Is There a Role for Discretionary Fiscal Policy?

50 Pages Posted: 7 Nov 2002

See all articles by Alan J. Auerbach

Alan J. Auerbach

University of California, Berkeley - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute for Economic Research)

Date Written: November 2002

Abstract

This paper reviews the state of discretionary fiscal policy. Among its findings are: (1) In recent years, U.S. discretionary fiscal policy appears to have become more active in response to both cyclical conditions and a simple measure of budget balance. (2) Considerable uncertainty remains about how large an impact discretionary fiscal policy has on output. (3) There is little evidence that discretionary fiscal policy has played an important stabilization role during recent decades. (4) Budgetary pressure may weaken the efficacy of expansionary fiscal policy. Conversely, contractionary fiscal policy might have a salutary effect on output. This possibility may be relevant for understanding the impact of fiscal policy in the 1990s, although the mechanism is unclear. (5) The automatic stabilizers embedded in the fiscal system have experienced little net change since the 1960s and have contributed to cushioning cyclical fluctuations. But the tax system has many attributes that weaken its potential role as an automatic stabilizer, particularly with respect to investment. (6) The government's reported fiscal position, to which fiscal policy appears responsive, represents a very poor measure of underlying fiscal balance.

Suggested Citation

Auerbach, Alan Jeffrey, Is There a Role for Discretionary Fiscal Policy? (November 2002). NBER Working Paper No. w9306. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=347078

Alan Jeffrey Auerbach (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley - Department of Economics ( email )

549 Evans Hall #3880
Berkeley, CA 94720-3880
United States
510-643-0711 (Phone)
510-643-0413 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute for Economic Research)

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679
Germany

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
77
Abstract Views
1,872
rank
311,961
PlumX Metrics