Levy Institute Publications
Strategic Analysis, October 2020 | October 2020 | Dimitri B. Papadimitriou, Francesco Zezza, Gennaro ZezzaItaly was the first European country to be impacted by COVID-19, rapidly overwhelming healthcare facilities in some areas and prompting the government to shut down nonessential economic activities, with an inevitable (asymmetric) impact on production and income. Though the gradual reopening of most business activities began in 2020Q3, the extent of the shutdown’s damage is difficult to assess. The current political debate is now focusing on what can be achieved with European funds (in the form of both grants and loans), which should become available beginning in 2021. In this Strategic Analysis, Institute President Dimitri B. Papadimitriou, Research Associate Francesco Zezza, and Research Scholar Gennaro Zezza detail the shutdown’s impact on business activities in Italy, incorporating the planned government intervention with preliminary evidence available through 2020Q3 to evaluate a baseline projection for the Italian economy up to 2022.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Related Topic(s):
Strategic Analysis, May 2020 | May 2020 | Dimitri B. Papadimitriou, Michalis Nikiforos, Gennaro ZezzaGreece’s fragile economic recovery was halted by the COVID-19 pandemic: GDP, employment, exports, and investment are expected to record significantly negative trends. While some projections for GDP growth show a quick V-shaped recovery beginning in 2021, this is rather improbable given the Greek economy’s structural inefficiencies.
This strategic analysis explores the consequences of various assumptions about the fall in the different sources of aggregate demand in order to produce a baseline projection for the Greek economy. A more optimistic scenario is also analyzed, in which the European Commission’s recently announced Recovery Fund materializes, allowing the government to increase public consumption as well as investment through EU grants and loans. The authors recommend additional measures to alleviate the impact of the shock and help put Greece’s economy back on track when the epidemic has died out.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Related Topic(s):
Public Policy Brief No. 153, 2020 | September 2020 | Luiza Nassif Pires, Laura Carvalho, Eduardo RawetAfter spending over 6 percent of GDP responding to the COVID-19 crisis, Brazil has suffered among the worst per capita numbers in the world in terms of cases and deaths. In this policy brief, Luiza Nassif-Pires, Laura Carvalho, and Eduardo Rawet explore how stark inequalities along racial, regional, and class lines can help account for why the pandemic has had such a damaging impact on Brazil. Although they find that fiscal policy measures have so far neutralized the impact of the crisis with respect to income inequality, the existence of structural inequalities along racial lines in particular have resulted in an unequally shared public health burden. Broader policy changes are necessary for addressing dimensions of inequality that are rooted in structural racism.Download:Associated Program(s):Author(s):Luiza Nassif Pires Laura Carvalho Eduardo RawetRelated Topic(s):
Public Policy Brief No. 152, 2020 | August 2020 | Alex WilliamsThe mainstream fiscal federalism literature has led to an instinctive belief that states receiving fiscal aid during a recession are taking advantage of the federal government in pursuit of localized benefits with dispersed costs. This policy brief by Alex Williams challenges this unreflective argument and, in response, offers a novel framework for understanding the relationship between the business cycle and fiscal federalism in the United States.
Utilizing the work of Michael Pettis, Williams demonstrates that a government unable to design its own capital structure is not meaningfully an agent with respect to the business cycle. As such, they cannot be considered agents in a moral hazard problem when receiving support from the federal government during a recession.
From the perspective of this policy brief, the operative moral hazard problem is one in which federal-level politicians reap a political benefit from a seemingly principled refusal to increase federal spending, while avoiding blame for crisis and austerity at the state and local government level. Williams’ proposed solution is to impose macroeconomic discipline on federal policymakers by creating automatic stabilizers that take decisions about the level of state fiscal aid in a recession out of their hands.Download:Associated Program(s):Author(s):Alex WilliamsRelated Topic(s):
Policy Note 2020/6 | October 2020 | Jan KregelAs COVID-19 infection and test positivity rates rise in the United States and federal stimulus plans expire, Senior Scholar Jan Kregel articulates an alternative approach to analyzing the economic problems raised by the pandemic and organizing an appropriate policy response. In contrast to both the mainstream and some Keynesian-inspired approaches, Kregel advocates a central role for direct social provisioning as a means of equitably sharing the costs of quarantine under conditions of strict lockdown.Download:Associated Program(s):Author(s):Related Topic(s):
Policy Note 2020/5 | July 2020 | Jan ToporowskiIn this policy note, Jan Toporowski provides an analysis of government debt management using fiscal principles derived from the work of Michał Kalecki. Dividing the government’s budget into a “functional” and “financial” budget, Toporowski demonstrates how a financial budget balance—servicing government debt from taxes on wealth and profits that do not affect incomes and expenditures in the economy—allows a government to manage its debts without compromising the macroeconomic goals set in the functional budget. By splitting the budget into a functional budget that affects the real economy and a financial budget that just maintains debt payments and the liquidity of the financial system, the government can have two independent instruments that can be used to target, respectively, the macroeconomy and government debt—overcoming a dilemma that makes fiscal policy ineffective. This analysis also explains how pursuit of supply-side policies that result in a financial budget deficit and functional budget surplus can lead to slow growth, rising government debt, and financial instability.Download:Associated Program(s):Author(s):Jan ToporowskiRelated Topic(s):
Statement of Senior Scholar L. Randall Wray to the House Budget Committee, US House of Representatives
Testimony, November 20, 2019 | November 2019 | L. Randall Wray, Yeva Nersisyan
Reexamining the Economic Costs of DebtOn November 20, 2019, Senior Scholar L. Randall Wray testified before the House Committee on the Budget on the topic of reexamining the economic costs of debt:
"In recent months a new approach to national government budgets, deficits, and debts—Modern Money Theory (MMT)—has been the subject of discussion and controversy. [. . .]
In this testimony I do not want to rehash the theoretical foundations of MMT. Instead I will highlight empirical facts with the goal of explaining the causes and consequences of the intransigent federal budget deficits and the growing national government debt. I hope that developing an understanding of the dynamics involved will make the topic of deficits and debt less daunting. I will conclude by summarizing the MMT views on this topic, hoping to set the record straight."
Update 1/7/2020: In an appendix, L. Randall Wray responds to a Question for the Record submitted by Rep. Ilhan OmarDownload:Associated Program(s):Author(s):L. Randall Wray Yeva NersisyanRelated Topic(s):
Research Project Report, April 2018 | April 2018 | L. Randall Wray, Flavia Dantas, Scott Fullwiler, Pavlina R. Tcherneva, Stephanie A. Kelton
A Path to Full EmploymentDespite reports of a healthy US labor market, millions of Americans remain unemployed and underemployed, or have simply given up looking for work. It is a problem that plagues our economy in good times and in bad—there are never enough jobs available for all who want to work. L. Randall Wray, Flavia Dantas, Scott Fullwiler, Pavlina R. Tcherneva, and Stephanie A. Kelton examine the impact of a new “job guarantee” proposal that would seek to eliminate involuntary unemployment by directly creating jobs in the communities where they are needed.
The authors propose the creation of a Public Service Employment (PSE) program that would offer a job at a living wage to all who are ready and willing to work. Federally funded but with a decentralized administration, the PSE program would pay $15 per hour and offer a basic package of benefits. This report simulates the economic impact over a ten-year period of implementing the PSE program beginning in 2018Q1.
Unemployment, hidden and official, with all of its attendant social harms, is a policy choice. The results in this report lend more weight to the argument that it is a policy choice we need no longer tolerate. True full employment is both achievable and sustainable.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Related Topic(s):
Research Project Report, September 2019 | September 2019 | Ajit Zacharias, Thomas Masterson, Fernando Rios-Avila, Michalis Nikiforos, Kijong Kim, Tamar Khitarishvili
A Macro-Micro Policy Model for Ghana and TanzaniaFeminist economics has long emphasized the role of physical and social infrastructure as determinants of the time women spend on household production (the provision of unpaid domestic services and care). Surprisingly, there is a lack of studies that directly investigate how infrastructure improvements affect the time spent on household production and commuting to work, which is another important unpaid activity for most employed individuals. We attempt to fill the lacunae in the research by studying this issue in the context of Ghana and Tanzania utilizing the framework of the Levy Institute Measure of Time and Income Poverty. Separately, while there are several studies (including those done previously at the Levy Institute) on the macroeconomic impacts of government expenditures on care, these assessments tend to be based primarily on employment multipliers along with simple macroeconomic assumptions. We develop a disaggregated and fully articulated macroeconomic model based on the social accounting matrices for the two countries to take account of the intersectoral linkages and external constraints, such as balance of payments, that are particularly important for many developing nations, including Ghana and Tanzania. The macro- and microeconomic aspects are integrated in a unified analytical framework via a top-down disaggregated macroeconomic model with microsimulation that is novel in that it enables the investigation of the gendered economic processes and outcomes at the macroeconomic and microeconomic levels.
Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Ajit Zacharias Thomas Masterson Fernando Rios-Avila Michalis Nikiforos Kijong Kim Tamar KhitarishviliRelated Topic(s):
Research Project Report, February 2018 | February 2018 | Scott Fullwiler, Stephanie A. Kelton, Catherine Ruetschlin, Marshall SteinbaumAmong the more ambitious policies that have been proposed to address the problem of escalating student loan debt are various forms of debt cancellation. In this report, Scott Fullwiler, Research Associate Stephanie Kelton, Catherine Ruetschlin, and Marshall Steinbaum examine the likely macroeconomic impacts of a one-time, federally funded cancellation of all outstanding student debt.
The report analyzes households’ mounting reliance on debt to finance higher education, including the distributive implications of student debt and debt cancellation; describes the financial mechanics required to carry out the cancellation of debt held by the Department of Education (which makes up the vast majority of student loans outstanding) as well as privately owned student debt; and uses two macroeconometric models to provide a plausible range for the likely impacts of student debt cancellation on key economic variables over a 10-year horizon.
The authors find that cancellation would have a meaningful stimulus effect, characterized by greater economic activity as measured by GDP and employment, with only moderate effects on the federal budget deficit, interest rates, and inflation (while state budgets improve). These results suggest that policies like student debt cancellation can be a viable part of a needed reorientation of US higher education policy.
Download:Associated Program(s):Author(s):Scott Fullwiler Stephanie A. Kelton Catherine Ruetschlin Marshall SteinbaumRelated Topic(s):
One-Pager No. 64 | August 2020 | Alex WilliamsAs congressional negotiations stall and state governments are poised to enact significant austerity, Alex Williams argues that fiscal aid to state governments should be tied to economic indicators rather than the capriciousness of federal legislators. Building this case for reform requires confronting a common objection: that state fiscal aid creates situations of moral hazard. This objection misconstrues the agency of state governments and misunderstands the incentives of federal politicians, according to Williams. There is a serious moral hazard problem involved here—but it is not the one widely claimed.Download:Associated Program(s):Author(s):Alex WilliamsRelated Topic(s):
One-Pager No. 63 | April 2020 | Yeva Nersisyan , L. Randall WrayAs governments around the world explore ambitious approaches to fiscal and monetary policy in their responses to the COVID-19 crisis, Modern Money Theory (MMT) has been thrust into the spotlight once again. Unfortunately, many of those invoking the theory have misrepresented its central tenets, according Yeva Nersisyan and L. Randall Wray.
MMT provides an analysis of fiscal and monetary policy applicable to national governments with sovereign, nonconvertible currencies. In the context of articulating the elements of that analysis, Nersisyan and Wray draw out one of the lessons to be learned from the pandemic and its policy responses: that the government’s ability to run deficits is not limited to times of crisis; that we must build up our supplies, infrastructure, and institutions in normal times, and not wait for the next crisis to live up to our means.Download:Associated Program(s):Author(s):Yeva Nersisyan L. Randall WrayRelated Topic(s):
Working Paper No. 974 | October 2020 | J?rg Bibow
Financial Instability and Crises in Keynes’s Monetary ThoughtThis paper revisits Keynes’s writings from Indian Currency and Finance (1913) to The General Theory (1936) with a focus on financial instability. The analysis reveals Keynes’s astute concerns about the stability/fragility of the banking system, especially under deflationary conditions. Keynes’s writings during the Great Depression uncover insights into how the Great Depression may have informed his General Theory. Exploring the connection between the experience of the Great Depression and the theoretical framework Keynes presents in The General Theory, the assumption of a constant money stock featuring in that work is central. The analysis underscores the case that The General Theory is not a special case of the (neo-)classical theory that is relevant only to “depression economics”—refuting the interpretation offered by J. R. Hicks (1937) in his seminal paper “Mr. Keynes and the Classics: A Suggested Interpretation.” As a scholar of the Great Depression and Federal Reserve chairman at the time of the modern crisis, Ben Bernanke provides an important intellectual bridge between the historical crisis of the 1930s and the modern crisis of 2007–9. The paper concludes that, while policy practice has changed, the “classical” theory Keynes attacked in 1936 remains hegemonic today. The common (mis-)interpretation of The General Theory as depression economics continues to describe the mainstream’s failure to engage in relevant monetary economics.Download:Associated Program(s):Author(s):Related Topic(s):
Working Paper No. 972 | September 2020 | Lorenzo Esposito, Giuseppe Mastromatteo
On the Nature and Outcomes of the Beauty ContestSince the 2008 crisis, the economics literature has shown a renewed interest in Keynes’s “beauty contest” (BC) as a fundamental aspect of the functioning of financial markets. We argue that to understand the importance of the BC, psychological and informational factors are of small importance, and a dynamic-structural approach should be followed instead: the BC framework is paramount because it is rooted in the historical trajectory of capitalism and it is not simply a consequence of “irrational” (i.e., biased) agents. In this genuine form, the BC mechanism allows one to understand the main trends of a financialized world. Moreover, the conventional nature of financial markets provides a sound method for assessing different economic policies whose effectiveness depends on how much they can influence the convention itself. This alternative understanding of the BC can be used to start the needed rethinking of economics, urged by the crisis, that is for now reduced to studying the financial and psychological “imperfections” of the market.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Lorenzo Esposito Giuseppe MastromatteoRelated Topic(s):
Volume 29, No. 3 | October 2020 | Elizabeth Dunn, Michael StephensThis issue of the Summary features a Strategic Analysis focused on Greece’s economy in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Two public policy briefs also highlight pandemic-related issues, with the first focusing on the impact in Greece in light of deep cuts in healthcare expenditures and the second dealing with the implications with respect to inequality in the United States. The other brief featured in this issue addresses the threats and opportunities represented by cryptocurrencies and related technological innovations. Policy notes also focus on the pandemic’s impact, the first from a Minskyan perspective, another through the lens of the Trump administration’s immigration policy, and a third supporting the job guarantee as a policy for restarting the economy in the post-pandemic era. A final policy note explores the reform of fiscal federalism in the United States, proposing intergovernmental automatic stabilizers for avoiding procyclical cuts at the state and local levels.
Working papers in this issue discuss a stock-flow consistent quarterly model for Italy, detailing the over two-hundred equations that address the missing links between the real and financial sectors; the short-term interest rate’s impact on the long-term rate, with one paper focusing on a general model and another on an empirical model for Brazil; the impact of various institutional factors on educational outcomes in the West Bank; the role of James Dusenberry’s relative income hypothesis and the “keeping-up-with-the-Jonses-effect” in the rise in debt-driven consumption in Turkey; income distribution’s effect on aggregate demand and growth by class and gender, and the role power dynamics between labor and capital play in their determination; the noneconomic sphere’s role in creating the necessary conditions for a properly functioning economic sphere from a feminist-Marxist standpoint; and some theoretical and empirical issues on the accumulation and utilization of capital, highlighting utilization’s role in bridging the gap between mainstream and alternative theories of growth and distribution.Download:Author(s):Elizabeth Dunn Michael Stephens
Book Series, January 2020 | January 2020 | L. Randall Wray
Heterodox Economic Policy for the 21st CenturyA Great Leap Forward: Heterodox Economic Policy for the 21st Century investigates economic policy from a heterodox and progressive perspective. Author Randall Wray uses relatively short chapters arranged around several macroeconomic policy themes to present an integrated survey of progressive policy on topics of interest today that are likely to remain topics of interest for many years.
Published by: Elsevier Press