 2011 Meeting Papers 1320, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    5. Persson, Lovisa, 2013. "Consumption smoothing in a balanced budget regim," Working Paper Series 2013:19, Uppsala University, Department of Economics.
    6. Marco Bassetto, 2008. "Public investment and budget rules for state vs. local governments," Working Paper Series WP-08-21, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
    7. Marco Bassetto, 2009. "The Research Agenda: Marco Bassetto on the Quantitative Evaluation of Fiscal Policy Rules," EconomicDynamics Newsletter, Review of Economic Dynamics, vol. 10(2), April.
    8. Matteo F. Ghilardi & Raffaele Rossi, 2014. "Aggregate Stability and Balanced‐Budget Rules," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 46(8), pages 1787-1809, December.
    9. Juan Carlos Hatchondo & Leonardo Martinez & Francisco Roch, 2012. "Fiscal rules and the sovereign default premium," Working Paper 12-01, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.
    10. Veronica Grembi & Tommaso Nannicini & Ugo Troiano, 2011. "Policy Responses to Fiscal Restraints: A Difference-in-Discontinuities Design," Working Papers 397, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
    11. Marina Azzimonti-Renzo, 2013. "The political economy of balanced budget amendments," Business Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, issue Q1, pages 11-20.
    12. 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.
    13. Caballero, Ricardo J. & Yared, Pierre, 2010. "Future rent-seeking and current public savings," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, pages 124-136.
    14. Marco Battaglini & Salvatore Nunnari & Thomas Palfrey, 2011. "The Free Rider Problem: a Dynamic Analysis," Working Papers 1354, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Econometric Research Program..
    15. Marco Bassetto & Leslie McGranahan, 2009. "On the relationship between mobility, population growth, and capital spending in the United States," Working Paper Series WP-09-25, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
    16. Ruediger Bachmann & Jinhui Bai, 2013. "Politico-Economic Inequality and the Comovement of Government Purchases," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 16(4), pages 565-580, October.
    17. Marina Halac & Pierre Yared, 2014. "Fiscal Rules and Discretion Under Persistent Shocks," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 82, pages 1557-1614, September.
    18. Streif, Frank & Heinemann, Friedrich & Janeba, Eckhard & Schröder, Christoph, 2013. "Will the German Debt Brake Succeed? Survey Evidence from State Politicians," Annual Conference 2013 (Duesseldorf): Competition Policy and Regulation in a Global Economic Order 80044, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    19. Ilzetzki, Ethan, 2011. "Rent-seeking distortions and fiscal procyclicality," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(1), pages 30-46, September.
    20. David Miller, 2014. "Commitment versus Discretion in a Political Economy Model of Fiscal and Monetary Policy Interaction," 2014 Meeting Papers 80, Society for Economic Dynamics.

    More about this item

    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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