Government Debt

(How) Will We Pay Back the Federal Debt?

By and ·June 9, 2020
The Fletcher School, Tufts University and The University of California, Berkeley

The Issue:

U.S. Federal government debt in the hands of the public amounted to 79 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at the end of 2019, but it could exceed 100 percent of GDP by the end of this year and rise even higher in 2021 and beyond. Debt levels this high were last seen at the end of World War II, which

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Staring Down the Debt Limit

By and ·July 22, 2019
Brookings Institution and Tax Policy Center

The Issue:

In what has become a predictable cycle, policymakers meet under pressure to raise the “debt ceiling,” the legal limit on the amount of debt the federal government can accumulate. In spite of the frequency with which this situation occurs, discussion around the debt ceiling is often shrouded in confusion.

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What is Modern Monetary Theory?

By and ·June 7, 2019
The Fletcher School, Tufts University and Williams College

The Issue:

Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) has attracted attention, especially among many who see in it a support for greater government spending. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) says MMT should be “a larger part of the conversation” and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has drawn on the advice of Professor

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The Burden of Public Pension Promises on State and Local Budgets

By and ·December 19, 2018
Brandeis University and Stanford University

The Issue:

Unfunded pension liabilities represent a significant challenge to the finances of many state and local governments. While no analysts dispute the general statement that pensions are underfunded in aggregate, there has been some discussion about how to estimate the magnitude of the gap. Moreover, however ...
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No Free Lunches: The Hard Arithmetic of Economics

By ·September 28, 2018
Wellesley College

The Issue:

Key policy initiatives often are presented to the public as providing benefits with no real costs. While sugarcoating may be a useful political strategy, such narratives mask the difficult tradeoffs implicit in many economic policy decisions and the invariable presence of budget constraints. Such promises ...
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Puerto Rico’s Debt Trap

By ·May 16, 2017
Brandeis University

The Issue:

At the beginning of May, Puerto Rico entered an unprecedented form of bankruptcy protection with a record breaking $123 billion in combined debt and unfunded pension commitments. The ensuing restructuring process will be, in effect, the largest municipal bankruptcy ever, dwarfing Detroit’s $20 billion ...
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