Fiscal Policy

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Understanding Fiscal PolicyWhat is fiscal policy and how does it affect the economy? How is the federal budget related to fiscal policy? How do expansionary and contractionary fiscal policies affect the economy? What are the limits of fiscal policy?

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What Is Fiscal Policy?The tremendous flow of cash into and out of the economy due to government spending and taxing has a large impact on the economy. Fiscal policy decisions, such as how much to spend and how much to tax, are among the most important decisions the federal government makes.Fiscal policy is the federal government’s use of taxing and spending to keep the economy stable.

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Fiscal Policy and the Federal BudgetThe federal budget is a written document indicating the amount of money the government expects to receive for a certain year and authorizing the amount the government can spend that year.The federal government prepares a new budget for each fiscal year. A fiscal year is a twelve-month period that is not necessarily the same as the January – December calendar year.

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The Budget ProcessCongress and the White House work together to develop a federal budget.

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Fiscal Policy and the EconomyExpansionary Policies Fiscal policies that try to increase output are known as expansionary policies.Contractionary Policies Fiscal policies intended to decrease output are called contractionary policies.The total level of government spending can be changed to help increase or decrease the output of the economy.

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Expansionary Fiscal PoliciesIncreasing Government Spending If the federal government increases its spending or buys more goods and services, it triggers a chain of events that raise output and creates jobs. Cutting Taxes When the government cuts taxes, consumers and businesses have more money to spend or invest. This increases demand and output.

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Contractionary Fiscal PoliciesDecreasing Government Spending If the federal government spends less, or buys fewer goods and services, it triggers a chain of events that may lead to slower GDP growth. Raising Taxes If the federal government increases taxes, consumers and businesses have fewer dollars to spend or save. This also slows growth of GDP.

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Limits of Fiscal PolicyDifficulty of Changing Spending Levels In general, significant changes in federal spending must come from the small part of the federal budget that includes discretionary spending. Predicting the Future Understanding the current state of the economy and predicting future economic performance is very difficult, and economists often disagree. This lack of agreement makes it difficult for lawmakers to know when or if to enact changes in fiscal policy. Delayed Results Even when fiscal policy changes are enacted, it takes time for the changes to take effect. Political Pressures Pressures from the voters can hinder fiscal policy decisions, such as decisions to cut spending or raising taxes.

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Coordinating Fiscal PolicyFor fiscal policies to be effective, various branches and levels of government must plan and work together, which is sometimes difficult. Federal policies need to take into account regional and state economic differences. Federal fiscal policy also needs to be coordinated with the monetary policies of the Federal Reserve.

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Section 1 Assessment1. Fiscal policy is (a) the federal government’s use of taxing and spending to keep the economy stable. (b) the federal government’s use of taxing and spending to make the economy unstable. (c) a plan by the government to spend its revenues. (d) a check by Congress over the President. 2. Two types of expansionary policies are (a) raising taxes and increasing government spending. (b) raising taxes and decreasing government spending. (c) cutting taxes and decreasing government spending. (d) cutting taxes and increasing government spending.Want to connect to the PHSchool.com link for this section? Click Here!

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Section 1 Assessment1. Fiscal policy is (a) the federal government’s use of taxing and spending to keep the economy stable. (b) the federal government’s use of taxing and spending to make the economy unstable. (c) a plan by the government to spend its revenues. (d) a check by Congress over the President. 2. Two types of expansionary policies are (a) raising taxes and increasing government spending. (b) raising taxes and decreasing government spending. (c) cutting taxes and decreasing government spending. (d) cutting taxes and increasing government spending.Want to connect to the PHSchool.com link for this section? Click Here!

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Fiscal Policy OptionsWhat are classical, Keynesian, and supply-side economics? What is the multiplier effect? What role do automatic stabilizers play? What role has fiscal policy played in American history?

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Classical EconomicsThe idea that markets regulate themselves is at the heart of a school of thought known as classical economics. Adam Smith, David Ricardo, and Thomas Malthus are all considered classical economists. The Great Depression that began in 1929 challenged the ideas of classical economics.

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Keynesian EconomicsKeynesian economics is the idea that the economy is composed of three sectors — individuals, businesses, and government — and that government actions can make up for changes in the other two. Keynesian economists argue that fiscal policy can be used to fight both recession or depression and inflation. Keynes believed that the government could increase spending during a recession to counteract the decrease in consumer spending.

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The Multiplier EffectFor example, if the federal government increases spending by $10 billion, there will be an initial increase in GDP of $10 billion. The businesses that sold the $10 billion in goods and services to the government will spend part of their earnings, and so on. When all of the rounds of spending are added up, the government spending leads to an increase of $50 billion in GDP. The multiplier effect in fiscal policy is the idea that every dollar change in fiscal policy creates a greater than one dollar change in economic activity.

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Automatic StabilizersA stable economy is one in which there are no rapid changes in economic factors. Certain fiscal policy tools can be used to help ensure a stable economy. An automatic stabilizer is a government tax or spending category that changes automatically in response to changes in GDP or income.

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Supply-Side EconomicsSupply-side economics stresses the influence of taxation on the economy. Supply-siders believe that taxes have a strong, negative influence on output. The Laffer curve shows how both high and low tax revenues can produce the same tax revenues.

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Fiscal Policy in American HistoryThe Great Depression Franklin D. Roosevelt increased government spending on a number of programs with the goal of ending the Depression. World War II Government spending increased dramatically as the country geared up for war. This spending helped lift the country out of the Depression. The 1960s John F. Kennedy’s administration proposed cuts to the personal and business income taxes in an effort to stimulate demand and bring the economy closer to full productive capacity. Government spending also increased because of the Vietnam war. Supply-Side Policies in the 1980s In 1981, Ronald Reagan’s administration helped pass a bill to reduce taxes by 25 percent over three years.

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Section 2 Assessment1. What are the two main economic problems that Keynesian economics seeks to address? (a) business and personal taxes (b) military and other defense spending (c) periods of recession or depression and inflation (d) foreign aid and domestic spending 2. Government taxes or spending categories that change in response to changes in GDP or income are called (a) fiscal policy. (b) automatic stabilizers. (c) income equalizers. (d) expansionary aids.Want to connect to the PHSchool.com link for this section? Click Here!

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Section 2 Assessment1. What are the two main economic problems that Keynesian economics seeks to address? (a) business and personal taxes (b) military and other defense spending (c) periods of recession or depression and inflation (d) foreign aid and domestic spending 2. Government taxes or spending categories that change in response to changes in GDP or income are called (a) fiscal policy. (b) automatic stabilizers. (c) income equalizers. (d) expansionary aids.Want to connect to the PHSchool.com link for this section? Click Here!

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Budget Deficits and the National DebtWhat are budget surpluses and budget deficits? How does the government respond to budget deficits? What are the effects of the national debt? How can government reduce budget deficits and the national debt?

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Balancing the BudgetBudget Surpluses A budget surplus occurs when revenues exceed expenditures. Budget Deficits A budget deficit occurs when expenditures exceed revenue.A balanced budget is a budget in which revenues are equal to spending.

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Responding to Budget DeficitsCreating Money The government can pay for budget deficits by creating money. Creating money, however, increases demand for goods and services and can lead to inflation. Borrowing Money The government can also pay for budget deficits by borrowing money. The government borrows money by selling bonds, such as United States Savings Bonds, Treasury bonds, Treasury bills, or Treasury notes. The government then pays the bondholders back at a later date.

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The National DebtThe Difference Between Deficit and Debt The deficit is amount the government owes for one fiscal year. The national debt is the total amount that the government owes. Measuring the National Debt In dollar terms, the debt is extremely large: $5 trillion at the end of the twentieth century. Economists often measure the debt as a percent of GDP.The national debt is the total amount of money the federal government owes. The national debt is owed to anyone who holds U.S. Savings Bonds or Treasury bills, bonds, or notes.

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Is the Debt a Problem?Problems of a National Debt To cover deficit spending the government sells bonds. Every dollar spent on a government bond is one fewer dollar that is available for businesses to borrow and invest. This encroachment on investment in the private sector is known as the crowding-out effect. The larger the national debt, the more interest the government owes to bondholders. Dollars spent paying interest on the debt cannot be spent on anything else, such as defense, education, or health care. Other Views of a National Debt Keynesian economists argue that if government borrowing and spending help the economy achieve its full productive capacity, then the national debt outweighs the costs.

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Deficit and Debt ReductionLegislative Solutions In reaction to large budget deficits during the 1980s, Congress passed the Gramm-Rudman laws which would have automatically cut spending across-the-board if spending increased too much. The Gramm-Rudman laws were declared unconstitutional in the early 1990s.Constitutional Solutions In 1995 Congress came close to passing a Constitutional amendment requiring balanced budgets. Proponents of such a measure argue that a balanced budget is necessary to make the government more disciplined about spending. Opponents of the measure argue that it is not flexible enough to deal with rapid changes in the economy.

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Last Updated: 8th March 2018

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