Why low interest rates force us to revisit the scope and role of fiscal policy

In an article for the Peterson Institute for International Economics, economist Olivier Blanchard discusses 45 takeaways on the changing scope of fiscal policy and debt sustainability, in the light of consistently low interest rates. He also discusses three applications of the same- in the US, Japan, and Europe. Excerpts from the article:

  • “A case of too little? The shift from output stabilization to debt reduction in the wake of the global financial crisis in Europe was too strong and too costly, reflecting an excessive weight on the costs of debt and an insufficient belief in the adverse effects of contractionary fiscal policy on demand and output.
  • A case of just right? Faced with a strong case of secular stagnation, Japan has run large deficits for three decades and debt ratios have increased to very high levels, while the Bank of Japan remained at the effective lower bound. Was it the right strategy (if indeed it was a strategy)? The answer is a qualified yes, but, looking forward, the high debt ratios raise issues of debt sustainability. Alternative ways of boosting demand should be a high priority.
  • A case of too much? To boost the US recovery from the initial COVID-19 shocks, the Biden administration embarked in 2021 on a major fiscal expansion. The strategy (again, if indeed it was a strategy) was for fiscal policy to increase demand and thus increase the neutral rate, and for monetary policy to delay the adjustment of the policy rate to the neutral rate, and in the process generate temporary inflation. Inflation has turned out to be much higher than expected. Was the fiscal expansion too strong? Was the strategy a mistake?”

Click here to read the full article.

Posted by at 2:50 PM

Labels: Macro Demystified


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