O gráfico de Jason Furman acerca da descida das taxas de juro é importante (ver post anterior), mas é só uma pequeníssima parte de uma excelente apresentação que está disponível no site da Casa Branca.
A apresentação é muito simples e resume, em menos de 15 páginas, praticamente todas as novidades que foram sendo descobertas ao longo dos últimos cinco ou seis anos no domínio da política orçamental. A conclusão do autor, com que eu concordo de alma e coração (sigam a tag correspondente e percebem porquê), é que aprendemos muita, muita coisa. E que em muitos domínios as conclusões a que se chegou divergem de forma substancial daquilo que se tomava como quase certo há uns 15 anos.
Qual é o impacto da política orçamental no crescimento a curto prazo? Em que circunstâncias pode um investimento pagar-se a si mesmo? Em que medida é que a estabilização macroeconómica pode ficar nas mãos do Banco Central, sem apoio do Tesouro? Quanta dívida pública consegue um país suportar antes de começarem a acontecer coisas feias? Para muitas destas questões a resposta informada, hoje em dia, é diferente da que prevalecia antes da crise. Para ler o resumo basta puxar pela aba de baixo.
A decade ago, the prevalent view about fiscal policy among academic economists could be summarized in four admittedly stylized principles:
1. Discretionary fiscal policy is dominated by monetary policy as a stabilization tool because of lags in the application, impact, and removal of discretionary fiscal stimulus.
2. Even if policymakers get the timing right, discretionary fiscal stimulus would be somewhere between completely ineffective (the Ricardian view) or somewhat ineffective with bad side effects (higher interest rates and crowding-out of private investment).
3. Moreover, fiscal stabilization needs to be undertaken with trepidation, if at all, because the biggest fiscal policy priority should be the long-run fiscal balance.
4. Policymakers foolish enough to ignore (1) through (3) should at least make sure that any fiscal stimulus is very short-run, including pulling demand forward, to support the economy before monetary policy stimulus fully kicks in while minimizing harmful side effects and long-run fiscal harm.
Today, the tide of expert opinion is shifting the other way from this “Old View,” to almost the opposite view on all four points. This shift is partly the result of the prolonged aftermath of the global financial crisis and the increased realization that equilibrium interest rates have been declining for decades. It is also partly due to a better understanding of economic policy from the experience of the last eight years, including new empirical research on the impact of fiscal policy as well as observations of the reaction of sovereign debt markets to the large increases in debt as a share of GDP in the wake of the global financial crisis. In the first part of my remarks, I will discuss the theory and evidence underlying this “New View” of fiscal policy (with, admittedly, the core of this theory being an “Old Old View” that dates back to John Maynard Keynes and the liquidity trap).
Of course, what I describe as the Old View was not a consensus position among all academic economists (see, for one example, Blinder 2004). Moreover, those working in policy often took the opposite tack. While many academics and textbooks were often skeptical about discretionary fiscal stimulus, policymakers in the United States couched policy proposals intended to combat at least the last three recessions in terms of stimulus. Moreover, what I will describe as the New View of fiscal policy does not constitute a consensus, either. Although the New View is increasingly found in research by academics, policy-oriented economists, and international institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and is embodied both in statements by these institutions and in communiqués by the G-20, many policymakers still shy away from implementing it in practice.
This disconnect between the New View and its application in practice is the second topic of my remarks today. One reason for the disconnect is that some policymakers still have not accepted the substantive theory and evidence behind the New View. But the disconnect is partly institutional in origin. In the United States, the primary institutional issue is relatively weak automatic stabilizers. In the case of the Europe, the institutional issues run deeper. Most notable among them is the fact that macroeconomic institutions have been built in accord with the Old View, with an entity for monetary policy at the euro area level, but with no corresponding entity for fiscal policy.