Practical Problems with Discretionary Fiscal Policy

Self-Check Questions

What would happen if expansionary fiscal policy was implemented in a recession but, due to lag, did not actually take effect until after the economy was back to potential GDP?


Prices would be pushed up as a result of too much spending.

What would happen if contractionary fiscal policy were implemented during an economic boom but, due to lag, it did not take effect until the economy slipped into recession?


Employment would suffer as a result of too little spending.

Do you think the typical time lag for fiscal policy is likely to be longer or shorter than the time lag for monetary policy? Explain your answer?


Monetary policy probably has shorter time lags than fiscal policy. Imagine that the data becomes fairly clear that an economy is in or near a recession. Expansionary monetary policy can be carried out through open market operations, which can be done fairly quickly, since the Federal Reserve’s Open Market Committee meets six times a year. Also, monetary policy takes effect through interest rates, which can change fairly quickly. However, fiscal policy is carried out through acts of Congress that need to be signed into law by the president. Negotiating such laws often takes months, and even after the laws are negotiated, it takes more months for spending programs or tax cuts to have an effect on the macroeconomy.