Clarifying the connections between outright monetary financing, QE, the distribution of seignorage profits, the relationship between fiscal and monetary policy, and central bank independence.
Wenn Parlamentarier höhere Gewinnausschüttungen der Nationalbank fordern, Kritiker im
Euroraum mehr «Quantitative Easing» oder Helikoptergeld verlangen und andere Stimmen
monetäre Staatsfinanzierung monieren, dann steht die Beziehung zwischen Geld- und
Fiskalpolitik zur Debatte. Eine Auslegeordnung.
Monetary deficit financing is the norm—after all, central banks distribute their profits. Monetary financing occurs in the context of regular open market operations and QE and, hyper charged, with helicopter drops. The question is not whether monetary policy should finance the government, but why it does so, and to what extent. Fiscal and monetary policy are inherently connected; what constitutes monetary policy is defined by objectives.
On VoxEU, Refet Gürkaynak and Deborah Lucas argue in favor of helicopter drops to finance the fiscal burden due to Covid-19 and they propose an elegant way to implement such drops without undermining the central bank’s equity position (if regulators accept accounting tricks).
The special issue bonds would be zero coupon perpetuities and therefore would not obligate Treasury to any future payments. The legislation would require the Fed to buy these bonds from the banks at par. The bonds would then remain on the Fed’s balance sheet indefinitely. This monetises the special issue bonds.
Jointly with the Council on Economic Policies and the Swiss National Bank, the Study Center Gerzensee organized a conference on Aggregate and Distributive Effects of Unconventional Monetary Policies. The program can be viewed here.
In his blog, Ben Bernanke discusses the merits of “helicopter drops” as a monetary policy tool.
[A] “helicopter drop” of money is an expansionary fiscal policy—an increase in public spending or a tax cut—financed by a permanent increase in the money stock.
… the Fed credits the Treasury … in the Treasury’s “checking account” at the central bank, and those funds are used to pay for the new spending and the tax rebate.
… it should influence the economy through a number of channels, making it extremely likely to be effective—even if existing government debt is already high and/or interest rates are zero or negative. … the channels would include:
the direct effects of the public works spending on GDP, jobs, and income;
the increase in household income from the rebate, which should induce greater consumer spending;
a temporary increase in expected inflation, the result of the increase in the money supply. Assuming that nominal interest rates are pinned near zero, higher expected inflation implies lower real interest rates, which in turn should incentivize capital investments and other spending; and
the fact that, unlike debt-financed fiscal programs, a money-financed program does not increase future tax burdens.
[Debt financed spending programs lack channels 3 and 4.]
[Helicopter drops are subject to various] practical challenges of implementation, including integrating them into operational monetary frameworks and assuring appropriate governance and coordination between the legislature and the central bank.
In an August 2014 Economics article, Willem Buiter discussed the conditions for a Friedman-type helicopter drop of money to be effective.
First, there must be benefits from holding fiat base money other than its pecuniary rate of return. Only then will base money be willingly held despite being dominated as a store of value … Second, fiat base money is irredeemable: it is view[ed] as an asset by the holder but not as a liability by the issuer. … Third, the price of money is positive.
Deflation … are therefore unnecessary. They are policy choices. This effectiveness result holds when the economy is away from the zero lower bound (ZLB), at the ZLB for a limited time period or at the ZLB forever.
The feature of irredeemable base money that is key … is that the acceptance of payment in base money by the government to a private agent constitutes a final settlement … It leaves the private agent without any further claim on the government, now or in the future. The helicopter money drop effectiveness issue is closely related to the question as to whether State-issued fiat money is net wealth for the private sector, despite being technically an ‘inside asset’ …
… because of its irredeemability, state-issued fiat money is indeed net wealth to the private sector … even after the intertemporal budget constraint of the State (which includes the Central Bank) has been consolidated with that of the household sector.