Bernanke o helikopterskem denarju: ekstremno verjetno, da bi bil učinkovit

V zadnjem postu v trilogiji o možnostih monetarne politike, da spodbudi rast, nekdanji predsednik Fed Ben Bernanke diskutira teoretične možnosti za uvedbo helikopterskega denarja in možnosti za njegovo učinkovitost. Bernanke je – seveda – naklonjen helikopterskemu denarju. Konec koncev je ta koncept, da bi se izognili najhujšemu zlu – deflaciji, leta 1969 predlagal njegov vzornik Milton Friedman, sam Bernanke pa ga je že leta 2002 kot teoretično možnost predlagal Japonski.

Helikopterski denar (HD) seveda ni noben bav bav, pač pa gre zgolj za monetarno financirano ekspanzivno fiskalno politiko (znižanje davkov ali povečanje javnih investicij), kjer centralna banka odkupi novoizdane obveznice države (za financiranje proračunskega deficita), ki pa jih obdrži za vedno in država nanje ne plačuje obresti. Gre za povečanje deficita, ki se (tako kot QE) ustvarja iz nič. Lepota politike HD je v tem, da ne povečuje ne sedanjega ne prihodnjega javnega dolga in tudi ne tekočega proračunskega deficita.

Edini problem HD je institucionalne narave: kako skomunicirati politični kasti v ZDA oziroma spremeniti zakonodajo v Evropi, da sta monetarna in fiskalna politika dejansko dve plati iste politike in da morata biti ne neodvisni, ampak koordinirani, kar sta skozi zgodovino vedno bili. Centralne banke so bile vedno zgolj en oddelek ministrstva za finance, le zadnjih 20 let se delajo (oziroma so jih zakonsko naredili) formalno neodvisne.

Huh, si predstavljate nemške monetarne in fiskalne jastrebe ob ponovni “združitvi” monetarne in fiskalne politike? Inflacija!!!! Hja, prav temu – spodbuditvi inflacije – je politika HD namenjena.

No, Bernanke razpravlja o učinkovitosti HD in seveda ugotovi v štirih točkah, da bi HD lahko uspešno zagnal javno in zasebno porabo, investicije in inflacijo. Bernanke tudi učinkovito pobije “argumente”, da bi politika HD lahko ogrozila neodvisnost centralnih bank oziroma da bi politiki lahko zlorabili politiko HD za financiranje deficitov tudi v normalnih, “mirnodobnih” časih. Ne, če bi imele centralne banke poseben račun za HD, ki bi bil običajno prazen, v depresivnih časih pa bi ga napolnile. Parlament bi določil, za katere namene se sredstva na računu lahko uporabijo (za zmanjšanje davkov ali javne investicije), centralna banka pa, kdaj ga uporabiti.

Nekaj poudarkov iz Bernankejevega posta:

Money-financed fiscal programs (MFFPs), known colloquially as helicopter drops, are very unlikely to be needed in the United States in the foreseeable future. They also present a number of practical challenges of implementation, including integrating them into operational monetary frameworks and assuring appropriate governance and coordination between the legislature and the central bank. However, under certain extreme circumstances—sharply deficient aggregate demand, exhausted monetary policy, and unwillingness of the legislature to use debt-financed fiscal policies—such programs may be the best available alternative. It would be premature to rule them out.

From a theoretical perspective, the appealing aspect of an MFFP (monetary finance fiscal policy) is that it should influence the economy through a number of channels, making it extremely likely to be effective—even if existing government debt is already high and/or interest rates are zero or negative. In our example the channels would include:

  1. the direct effects of the public works spending on GDP, jobs, and income; 
  2. the increase in household income from the rebate, which should induce greater consumer spending;
  3. a temporary increase in expected inflation, the result of the increase in the money supply. Assuming that nominal interest rates are pinned near zero, higher expected inflation implies lower real interest rates, which in turn should incentivize capital investments and other spending; and
  4. the fact that, unlike debt-financed fiscal programs, a money-financed program does not increase future tax burdens. [6]

Standard (debt-financed) fiscal programs also work through channels #1 and #2 above. However, when a spending increase or tax cut is paid for by debt issuance, as in the standard case, future debt service costs and thus future tax burdens rise. To the extent that households today anticipate that increase in taxes—or if they simply become more cautious when they hear that the national debt has increased—they will spend less today, offsetting some of the program’s expansionary effect.[7] In contrast, a fiscal expansion financed by money creation does not increase the government debt or households’ future tax payments and so should provide a greater impetus to household spending, all else equal (channel #4 above). Moreover, the increase in the money supply associated with the MFFP should lead to higher expected inflation (channel #3)—a desirable outcome, in this context—than would be the case with debt-financed fiscal policies.

Could the central bank implement an MFFP on its own? Some have suggested an alternative approach in which the central bank prints money and gives it away—so-called “people’s QE.” From a purely economic perspective, people’s QE would indeed be equivalent to a money-financed tax cut (Friedman’s original helicopter drop, although perhaps more targeted). The problem with this policy, which would certainly be illegal in most or all jurisdictions, is not its economic logic but its political legitimacy: The distribution of what are effectively tax rebates should be subject to legislative approval, not determined unilaterally by the central bank. I’ll return to the issue of MFFP governance in a moment.

The most difficult practical issues surrounding MFFPs involve their governance—who decides, and how? Unlike orthodox fiscal and monetary policies, MFFPs would seem to require close coordination of the legislature and the central bank, which may be difficult to manage in practice. [10] To the extent that that coordination is successful, some worry, it might put at risk the longer-term independence of the central bank. Another concern is that the option of using money finance might be a “slippery slope” for legislators, who might be tempted to use it to facilitate spending or tax cuts when such actions no longer make macroeconomic sense.

The governance concerns, as proponents like Adair Turner have emphasized, are perhaps the most important reason that MFFPs should not be a first-resort, or even second-resort, policy. But no one is recommending the use of such policies in ordinary times; it’s precisely in the most difficult or extreme circumstances, in which other monetary and fiscal tools might be unavailable or ineffective, that MFFPs might be considered. On the principle that roofs should be patched before the rain comes, discussion of the governance of MFFPs seems well warranted.

So, how could the legislature and the central bank play their appropriate roles in managing a joint monetary-fiscal operation, without endangering central bank independence or falling down a slippery slope of unconstrained monetary finance of fiscal spending or tax cuts? A possible arrangement, set up in advance, might work as follows: Ask Congress to create, by statute, a special Treasury account at the Fed, and to give the Fed (specifically, the Federal Open Market Committee) the sole authority to “fill” the account, perhaps up to some prespecified limit. At almost all times, the account would be empty; the Fed would use its authority to add funds to the account only when the FOMC assessed that an MFFP of specified size was needed to achieve the Fed’s employment and inflation goals. [11] Should the Fed act, under this proposal, the next step would be for the Congress and the Administration—through the usual, but possibly expedited, legislative process—to determine how to spend the funds (for example, on a tax rebate or on public works). Importantly, the Congress and Administration would have the option to leave the funds unspent. If the funds were not used within a specified time, the Fed would be empowered to withdraw them.

This arrangement would effectively leave to the Fed the responsibility of conducting the technical analysis of whether an MFFP is needed to achieve the Fed’s mandated goals, and of determining the corresponding amount of money to be created. Those conditions would help preserve the Fed’s policy independence and limit the ability of Congress to use monetary financing opportunistically.

Vir: Ben Bernanke


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