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Rational Expectations and Inflation$
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Thomas J. Sargent

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780691158709

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691158709.001.0001

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Interpreting the Reagan Deficits

Interpreting the Reagan Deficits

(p.197) 6 Interpreting the Reagan Deficits
Rational Expectations and Inflation

Thomas J. Sargent

Princeton University Press

This chapter examines the large net-of-interest deficits in the U.S. federal budget that have marked the administration of Ronald Reagan. It explains the fiscal and monetary actions observed during the Reagan administration as reflecting the optimal decisions of government policymakers. The discussion is based on an equation whose validity is granted by all competing theories of macroeconomics: the intertemporal government budget constraint. The chapter first considers the government budget balance and the optimal tax smoothing model of Robert Barro before analyzing monetary and fiscal policy during the Reagan years: a string of large annual net-of-interest government deficits accompanied by a monetary policy stance that has been tight, especially before February 1985, and even more so before August 1982. Indicators of tight monetary policy are high real interest rates on government debt and pretax yields that exceed the rate of economic growth.

Keywords:   fiscal policy, Ronald Reagan, macroeconomics, intertemporal government budget, government budget, tax smoothing, government deficit, monetary policy, real interest rates, government debt

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