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"What It Takes To Solve the U.S. Government Deficit Problem," Contemporary Economic Policy, 2012.

Paper: pdf file

This paper uses a structural multi-country macroeconometric model to estimate the size of the decrease in transfer payments (or tax expenditures) needed to stabilize the U.S. government debt/GDP ratio. It takes into account endogenous effects of changes in fiscal policy on the economy and in turn the effect of changes in the economy on the deficit. A base run is first obtained for the 2013:1--2022:4 period in which there are no major changes in U.S. fiscal policy. This results in an ever increasing debt/GDP ratio. Then transfer payments are decreased by an amount sufficient to stabilize the long-run debt/GDP ratio. The results show that transfer payments need to be decreased by 2 percent of GDP from the base run, which over the ten years is $3.2 trillion in 2005 dollars and $4.8 trillion in current dollars. The output loss is 1.1 percent of baseline GDP. Monetary policy helps keep the loss down, but it is not powerful enough in the model to eliminate all of the loss. The estimates are robust to a base run with less inflation and to one with less expansion.