Les auteurs s’intéressent notamment au moment optimal pour passer des politiques fiscales et budgétaires ciblées mises en place en réaction à la pandémie de COVID-19 vers le type de stimulation de la demande utilisé dans les récessions traditionnelles. Selon eux, ce moment n’est pas clair, et les deux les besoins peuvent survenir simultanément. L’efficacité des autres types de stimulus pour augmenter la demande doit être envisagée.
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The economic contraction that began in February 2020 differs from previous contractions, including the Great Depression of the 1930s and the Great Recession of 2007-2009. It was caused in large part by concerns about the spread of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) and government policies aimed at limiting person-to-person contact. The health concerns of the public and the stay-at-home and shutdown orders designed to limit contact reduced cash flow to businesses and increased the number of unemployed workers.
Fiscal policy during the current contraction, recovery, and beyond may take two forms: (1)fiscal policy designed to prevent business failures and sustain the unemployed during the initial pronounced contraction; and (2)fiscal policy used during a traditional recession and recovery aimed at stimulating aggregate demand in general and restoring full employment. Rises in reported case numbers suggest that parts of the economy are still in the grip of the pandemic.
Economic theory and empirical evidence suggest that stimulative measures tend to move the economy toward full employment as the economy recovers from the contraction, but that measures to reduce the debt (which would require the opposite types of policies, reducing the deficit) are better put in place when the economy returns to full employment. Some views hold that one of the “most significant policy mistakes”in recent times was a premature shift to this policy (termed fiscal consolidation, or austerity) that removed fiscal support from the economy following the Great Recessionwhen the economy was still well below full employment and inhibited economic growth in most advanced economies.
The effectiveness of fiscal policy in stimulating demand depends on the type of policy and how much immediate spending it produces. Government spending, grants to the states, or transfers (such as expanded and augmented unemployment benefits or transfers to lower-income individuals) are considered by most economists to be more effective than tax cuts to higherincome individuals or businessesin certain circumstances because such individuals and businesses are less likely to spend the tax cuts. Spending on infrastructure is effective, but may occur with a delay. Given the outlook for a prolonged underemployed economy, this delay may not be a serious limit, and investment in infrastructure would increase the public capital stock and future output.
Some measures already undertaken to address the economic contraction were similar to those employed as general demand stimulus in the Great Recession, such as direct payments (often referred to as “stimulus checks”), whereas others were designed to sustain businesses during the shutdown and make it easier for individuals to comply with stay-at-home orders, such as the Paycheck Protection Program(PPP)that provided forgivable loans to small businesses who retained workers. Expanded and augmented unemployment benefits aim to fulfill both purposes of sustaining unemployed workers and preventing a further decline in spending due to lost wages.
Preliminary studies that examined some of the major features of recently enacted measuressuggest the expanded and augmented benefits during the initial decline in output were effective at increasing spending, with stimulus checks being effective to the extent they were received by lower-income individuals. Stimulus checks received by higher-income individuals appeared to be largely saved and not effective as stimulus. The studies on the PPPare mixed. Two studies indicated that the loans went to firms that already intended to retain employees or did not go to areas most affected by the virus, while others found that states with more PPP loans had milder declines and faster recoveries or that the PPP increased employment.
The current recession’s economic effects, including discretionary spending and the automatic revenue declines and spending increases that accompany a recession, are projected to increase the debt significantly. Although there is a general consensus among economists that it is premature to address the debt given the severity of the current contraction, mainstream economic theory points to the importance of addressing an unsustainable debt as soon as economic conditions permit. Hence, eventually, after the economy recovers, a substantially increased debt may lead policymakers to consider deficit reduction policies, which may include raising taxes and/or reducing spending.