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Fiscal Policy

In economics, fiscal policy is the use of government expenditure and revenue collection to influence the economy.[1] Fiscal policy can be contrasted with the other main type of macroeconomic policy, monetary policy, which attempts to stabilize the economy by controlling interest rates and the supply of money. The two main instruments of fiscal policy are government expenditure and taxation. Changes in the level and composition of taxation and government spending can impact on the following variables in the economy:

Aggregate demand and the level of economic activity; The pattern of resource allocation; The distribution of income.

Stances of fiscal policy


The three possible stances of fiscal policy are neutral, expansionary and contractionary. The simplest definitions of these stances are as follows:

A neutral stance of fiscal policy implies a balanced economy. this results in a large tax revenue. Government spending is fully funded by tax revenue and overall the budget outcome has a neutral effect on the level of economic activity. An expansionary stance of fiscal policy involves government spending exceeding tax revenue. A contractionary fiscal policy occurs when government spending is lower than tax revenue.

However, these definitions can be misleading because, even with no changes in spending or tax laws at all, cyclical fluctuations of the economy cause cyclical fluctuations of tax revenues and of some types of government spending, altering the deficit situation; these are not considered to be policy changes. Therefore, for purposes of the above definitions, "government spending" and "tax revenue" are normally replaced by "cyclically adjusted government spending" and "cyclically adjusted tax revenue". Thus, for example, a government budget that is balanced over the course of the business cycle is considered to represent a neutral fiscal policy stance.

[edit] Methods of funding

Governments spend money on a wide variety of things, from the military and police to services like education and healthcare, as well as transfer payments such as welfare benefits. This expenditure can be funded in a number of different ways:

Taxation Seigniorage, the benefit from printing money Borrowing money from the population or from abroad Consumption of fiscal reserves. Sale of fixed assets (e.g., land).

All of these except taxation are forms of deficit financing.

[edit] Borrowing
A fiscal deficit is often funded by issuing bonds, like treasury bills or consols and gilt-edged securities. These pay interest, either for a fixed period or indefinitely. If the interest and capital repayments are too large, a nation may default on its debts, usually to foreign creditors.

[edit] Consuming prior surpluses


A fiscal surplus is often saved for future use, and may be invested in local (same currency) financial instruments, until needed. When income from taxation or other sources falls, as during an economic slump, reserves allow spending to continue at the same rate, without incurring additional debt.

[edit] Economic effects of fiscal policy


Governments use fiscal policy to influence the level of aggregate demand in the economy, in an effort to achieve economic objectives of price stability, full employment, and economic growth. Keynesian economics suggests that increasing government spending and decreasing tax rates are the best ways to stimulate aggregate demand. This can be used in times of recession or low economic activity as an essential tool for building the framework for strong economic growth and working towards full employment. In theory, the resulting deficits would be paid for by an expanded economy during the boom that would follow; this was the reasoning behind the New Deal. Governments can use a budget surplus to do two things: to slow the pace of strong economic growth, and to stabilize prices when inflation is too high. Keynesian theory posits that removing spending from the economy will reduce levels of aggregate demand and contract the economy, thus stabilizing prices. Some classical and neoclassical economists argue that fiscal policy can have no stimulus effect; this is known as the Treasury View[citation needed], which Keynesian economics rejects. The Treasury View refers to the theoretical positions of classical economists in the British Treasury, who opposed Keynes' call in the 1930s for fiscal stimulus. The same general argument has been repeated by neoclassical economists up to the present. From their point of view, when the

government runs a budget deficit, funds will need to come from public borrowing (the issue of government bonds), overseas borrowing, or the printing of new money. When governments fund a deficit with the issuing of government bonds, interest rates can increase across the market, because government borrowing creates higher demand for credit in the financial markets. This causes a lower aggregate demand for goods and services, contrary to the objective of a budget deficit. This concept is called crowding out. In the classical view, expansionary fiscal policy also decreases net exports, which has a mitigating effect on national output and income. When government borrowing increases interest rates it attracts foreign capital from foreign investors. This is because, all other things being equal, the bonds issued from a country executing expansionary fiscal policy now offer a higher rate of return. In other words, companies wanting to finance projects must compete with their government for capital so they offer higher rates of return. To purchase bonds originating from a certain country, foreign investors must obtain that country's currency. Therefore, when foreign capital flows into the country undergoing fiscal expansion, demand for that country's currency increases. The increased demand causes that country's currency to appreciate. Once the currency appreciates, goods originating from that country now cost more to foreigners than they did before and foreign goods now cost less than they did before. Consequently, exports decrease and imports increase.[2] Other possible problems with fiscal stimulus include the time lag between the implementation of the policy and detectable effects in the economy, and inflationary effects driven by increased demand. In theory, fiscal stimulus does not cause inflation when it uses resources that would have otherwise been idle. For instance, if a fiscal stimulus employs a worker who otherwise would have been unemployed, there is no inflationary effect; however, if the stimulus employs a worker who otherwise would have had a job, the stimulus is increasing labor demand while labor supply remains fixed, leading to wage inflation and therefore price inflation.

[edit] Fiscal Straitjacket


The concept of a fiscal straightjacket is a general economic principle that suggests strict constraints on government spending and public sector borrowing, to limit or regulate the budget deficit over a time period. The term probably originated from the definition of straitjacket: anything that severely confines, constricts, or hinders.[3] Various states in the United States have various forms of self-imposed fiscal straightjackets.

Montary Policy
Monetary policy is the process by which the monetary authority of a country controls the supply of money, often targeting a rate of interest. Monetary policy is usually used to attain a set of objectives oriented towards the growth and stability of the economy.[1] These goals usually include stable prices and low unemployment. Monetary theory provides insight into how to craft optimal monetary policy. Monetary policy rests on the relationship between the rates of interest

in an economy, that is the price at which money can be borrowed, and the total supply of money. Monetary policy uses a variety of tools to control one or both of these, to influence outcomes like economic growth, inflation, exchange rates with other currencies and unemployment. Where currency is under a monopoly of issuance, or where there is a regulated system of issuing currency through banks which are tied to a central bank, the monetary authority has the ability to alter the money supply and thus influence the interest rate (to achieve policy goals). The beginning of monetary policy as such comes from the late 19th century, where it was used to maintain the gold standard. The primary tool of monetary policy is open market operations. This entails managing the quantity of money in circulation through the buying and selling of various financial instruments, such as treasury bills, company bonds, or foreign currencies. All of these purchases or sales result in more or less base currency entering or leaving market circulation. Usually, the short term goal of open market operations is to achieve a specific short term interest rate target. In other instances, monetary policy might instead entail the targeting of a specific exchange rate relative to some foreign currency or else relative to gold. For example, in the case of the USA the Federal Reserve targets the federal funds rate, the rate at which member banks lend to one another overnight; however, the monetary policy of China is to target the exchange rate between the Chinese renminbi and a basket of foreign currencies. The other primary means of conducting monetary policy include: (i) Discount window lending (lender of last resort); (ii) Fractional deposit lending (changes in the reserve requirement); (iii) Moral suasion (cajoling certain market players to achieve specified outcomes); (iv) "Open mouth operations" (talking monetary policy with the market).
It is important for policymakers to make credible announcements, and deprecate interest rate targets as they are non-important and irrelevant in regarding to monetary policies. If private agents (consumers and firms) believe that policymakers are committed to lowering inflation, they will anticipate future prices to be lower than otherwise (how those expectations are formed is an entirely different matter; compare for instance rational expectations with adaptive expectations). If an employee expects prices to be high in the future, he or she will draw up a wage contract with a high wage to match these prices. Hence, the expectation of lower wages is reflected in wage-setting behavior between employees and employers (lower wages since prices are expected to be lower) and since wages are in fact lower there is no demand pull inflation because employees are receiving a smaller wage and there is no cost push inflation because employers are paying out less in wages To achieve this low level of inflation, policymakers must have credible announcements; that is, private agents must believe that these announcements will reflect actual future policy. If an announcement about low-level inflation targets is made but not believed by private agents, wage-setting will anticipate high-level inflation and so wages will be higher and inflation will rise. A high wage will increase a consumer's demand (demand pull inflation) and a firm's costs (cost push inflation), so inflation rises. Hence, if a policymaker's announcements regarding monetary policy are not credible, policy will not have the desired effect.

History of monetary policy

Monetary policy is primarily associated with interest rate and credit. For many centuries there were only two forms of monetary policy: (i) Decisions about coinage; (ii) Decisions to print paper money to create credit. Interest rates, while now thought of as part of monetary authority, were not generally coordinated with the other forms of monetary policy during this time. Monetary policy was seen as an executive decision, and was generally in the hands of the authority with seigniorage, or the power to coin. With the advent of larger trading networks came the ability to set the price between gold and silver, and the price of the local currency to foreign currencies. This official price could be enforced by law, even if it varied from the market price
During the 1870-1920 period, the industrialized nations set up central banking systems, with one of the last being the Federal Reserve in 1913.[6] By this point the role of the central bank as the "lender of last resort" was understood. It was also increasingly understood that interest rates had an effect on the entire economy, in no small part because of the marginal revolution in economics, which demonstrated how people would change a decision based on a change in the economic trade-offs. monetary decisions today take into account a wider range of factors, such as:

short term interest rates; long term interest rates; velocity of money through the economy; exchange rates; credit quality; bonds and equities (corporate ownership and debt); government versus private sector spending/savings; international capital flows of money on large scales; financial derivatives such as options, swaps, futures contracts, etc.

Types of monetary policy


In practice, all types of monetary policy involve modifying the amount of base currency (M0) in circulation. This process of changing the liquidity of base currency through the open sales and purchases of (government-issued) debt and credit instruments is called open market operations. Constant market transactions by the monetary authority modify the supply of currency and this impacts other market variables such as short term interest rates and the exchange rate. The distinction between the various types of monetary policy lies primarily with the set of instruments and target variables that are used by the monetary authority to achieve their goals.

Monetary Policy: Inflation Targeting

Target Market Variable: Interest rate on overnight debt

Long Term Objective: A given rate of change in the CPI

Price Level Targeting Monetary Aggregates Fixed Exchange Rate

Interest rate on overnight debt

A specific CPI number

The growth in money supply A given rate of change in the CPI The spot price of the currency The spot price of gold Usually interest rates The spot price of the currency Low inflation as measured by the gold price Usually unemployment + CPI change

Gold Standard Mixed Policy

The different types of policy are also called monetary regimes, in parallel to exchange rate regimes. A fixed exchange rate is also an exchange rate regime; The Gold standard results in a relatively fixed regime towards the currency of other countries on the gold standard and a floating regime towards those that are not. Targeting inflation, the price level or other monetary aggregates implies floating exchange rate unless the management of the relevant foreign currencies is tracking the exact same variables (such as a harmonized consumer price index).

Trends in central banking


The central bank influences interest rates by expanding or contracting the monetary base, which consists of currency in circulation and banks' reserves on deposit at the central bank. The primary way that the central bank can affect the monetary base is by open market operations or sales and purchases of second hand government debt, or by changing the reserve requirements. If the central bank wishes to lower interest rates, it purchases government debt, thereby increasing the amount of cash in circulation or crediting banks' reserve accounts. Alternatively, it can lower the interest rate on discounts or overdrafts (loans to banks secured by suitable collateral, specified by the central bank). If the interest rate on such transactions is sufficiently low, commercial banks can borrow from the central bank to meet reserve requirements and use the additional liquidity to expand their balance sheets, increasing the credit available to the economy. Lowering reserve requirements has a similar effect, freeing up funds for banks to increase loans or buy other profitable assets.
central bank can only operate a truly independent monetary policy when the exchange rate is floating.[12] If the exchange rate is pegged or managed in any way, the central bank will have to purchase or sell foreign exchange. These transactions in foreign exchange will have an effect on the monetary base analogous to open market purchases and sales of government debt; if the central bank buys foreign exchange, the monetary base expands, and vice versa. But even in the case of a pure floating exchange rate, central banks and monetary authorities can at best "lean against the wind" in a world where capital is mobile.

Inflation
In economics, inflation is a rise in the general level of prices of goods and services in an economy over a period of time.[1] When the price level rises, each unit of currency buys fewer goods and services; consequently, inflation is also an erosion in the purchasing power of money a loss of real value in the internal medium of exchange and unit of account in the economy.[2][3] A chief measure of price inflation is the inflation rate, the annualized percentage change in a general price index (normally the Consumer Price Index) over time.[4]

Inflation's effects on an economy are manifold and can be simultaneously positive and negative. Negative effects of inflation include a decrease in the real value of money and other monetary items over time; uncertainty about future inflation may discourage investment and saving, or may lead to reductions in investment of productive capital and increase savings in non-producing assets. e.g. selling stocks and buying gold. This can reduce overall economic productivity rates, as the capital required to retool companies becomes more elusive or expensive. High inflation may lead to shortages of goods if consumers begin hoarding out of concern that prices will increase in the future. Positive effects include a mitigation of economic recessions,[5] and debt relief by reducing the real level of debt. High rates of inflation and hyperinflation can be caused by an excessive growth of the money supply.[6] Views on which factors determine low to moderate rates of inflation are more varied. Low or moderate inflation may be attributed to fluctuations in real demand for goods and services, or changes in available supplies such as during scarcities, as well as to growth in the money supply. However, the consensus view is that a long sustained period of inflation is caused by money supply growing faster than the rate of economic growth.[7][8] Today, most mainstream economists favor a low steady rate of inflation.[5] Low (as opposed to zero or negative) inflation may reduce the severity of economic recessions by enabling the labor market to adjust more quickly in a downturn, and reduce the risk that a liquidity trap prevents monetary policy from stabilizing the economy.[9] The task of keeping the rate of inflation low and stable is usually given to monetary authorities. Generally, these monetary authorities are the central banks that control the size of the money supply through the setting of interest rates, through open market operations, and through the setting of banking reserve requirements.[10]
historty The term "inflation" originally referred to increases in the amount of money in circulation. Today, the term monetary inflation is generally used to distinguish such an occurrence from a general rise in prices, sometimes called price inflation.[11] The occurrence of an increase of the quantity of money and the overall money supply (or debasement of the means of exchange) has occurred in many different societies throughout history, changing with different forms of money used.[12][13]

By the nineteenth century, economists categorized three separate factors that cause a rise or fall in the price of goods: a change in the value or resource costs of the good, a change in the price of money which then was usually a fluctuation in the commodity price of the metallic content in the currency, and currency depreciation resulting from an increased supply of currency relative to the quantity of redeemable metal backing the currency. Following the proliferation of private bank note currency printed during the American Civil War, the term "inflation" started to appear as a direct reference to the currency depreciation that occurred as the quantity of redeemable bank notes outstripped the quantity of metal available for their redemption. The term inflation then referred to the devaluation of the currency, and not to a rise in the price of goods.[21] This relationship between the over-supply of bank notes and a resulting depreciation in their value was noted by earlier classical economists such as David Hume and David Ricardo, who would go on to examine and debate to what effect a currency devaluation (later termed monetary inflation) has on the price of goods (later termed price inflation, and eventually just inflation
Measures

Inflation is usually estimated by calculating the inflation rate of a price index, usually the Consumer Price Index.[24] The Consumer Price Index measures prices of a selection of goods and services purchased by a "typical consumer".[25] The inflation rate is the percentage rate of change of a price index over time. For instance, in January 2007, the U.S. Consumer Price Index was 202.416, and in January 2008 it was 211.080. The formula for calculating the annual percentage rate inflation in the CPI over the course of 2007 is

The resulting inflation rate for the CPI in this one year period is 4.28%, meaning the general level of prices for typical U.S. consumers rose by approximately four percent in 2007.[26] Other widely used price indices for calculating price inflation include the following:
Producer price indices (PPIs) which measures average changes in prices received by domestic producers for their output. Commodity price indices, which measure the price of a selection of commodities. Core price indices: because food and oil prices can change quickly due to changes in supply and demand conditions in the food and oil markets, it can be difficult to detect the long run trend in price levels when those prices are included.

Issues in measuring

Measuring inflation in an economy requires objective means of differentiating changes in nominal prices on a common set of goods and services, and distinguishing them from those price shifts resulting from changes in value such as volume, quality, or performance. For example, if the price of a 10 oz. can of corn changes from $0.90 to $1.00 over the course of a year, with no change in quality, then this price difference represents inflation. This single price change would not, however, represent general inflation in an overall economy. To measure overall inflation, the price change of a large "basket" of representative goods and services is measured
Inflation measures are often modified over time, either for the relative weight of goods in the basket, or in the way in which goods and services from the present are compared with goods and services from the past. Effects

General
An increase in the general level of prices implies a decrease in the purchasing power of the currency. That is, when the general level of prices rises, each monetary unit buys fewer goods and services.[28] The effect of inflation is not distributed evenly in the economy, and as a consequence there are hidden costs to some and benefits to others from this decrease in the purchasing power of money.

Negative
High or unpredictable inflation rates are regarded as harmful to an overall economy. They add inefficiencies in the market, and make it difficult for companies to budget or plan long-term. Inflation can act as a drag on productivity as companies are forced to shift resources away from products and services in order to focus on profit and losses from currency inflation.[10] Uncertainty about the future purchasing power of money discourages investment and saving.[30] And inflation can impose hidden tax increases, as inflated earnings push taxpayers into higher income tax rates unless the tax brackets are indexed to inflation.

Positive
Labor-market adjustments Keynesians believe that nominal wages are slow to adjust downwards. This can lead to prolonged disequilibrium and high unemployment in the labor market. Since inflation would lower the real wage if nominal wages are kept constant, Keynesians argue that some inflation is good for the economy, as it would allow labor markets to reach equilibrium faster.

Causes

The Bank of England, central bank of the United Kingdom, monitors causes and attempts to control inflation.
Historically, a great deal of economic literature was concerned with the question of what causes inflation and what effect it has. There were different schools of thought as to the causes of inflation. Most can be divided into two broad areas: quality theories of inflation and quantity theories of inflation. The quality theory of inflation rests on the expectation of a seller accepting currency to be able to exchange that currency at a later time for goods that are desirable as a buyer. The quantity theory of inflation rests on the quantity equation of money, that relates the money supply, its velocity, and the nominal value of exchanges. Adam Smith and David Hume proposed a quantity theory of inflation for money, and a quality theory of inflation for production.[citation needed] Currently, the quantity theory of money is widely accepted as an accurate model of inflation in the long run. Consequently, there is now broad agreement among economists that in the long run, the inflation rate is essentially dependent on the growth rate of money supply. However, in the short and medium term inflation may be affected by supply and demand pressures in the economy, and influenced by the relative elasticity of wages, prices and interest rates.