Helicopter money: The best policy to address high public debt and deflation
Biagio Bossone, Thomas Fazi, Richard Wood01 October 2014
High debt and deflation have afflicted Japan, the Eurozone, and the US. However, the monetary and fiscal policies implemented so far have been disappointing. This column discusses the importance of helicopter money in the form of overt monetary financing in addressing these problems. Overt money financing is the policy with the highest impact in raising demand and output without increasing public debt and interest rates.
The G20 leaders may well endorse a higher ‘growth target’ at their November meeting in Australia, but they will be incapable of agreeing to the monetary/fiscal policy combination that is required to substantially lift aggregate consumer demand and economic growth.
The stagnating Eurozone economy requires policy action. This column argues that EZ leaders should agree a coordinated 5% tax cut, extension of budget deficit targets by 3 or 4 years, and issuance of long-term public debt to be purchased by the ECB without sterilisation.
The mantra is that once again it is up to the ECB to save the Eurozone. Quantitative easing is the last policy tool available to jumpstart the Eurozone economy. The longer the ECB waits before starting to buy government bonds, the further away will the recovery be. This analysis, however, overestimates the power of monetary policy.
Ricardo Reis, Jens Hilscher, Alon Raviv07 August 2014
Faced with daunting levels of public debt, it may be tempting to inflate away the burden. Some recent research has endorsed such a policy, but this column argues that it is infeasible. The rule of thumb that suggests an inflation rate four percentage points higher would reduce debt by 20% ignores creditor composition and maturity details, even if a 6% inflation rate were achievable. The hard truth is that there is no easy way out of debt.
Should the US Federal Reserve raise the inflation target from its current level of 2%? And will it? One benefit would be to make hitting the zero lower bound less likely, which would lead to less severe recessions, as Olivier Blanchard, Giovanni Dell’Ariccia, and Paolo Mauro (2010), Daniel Leigh (2010), and Laurence Ball (2013) have argued on this website.
Sovereign debt markets in turbulent times: A view of the European crisis
Fernando A Broner, Aitor Erce, Alberto Martin, Jaume Ventura23 July 2014
Since 2010, Eurozone periphery countries have faced severe debt problems and falling credit to the private sector. This column interprets these events with a theory that has three main ingredients. First governments can favour domestic creditors. Second, public debt trades in secondary markets so debt holdings shift from foreign to domestic residents. Third, due to private financial frictions, this shift crowds out private investment and growth.
Fernando A Broner, Tatiana Didier, Aitor Erce, Sergio Schmukler
Between the start of the financial crisis in 2007 and late 2009, the Eurozone’s periphery countries saw a substantial reduction in economic growth and an increase in deficits. But their economic performance was, if anything, stronger than that in the core countries. The recessions in the periphery were no deeper than in the core, and financial markets absorbed their increasing public debt as they had done in the past, with non-resident creditors absorbing large portions of the increase.
Determinants of the growth and sovereign debt correlation
Matthijs Lof, Tuomas Malinen25 May 2014
Public debt and economic growth are historically negatively correlated. This column discusses new evidence that rejects the debt-to-growth causality. After estimating the effects between debt and growth in both directions, there is no evidence that high indebtedness suppresses economic growth. The effect of growth on debt is the main driver of the negative correlation.
Since the outbreak of the financial crisis, the relationship between debt and growth has been an issue of heated debate among both academics and policymakers. Reinhart and Rogoff (2010a) showed a negative correlation between sovereign debt and economic growth, and argued that countries could be confronted with a considerable decline in their growth potential after the debt-to-GDP ratio exceeds 90%.
Nicholas Crafts talks to Viv Davies about his recent work on the threatening issue of public debt in the Eurozone. Crafts maintains that the implicit fault line in the EZ is evident; several EZ economies face a long period of fiscal consolidation and low growth and that a different sort of central bank might be preferable. They also discuss the challenges and constraints of banking, fiscal and federal union. The interview was recorded in London on 17 January 2014.
This column argues that the legacy of public debt resulting from the crisis in the Eurozone is a serious threat. Both the size of the problem and the options to address it make life much more difficult for policymakers than was the case in the late 1930s after the collapse of the gold standard. For some countries, a ‘subservient’ central bank might be preferable to the ECB.
The 1930s deservedly have a bad name. It is hard to imagine that a decade that included the Great Depression and a major de-globalisation of the world economy, and culminated in WWII could be other than notorious. And yet, compared with struggling Eurozone economies today, the economic situation in Europe in the later 1930s was in many ways more promising. This is particularly true of the aftermath of public debt and the difficulty of dealing with it.
Quantitative easing and austerity have done little to stop the EZ's periphery economies sliding towards depression. Policy Insight No. 62 argues that new money creation can finance deficits without increasing public debt.
US debt issuance since 1951 and the fallacy of issuing floating rate notes
Peter Stella, Manmohan Singh14 May 2012
Much of the debate over public finances in the US relates to the amount of debt, this column explores the type of debt. It criticises the recent suggestion that the US Treasury should start issuing floating rate notes.
Most of today’s debate turns on the amount of US debt issuance, but the nature of the debt is also under discussion. In the current environment of macroeconomic uncertainty, the demand for safe assets has bloomed and the definition of “safe” is evolving. Part of this is the debate on whether floating rate notes should be issued by the US Treasury. In a recent report to the Secretary of the Treasury from the Treasury Borrowing Advisory Committee (31 January 2012), reference was made to floating rate notes:
Many developed economies are in a liquidity trap with interest rates at or near zero. Many also have high unemployment that looks set to persist. This column argues that it is times like these when governments should be spending more, not less – they just have to be careful how they do it.
With debt-levels hitting record highs and growth running low on steam, European policymakers have found themselves facing a grim dilemma: should government spending be increased at the risk of reawakening the wrath of the sovereign bond markets? Or should austerity instead assume the political mantra with the hope of merely muddling through?