I blogged yesterday regarding the shape of recovery after the coronavirus pandemic and have been reading Paul Krugman who suggests that conventional monetary policy can’t offset an economic shock like coronavirus.. Since the GFC in 2008 it is evident that low interest rates are the new normal and according to Larry Summers (former Treasury Secretary) we are in an era of secular stagnation. This refers to the fact that on average the ‘natural interest rate’ – the rate consistent with full employment – is very low. There can be periods of full employment but even with 0% interest rates private demand is insufficient to eliminate the output gap. The US was in a liquidity trap (see graph below) for 8 of the past 12 years; Europe and Japan are still there, and the market now appears to believe that something like this is another the new normal.
Krugman suggests that there are real doubts about unconventional monetary policy and that the stimulus for an economy should take the form of permanent public investment spending on both physical and human capital – infrastructure and health of the population. This spending would take the form of deficit-financed public investment. There has been the suggestion that deficit-financed public investment might lead to ‘crowding out’ private investment and also how is the debt repaid? Krugman came up with three offsetting factors
First, when the economy is in a liquidity trap, which now seems likely to be a large fraction of the time, the extra public investment will have a multiplier effect, raising GDP relative to what it would otherwise be. Based on the experience of the past decade, the multiplier would probably be around 1.5, meaning 3% higher GDP in bad times — and considerable additional revenue from that higher level of GDP. Permanent fiscal stimulus wouldn’t pay for itself, but it would pay for part of itself.
Second, if the investment is productive, it will expand the economy’s productive capacity in the long run. This is obviously true for physical infrastructure and R&D, but there is also strong evidence that safety-net programmes for children make them healthier, more productive adults, which also helps offset their direct fiscal cost.
Thirdly, there’s fairly strong evidence of hysteresis — temporary downturns permanently or semi-permanently depress future output (Fatás and Summers 2015). Again, by avoiding these effects a sustained fiscal stimulus would partially pay for itself. Put these things together and they probably outweigh any fiscal effect due to stimulus raising interest rates.
Can the Japanese experience tell us anything?
The policies proposed are similar to those by Japan in the 1990’s but the environment there was unique from what most other developed economies are experiencing. Krugman makes two points:
Japan allowed itself to slide into deflation, and has yet to convincingly exit.
Japan’s potential growth is low due to extraordinarily unfavourable demography, with the working-age population rapidly declining.
As a result, Japan’s nominal GDP has barely increased over time, with an annual growth rate of only 0.4% since 1995. Meanwhile, interest rates have been constrained on the downside by the zero lower bound. Even with this Japan still faces no hint of debt crisis. Therefore according to Krugman, with negative shocks to economies becoming more prevalent it maybe better to implement a productive stimulus plan instead of trying to come up with some short-term measures every time there are shocks to our economy.
Source: “The Case for a permanent stimulus”. Paul Krugman cited in “Mitigating the COVID Economic Crisis: Act Fast and Do Whatever It Takes” Edited by Richard Baldwin and Beatrice Weder di Mauro
Currently covering Keynes vs Monetarist in the A2 course. Here is a powerpoint on the theory that I use for revision purposes. I have found that the graphs are particularly useful in explaining the theory. The powerpoint includes explanations of:
– C+I+G+(X-M) – 45˚line – Circular Flow and the Multiplier – Diagrammatic Representation of Multiplier and Accelerator – Quantity Theory of Money – Demand for Money – Liquidity Preference – Defaltionary and Inflationary Gap – Extreme Monetarist and Extreme Keynesian – Summary Table of “Keynesian and Monetarist” – Essay Questions with suggested answers.
Supply shock – will become more visible in the coming weeks as importers from China maybe unable to source adequate supply given widespread shutdowns across Chinese manufacturing.This loss of intermediate goods for production of final products cause a decline in revenue and consumer well-being. A good example of supply shocks were the oil crisis years of 1973 (oil prices up 400%) and 1979 (oil prices up 200%).
Demand shock – is already affecting consumer demand as travel slows, people avoid large gatherings, and consumers reduce discretionary spending. Already many sports fixtures have been cancelled which in turn hits revenue streams. With the uncertainty about job security demand in the consumer market will drop – cars, electronics, iPhones etc. Also tourism and airline industries are also exposed to the fall in demand.
Financial shock – although the supply and demand shocks will eventually subside, the global financial system is likely to have a longer-lasting impact. Long-term growth is the willingness of borrowers and lenders to invest and these decisions are influenced by: increased uncertainty regarding the global supply chain; a loss of confidence in the economy to withstand another attack; and a loss of confidence regarding the infrastructure for dealing with this and future crises.
Monetary policy is limited to what it can do with interest rates so low. Even with lower interest rates this does not tackle the problem of coronavirus – cheaper access to money won’t suddenly improve the supply chain or mean that consumers will start to spend more of their income. The RBNZ (NZ Central Bank) could instruct trading banks to be more tolerant of economic conditions.
Fiscal policy will be a much more powerful weapon – the government can help households by expanding the social safety net – extending unemployment benefit. Also the guaranteeing of employment should layoffs occur. Tourism and airline industries are being hit particularly hard. Although more of a monetary phenomenon the ‘Helicopter Drop’ could a policy tool of the government. A lot of governments already have introduced ‘shock therapy’ and unleashed significant stimulus measures:
Hong Kong – giving away cash to population – equivalent NZ$2,120.
China – infrastructure projects and subsidising business to pay workers.
Japan – trillions of Yen to subsidising workers. Small firms get 0% interest on loans.
Italy – fiscal expansion and a debt moratorium including mortgages
Just completed the Keynes 45˚ line (still in the CIE A2 syllabus) with my A2 class and find this graph useful to explain it. A popular multi-choice question and usually in one part of an essay. Make sure that you are aware of the following;
1. C and S are NOT parallel
2. The income level at which Y=C is NOT the equilibrium level of Y which occurs where AMD crosses the 45˚ line. To Remember:
1. OA is autonomous consumption.
2. Any consumption up to C=Y must be financed.
3. At OX1 all income is spent
4. At OB consumption = BQ and saving= PQ
5. Equilibrium level of Y shown in 2 ways
a) where AMD crosses 45˚ line
b) Planned S = Planned I – point D
Remember the following equilibriums:
2 sector – S=I
With Govt – S+T = I+G
With Govt and Trade – S+T+M = I+G+X
Below is a link to a very good interview with Corin Dann and Don Brash this morning on National Radio’s ‘Morning Report’. Former Reserve Bank Governor Don Brash says that the major Central Banks need to act together and reduce interest rates to offset the impact of Covid-19. The Central Banks he refers to are: US Fed, Bank of England, Bank of Japan and the European Central Bank. Good discussion of the impact of the NZ dollar on trade and the fact that just the past month in New Zealand, the virus may have cost as much as $300 million in lost exports to China. Worth a listen
It is unavoidable that recessions are part of the economic environment that we live in. In tackling the impact of recessions it has become apparent that one cannot solely rely on expansionary monetary policy of the central bank. Economic conditions have changed, as if an economy was to fall into recession in this low interest environment monetary policy options are far more limited than they were post the GFC. Add to this a higher debt level and you put further pressure on the banking system. A publication this year entitled “Recession Ready – Fiscal policies to stabilise the American economy.” (Published by the Hamilton Group – Washington Center for Equitable Growth) suggests that governments should assist in ensuring that the recovery phase is much quicker than it has been by ensuring confidence amongst businesses and households so they resume investing and spending again. They focus on antirecession programmes known as “automatic stabilisers.”
Automatic stabilisers are the automatic increases in revenues and decreases in expenditure in the government budget that occur when the economy strengthens, and the opposite changes that occur when the economy weakens.
Increase in GDP growth = the government will receive more tax revenues – people earn more and so pay more income tax. As it is assumed that unemployment decreases the amount of money spent on unemployment benefit decreases.
Reduction in GDP growth = lower incomes – people pay less tax. As unemployment increases the government spends more on unemployment benefits. This increase in benefit spending and lower tax collection helps to limit the fall in aggregate demand.
One of the chapters written by Claudia Sahm proposes a direct payment to individuals that would automatically be paid out early in a recession and then continue annually when the recession is severe. During a recession consumer spending (C) declines sharply – see graph – and as it makes up above 70% of most countries aggregate demand – C+I+G+(X-M) – this can lead to employment losses and reduced output. Consumers therefore are integral to boosting aggregate demand and direct stimulus payments to individuals should become part of the system of automatic stabilisers as additional income translates quickly into additional spending.
Trigger to start automatic stimulus payments.
The idea behind this is for direct payments to individuals after a 0.5% in the quarterly unemployment rate. If you look at each recession since 1970 the stimulus trigger of an increase in 0.5% unemployment meant that payments would have been triggered within three months of the start of the past six recessions (USA). But there are some concerns with using unemployment data:
Unemployment rate tends to lag the business cycle as unemployment tends to peak after the recession ahas ended.
The rise in unemployment doesn’t necessarily mean you are in recession – two consecutive quarters of negative GDP.
Lump sum v Tax cuts
There is an argument that a one-off lump sum payment is much effective in boosting spending than changes in income tax which would be spread fiscal stimulus throughout the year. Even if the Marginal Propensity to Consume (MPC) was the same for both lump sum and tax cuts it would not be until early in the next year that the full spending occurred under the tax cut option. The delay in spending from lump sum payments would be three months thus the overall stimulus boost would be both larger and more rapid – see graph below.
Final thought Direct stimulus payments would quickly deliver extra income to millions of households at the start of a recession and maintain income support until the recession has subsided. This should generate more aggregate demand and thereby reducing the impact of the recessionary phase.
Source: “Recession Ready – Fiscal policies to stabilise the American economy.” (Published by the Hamilton Group – Washington Center for Equitable Growth)
The AS multiple-choice paper is coming up and here is this graphic to explain indirect taxes – a popular question. An indirect tax will have the following effects on the market:
• The supply curve shifts vertically upwards(effectively a shift to the left) by the amount of the tax(gf) per unit. The price increases but not by the full amount of the tax. This is because of the slopes of the demand and supply curves. • The consumer surplus is reduced from acp to agb. The portion gbhp of the old consumer surplus is transferred to government in the form of tax. • The producer surplus is reduced from pce to fde. The portion phdf of the old producer surplus is transferred to the government in the form of tax. • The market is no longer able to reach equilibrium, and there is a loss of allocative efficiency resulting in the deadweight lost shown by the area bcd. This represents a loss of both consumer surplus bhc and the producer surplus hcd that is removed from the market. The deadweight loss also represents a loss of welfare to an individual or group where that loss is not offset by a welfare gain to some other individual or group.
In explaining the differences between internal and external balances I
came across an old textbook that I used at University – Economics by
David Begg. It was described as ‘The Student’s Bible” by BBC Radio 4 and
I certainly do refer back to it quite regularly. Part 4 on
macroeconomics has an informative diagram that shows the impact of booms
and recessions on the internal and external balances.
Internal Balance – when Aggregate Demand equals
Aggregate Supply (potential output). And there is full employment in the
labour market. With sluggish wage and price adjustment, lower AD causes
a recession. Only when AD returns to potential output is internal
External Balance – this refers to the Current
Account balance. The country is neither underspending nor overspending
its foreign income. For a floating exchange rate, the total balance of
payments is always zero. Since the balance of payments is the sum of the
current, capital, and financial accounts, saying the current account is
in balance then also implies that the sum of the capital and financial
accounts are in balance.
the diagram right the point of internal and external balance is the
intersection of the two axes, with neither boom nor slump, and with
neither a current account surplus nor a deficit.
The top left-hand quadrant shows a combination of a
domestic slump and a current account surplus. This can be caused by a
rise in desired savings or by an adoption of a tight fiscal policy and
monetary policy. These reduce AD which cause both a domestic slump and a
reduction in imports.
The bottom left-hand corner shows a higher real
exchange rate, which makes exports less competitive, reduces export
demand and raises import demand. The fall in net exports induces both a
current account deficit and lower AD, leading to a domestic slump.
In a downturn a more expansionary fiscal and monetary policy can
hasten the return to full employment eg. Quantitative easing, tax cuts,
lower interest rates. However one could say that today it doesn’t seem
to be that effective.
With the exam season just about to start in New Zealand I thought it appropriate to do some revision blog posts. In the CIE A2 paper there is always a macro policy question and it usually focuses on the conflicts between the different objectives. Below is a mindmap on fiscal policy that might be useful. Fiscal Policy involves the use of Government Spending and Taxation in order to influence the level of economic activity. The Government receives money through Taxation (T) and spends money through Government spending (G).