Friday, July 1, 2011

Orzag for State-Contingent Stimulus

In a column for Bloomberg, former CBO chief and White House budget director Peter Orszag writes:
...[P]olicy makers should provide additional macroeconomic support in 2012 by extending the existing payroll tax holiday. But more than that, Congress should link the payroll tax to the unemployment rate. This would allow the tax holiday to automatically calibrate itself to existing conditions, providing support only when the economy is weak. If necessary, the underlying payroll tax rate could be raised to make this mechanism budget-neutral. 
As I said back in April, one of the main lessons I've drawn from recent experience is that the recovery act would have been much better if the support for the economy had been made state-contingent like this.  This is a way of overcoming two problems: (i) uncertainty about the speed of recovery (or lack thereof) and (ii) the political system's utter inability to deal with timing issues (nicely explained in Orszag's piece), as evidenced by the absurdity that it appears that we are heading for significant fiscal tightening even as nearly 14 million people remain unemployed.

No comments: