The Long-Term U.S. Fiscal Gap: Is the Main Problem Generational Inequity?
60 Pages Posted: 12 Nov 2008 Last revised: 2 Oct 2009
Date Written: November 7, 2008
Current U.S. budget policy is unsustainable because it violates the intertemporal budget constraint. While the resulting fiscal gap will eventually be eliminated whether we like it or not, the big issue in current budget debate is whether the ultimately unavoidable course corrections should start now or be left for later. This paper argues that concerns of generational equity, which often are relied on by those demanding a prompt course correction, do not convincingly settle the issue, given empirical uncertainties about future generations' circumstances. However, efficiency issues create powerful grounds for urging a course correction sooner rather than later, on three main grounds: to eliminate the risk of a catastrophic fiscal collapse, achieve the advantages of tax smoothing, and smooth adjustments to the consumption made possible by various government outlays. Political economy considerations suggest that the risk of a catastrophic fiscal collapse may be significant even though in principle it could easily be avoided.
JEL Classification: E60, E62, H50, H51, H60, H61, H62, H63
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation