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NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

NBER Working Papers by David Greenlaw

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Working Papers

August 2013Crunch Time: Fiscal Crises and the Role of Monetary Policy
with James D. Hamilton, Peter Hooper, Frederic S. Mishkin: w19297
Countries with high debt loads are vulnerable to an adverse feedback loop in which doubts by lenders lead to higher sovereign interest rates which in turn make the debt problems more severe. We analyze the recent experience of advanced economies using both econometric methods and case studies and conclude that countries with debt above 80% of GDP and persistent current-account deficits are vulnerable to a rapid fiscal deterioration as a result of these tipping-point dynamics. Such feedback is left out of current long-term U.S. budget projections and could make it much more difficult for the U.S. to maintain a sustainable budget course. A potential fiscal crunch also puts fundamental limits on what monetary policy is able to achieve. In simulations of the Federal Reserve's balance sheet...

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