Economic Indicators & Economic Policy

 Rebecca Lindstrom

 

Introduction

            Fiscal and monetary policy has long been crucial to the stability and growth of the American economy.  These policies impact every person, whether or not he or she realizes the extent of their reach and affect.  Well-known economists have long debated the question of how to effectively encourage positive economic growth.  Some economists support the idea of allowing the economy to stabilize itself, some advocate the use of only monetary or fiscal policy, while others adhere to the idea of using a combination of the policy tools.  Because almost everything that touches one’s life is impacted by economics, a stable economy should be of utmost concern to everyone.  The policies that change the course of economic trends must subsequently be investigated.

 

Hypothesis

            There are three factors that I think are strong economic policy indicators:  Gross Domestic Product (GDP), inflation rate, and rate of unemployment. 

 

H:  Both the Federal Reserve Board, via interest rates, and Congress, via tax rates, will work in conjunction to respond to the

     three chosen economic indicators to encourage economic growth or to prevent a recession, depending on the

     circumstances indicated.

 

A decline in GDP means that fewer goods were produced, meaning that production decreased nationally.  While there may have been growth in some sectors, the overall economy did not grow, but lost productivity.  If inflation rates are rising, then there is too much money in the economy relative to the amount of goods and each dollar one has is worth less than it was a day earlier.  A dollar is a dollar, but its worth can and does fluctuate on a daily basis based on its percentage of the total amount of money in circulation.  As unemployment rates rise, not only are people without income, the economy is losing jobs as well.  Those people without income will turn to the government for help, and the government will historically respond.

While the government may make errors in regards to fiscal and monetary policy, as a whole the Fed and Congress watch for problems and do their best to avert them and to prevent a depression.  The government has developed a responsibility to help those people who are in need and who qualify for assistance.  It is also in their best interest to keep business strong because it is these profits that largely contribute to the government’s income.  These policy changes would bolster the economy in times of recession or slow the economy in times when the growth cannot be sustained.

As the economic tide shifts, the government has historically taken actions to prevent another major depression.  A growth in the national GDP stems from a growing economy.  The actors may increase interest and tax rates in order to prevent an economic bubble from forming and popping, or in an effort to increase governmental and private revenues.  Increasing interest rates is a possible way to remove money from the economy and to decrease inflation, which is detrimental for all people.  A decrease in interest and tax rates would allow more money to be spent by individuals, encouraging business growth and thus increasing the potential for employment.

I would expect interest and tax rates to both influence economic policy decisions for a couple of reasons.  First, increasing the rates removes money from the economy, which is good for slowing an overheating economy or combating inflation.  Secondly, decreasing the rates encourages spending.  Spending leads to economic growth, which is reflected by the GDP.  As the economy grows, unemployment generally decreases, the cause of which is the growth of businesses.  I would expect that Congress and the Federal Reserve Board members are rational actors who would not enact policies that would be detrimental to the economy.  It would only make sense that as the actors who affect the economy, they would work together for the best of the economy.  If the actors do not work in conjunction with one another, one body will undermine the work of the other, and either no net change will take place of the policies may have the opposite of the intended effect.

 

Implications

 

There are four main implications that could be results of the data:

I1.  If there is any correlation between the independent and dependent variables, the classical theory of economics would not be supported.

I2.  If there is no correlation between the independent variables and tax rates, Keynesianism is not supported, but if interest rates are correlated instead, monetarism is supported.

I3.  The use of tax rates, but not interest rates, as a result of changes in the independent variables supports Keynesianism, but not monetarism.

I4.  If Keynesianism and monetarism are both supported, the modern consensus will have the greatest level of support.

 

Literature Review

Classical Economics

            Classical economists base their views on the centuries-old work of Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Thomas Malthus, and John Stuart Mill.  They explained unemployment as a temporary problem that would be resolved once wages fell and employers would then be able to hire more people for the same total wages.  Because of this flexibility of wages, they believe that the government should not directly make changes in the economy.  They adhere to an idea called Say’s Law, which claims that production, or supply, creates exactly the same amount of income that is then used to finance spending.  According to this Law, any income that is not directly reinvested, or spent, in the economy is saved, causing demand to fall below the level of supply.  This saving increases the amount of money available to finance investments, thereby decreasing interest rates because of this excess money available for loans.  Adherents of this theory believe that the quantity of money created by the Federal Reserve Board (Fed) has no influence on the long-run level of output.  They say that this injection of money into the economy only causes price increases.

            Keynesian economists disagree with Classical Economists for a variety of reasons.  First, they are in support of government interaction in the economy as long as it is done responsibly and with the overall economy being considered.  Keynes argued that because this view of the economy does not provide immediate solutions to economic downturns, recessions and depressions occur, and when they do, are not reversed for many years.  He also rejected Say’s Law on the ground that a decline in the interest rates causes people to want to hold their money, not loan it.  Because of the low rate, people only forego a small amount of interest income, whereas when the interest rates are high, they receive a strong return for little or no work (Kennedy 2000). 

 

Keynesian Economics

            John Maynard Keynes, the father of economics, developed a thesis directly relating to fiscal policy decisions.  While he wrote in 1936, people still stand by his works today.  Keynesians believe that an expansionary fiscal policy, while creating a budget deficit, is necessary to maintain an economy at full employment (Keynes 1936).  He focused on using fiscal policy instead of monetary policy to stabilize the economy (Blinder 2006).  Keynesians contend that this deficit will reverse itself once the economy is again growing and booming and that the temporary deficit is a small and acceptable price to pay.  They support shrewd governmental involvement for the purpose of maintaining a strong economy in the long run.  Before Keynes, most economists were convinced that using monetary policy to fight recessions was a terrible proposition.  They might have argued that a deficit was acceptable in these times, but that any sort of monetary policy would not have been acceptable.  Prior to Keynes there were governments who used monetary policy in this manner, though it was not widespread or strongly supported.

            Keynes differed from the classical economists for a couple of reasons.  First, he argued that shifts in demand were more important than the same shifts in the long run.  He said that a decline in demand leads to a decrease in the price level as well as Gross Domestic Product.  It is in reference to this point that his most famous quote was issued, “In the long run, we are all dead.”  Without changing the problems in the short term, what might happen in a few years is no longer important.  The second major difference from classical economists is that rather than the money supply dictating changes in demand, Keynes argued that business confidence was the greatest contributor to the business cycle (Krugman and Wells 2006).

 

Monetarism

According to the Monetarist Rule, the demand for money is directly influenced by the overall price level, the money supply, and the velocity of money, or the annual turnover of a dollar.  Monetarists argue that an increase in the money supply causes an increase in the price level overall (Friedman 1963).  The one assumption of this theory is that the economy is functioning at full employment.  If the economy is as full employment, an increase in the money supply will result in the same percentage increase in inflation.  (If the money supply is increased seven percent per year, a seven percent inflation rate will follow.)  Taking into account levels of employment and growth, the rate of inflation is directly reduced by the amount of increased money demanded by this growth.  During a recession, this relation is not usually seen.  Instead of increasing inflation or the overall price level, economic output is increased.

            Monetarists support the idea of a program that increases the money supply at a low, but constant, rate (Timberlake 1993).  They say that by automating the system they would be able to insulate monetary policy from political influences and prevent the devastating effects that would follow if the Fed made a crucial error.  The concern with this method of policymaking is that the economy does not grow at a stable or constant rate and such automatic adjustments could cause massive economic inflation (Kennedy 2000).  The Fed explicitly followed the rules of monetarism for three years, ending in 1982.  Because of the uncertainty of economic growth and change, the Fed decided that it would no longer set specific growth targets, but would instead focus on maintaining stability overall.

            One of Friedman’s main concerns that is still shared today is that the effects of monetary policy are only felt after a time lag (Bernanke, et al 1999).  These lags are unknown in duration and depth, so the policy that was intended to be helpful is not so when the economy needs it.  These lags are not necessarily disastrous, but only make the control more difficult.  Even if changes in policy are not immediately effective, they still make a positive contribution in the long run.

 

Modern Consensus

            Much of the controversy among the three schools of macroeconomists took place largely in the 1960s and 1970s.  Today, the controversy still exists, but not to that degree.  Instead, according to Krugman and Wells (2006), a consensus has been reached on a broad level when asking the following questions:

 

1.      Is expansionary monetary policy helpful in fighting recessions?

2.      Is fiscal policy effective in fighting recessions?

3.      Can monetary and/or fiscal policy reduce unemployment in the long run?

4.      Should fiscal policy be used in a discretionary way?

5.      Should monetary policy be used in a discretionary way?

 

Classical macroeconomists believed that expansionary monetary policy was at best ineffective and at worst harmful to fighting recessions.  Keynesians did not oppose monetary policy usage, but generally doubted that it was effective.  It was the work of Friedman and those supporters of Monetarism that persuaded the majority of economists that monetary policy is truly effective.  Today, there are very few people who support either the classical or Keynesian views.  Economists today believe that monetary policy, when used effectively, can be used to shift demand and to reduce instability.

The views on fiscal policy and demand are relatively similar to the above question.  Classical macroeconomists were even more vehemently opposed to the use of fiscal policy than to the use of monetary policy.  Keynesians were largely in support of the use of fiscal policy when fighting recessions.  Monetarists argued that as long as there was no change in the money supply (monetary policy), fiscal policy would accomplish nothing.  Today, most economists take the view that the government does not need to pass a balanced budget, but that it should be used as an automatic economic stabilizer.

Today’s view on long run unemployment is that there is a natural rate of unemployment, which limits the effectiveness of policies.  Effective policy can control swings in unemployment, but can never solve the problem.  Monetarists were the ones who first proposed this explanation that is now widely accepted.  Classical macroeconomists thought that the government could do nothing about unemployment while Keynesians felt that in exchange for inflation, expansionary fiscal policy could achieve a permanently low unemployment rate.

The final two questions in the chart below ask if the respective policies should be used in a discretionary manner.  Many people believe that these policies should be automatic responses to changes in the economy, while others believe that there should be substantial deliberation before any changes in interest or tax rates are made.  Keynesians believe that these policies should be used in a discretionary manner while the modern consensus adherents do not hold a strong position either way.  Classical economist and monetarist advocates hold the stance that any fiscal or monetary policy should be automatic, which removes the potential for political influence.

Fiscal policy is criticized for its lags in effectiveness because of the time required to pass a bill in Congress.  As a result, most present economists emphasize the effectiveness and importance of monetary policy over fiscal policy.  There is not a consensus as to how the Fed should set its policy, but there is consensus that the group needs to be independent of Congress, and that Congress should use its fiscal policy ability sparingly because of political influence.  There is some disagreement among the arguments presented by all three other groups on the effectiveness of these policies, but the chasm is much shallower than it was fifty years ago.

 

 

 

Classical
macroeconomists

Keynesian
macroeconomics

Monetarism

Modern
consensus

Is expansionary monetary policy helpful in fighting recessions?

 

No

 

Not Very

 

Yes

 

Usually

Is fiscal policy effective in
fighting recessions?

 

No

 

Yes

 

No

 

Yes

Can monetary policy and/or fiscal policy reduce unemployment in the long run?

 

No

 

Yes

 

No

 

No

Should fiscal policy be used in a discretionary way?

 

No

 

Yes

 

No

Not

Usually

Should monetary policy be used in a discretionary way?

 

No

 

Yes

 

No

Still

Disputed

Table taken from Krugman and Wells, 2006.

 

 

Research Design

          I will conduct a time series study of several variables.  I have collected data from 1940 through 2006 for each of my variables.  The independent variables to be analyzed are Gross Domestic Product, the rate of inflation, and the rate of unemployment.  The unemployment information comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics;  the GDP rates from Economic History Services;  and inflation data from www.inflationdata.com.  The dependent variables that the Fed and Congress may manipulate are interest rates and the lowest and highest tax rates respectively.  I use both the highest and lowest tax rates to examine the possibility that one level of taxpayers may be more affected by changes in the policy.  Also, with the variances in rates over the years, the average tax rates could not be accurately compared.  The tax rate data was obtained from the Internal Revenue Service;  the interest rate data is taken from William Hummel’s article “Money:  What it Is;  How it Works.”

 

 

Results & Discussion

 

T-Tests

 

Unemployment & Interest/Tax Rates

 

Economists generally agree that the natural rate of unemployment is somewhere between 4% and 6%, and that no matter what action the government takes, the rate will never be below this number.  I chose to use all of these possible points (4%, 5%. and 6%) as the cut points for the t-tests to see if one point really was significant.  What I found was that the results of this test were similar regardless of the cut point chosen.

            Using any cut point, we find significant relationships between the independent and dependent variables.  What is especially of note is that the relationship between the unemployment rate and the prime loan rate is that the correlation is positive.  This means that as the rate of unemployment increased, so did interest rates. 

            What can be seen as a result of these tests is that both fiscal and monetary policy were affected by changes in the independent variables.  Because fiscal policy was used, there is support for the Keynesian view of economics (I3).  The use of monetary policy is supportive of the monetarist ideas (I2).  Given that both types of policies were statistically significant, there is the most support for the modern consensus (I4), which supports the use of both types of policies to stabilize and/or direct the economy.  Thus, the results of this test support my hypothesis and the fourth implication.

 

Cut Point of 4.00

 

t-test for Equality of Means

 

 

 

t

Sig. (2-tailed)

95% Confidence Interval of the Difference

 

 

 

 

Lower

Upper

primloan

Equal variances assumed

3.496

.001

1.57433

5.76866

 

Equal variances not assumed

4.659

.000

2.06099

5.28200

lowtax

Equal variances assumed

-3.581

.001

-6.09163

-1.73002

 

Equal variances not assumed

-3.520

.002

-6.24616

-1.57549

hightax

Equal variances assumed

-3.740

.000

-36.32306

-11.03309

 

Equal variances not assumed

-6.087

.000

-31.48928

-15.86687

             

 

           

Cut Point of 5.00

 

t-test for Equality of Means

 

 

 

t

Sig. (2-tailed)

95% Confidence Interval of the Difference

 

 

 

 

Lower

Upper

primloan

Equal variances assumed

2.789

.007

.69480

4.20098

 

Equal variances not assumed

3.007

.004

.82165

4.07413

lowtax

Equal variances assumed

-2.935

.005

-4.49412

-.85485

 

Equal variances not assumed

-2.891

.006

-4.53193

-.81703

hightax

Equal variances assumed

-2.348

.022

-23.62873

-1.90788

 

Equal variances not assumed

-2.380

.021

-23.51595

-2.02066

             

 

 

             

 

Cut Point of 6.00

 

t-test for Equality of Means

 

 

 

t

Sig. (2-tailed)

95% Confidence Interval of the Difference

 

 

 

 

Lower

Upper

primloan

Equal variances assumed

2.948

.004

.87149

4.53174

 

Equal variances not assumed

2.560

.016

.54273

4.86050

lowtax

Equal variances assumed

-3.465

.001

-5.11123

-1.37324

 

Equal variances not assumed

-3.542

.001

-5.09111

-1.39336

hightax

Equal variances assumed

-1.734

.088

-21.70538

1.52848

 

Equal variances not assumed

-1.859

.069

-21.00993

.83304

             

 

 

 


 

Inflation & Interest/Tax Rates

 

I chose to look at the significance of inflation rates at two different points:  2% and 3%.  My rationale for this choice is that economists generally like to see inflation rates at less than 2%, but between 2% and 3% is not disastrous to the economy as long as it is not a sustained rate.  I chose two points to see whether or not an increased rate of inflation led to increasingly significant changes or not.  The statistical tests indicate that inflation is a significant influence on interest and tax rates across almost all the tested variables, though more so at 2%.

At a cut point of 2% all of the dependent variables are significant.  These results are supportive of I2 and I3, meaning that both the theories of Keynesianism and monetarism are factors.  This combination also supports I4, and my hypothesis with great certainty.

 

Cut Point of 2.00

 

t-test for Equality of Means

 

 

 

t

Sig. (2-tailed)

95% Confidence Interval of the Difference

 

 

 

 

Lower

Upper

primloan

Equal variances assumed

3.273

.002

1.20728

4.98637

 

Equal variances not assumed

4.361

.000

1.67581

4.51784

lowtax

Equal variances assumed

-2.497

.015

-4.57646

-.50926

 

Equal variances not assumed

-2.081

.049

-5.07140

-.01431

hightax

Equal variances assumed

-3.444

.001

-31.15645

-8.28444

 

Equal variances not assumed

-3.720

.001

-30.47535

-8.96554

             

 

 


 

At a cut point of 3% there is no significance with the highest tax bracket, but there is for the prime loan rate and the lowest tax bracket.  These results are supportive of I2, the monetarist theory.  The split significance between the high and low tax brackets does not lend strong support to I3 (Keynesianism), but because tax rates are still significant in part, the results support I4.  Again, the hypothesis is supported and it appears that the Fed and Congress work under the auspices of the modern consensus.

 

Cut Point of 3.00

 

t-test for Equality of Means

 

 

 

t

Sig. (2-tailed)

95% Confidence Interval of the Difference

 

 

 

 

Lower

Upper

primloan

Equal variances assumed

3.388

.001

1.16383

4.50664

 

Equal variances not assumed

3.531

.001

1.22651

4.44395

lowtax

Equal variances assumed

-2.182

.033

-3.82311

-.16937

 

Equal variances not assumed

-2.107

.040

-3.90139

-.09108

hightax

Equal variances assumed

-1.129

.263

-17.13893

4.75797

 

Equal variances not assumed

-1.115

.270

-17.30363

4.92266

             

 

 

 

GDP (Billions of 2006 Dollars) & Interest/Tax Rates

 

The analysis of Gross Domestic Product as an influence on policy is more difficult to determine than the other variables because it is stated in dollars based on a chosen year.  The data I am using from the Economic History Services uses 2006 as the base dollar year, which makes choosing a cut point difficult.  Due to inflation and the decrease in the overall value of the dollar, the GDP appears to be constantly growing overall.  Even though the use of a base year may be difficult for this reason, it allows the best comparison over time.

            Using $5,000 as a cut point, all of the dependent variables are significant, which means that GDP is a good indicator for the use of monetary and fiscal policy. I chose $5,000 because the GDP first reached this level in 1978, a year when there was significant controversy over which school of economics was correct.  When $7,500 is used as a cut point, all of the variables are still significant as well, though not as much as under the first test.  A GDP of $7,500 was first seen in 1993, near the time when the modern consensus school of thought was gaining popularity.  With the exception of interest rates, at a cut point of $10,000 the variables are still significant.  They are not as strongly significant as with the first cut point, but are still statistically strong.

As GDP grows, tax rates decline, but interest rates increase.  This trend holds when $7,500 is used as a cut point as well, but changes when $10,000 is used.  At the point of $10,000 all of the dependent variables become negatively correlated.  This could mean one of two things.  First, the Fed does not make changes in response to fluctuations in the GDP until the GDP changes substantially.  Or, second, the Fed has not used monetary policy in this manner until recently.  It was not until 2002 that the GDP climbed above $10,000, and perhaps they did not figure GDP in their decision calculus until this time.  The data does not provide definitive support for either of these possibilities in this form, but may be examined in a different manner. 

 


 

 

Cut Point of 5,000.00

 

t-test for Equality of Means

 

 

 

t

Sig. (2-tailed)

95% Confidence Interval of the Difference

 

 

 

 

Lower

Upper

primloan

Equal variances assumed

7.000

.000

3.45111

6.20635

 

Equal variances not assumed

6.698

.000

3.37961

6.27785

lowtax

Equal variances assumed

-5.023

.000

-5.68208

-2.44896

 

Equal variances not assumed

-5.402

.000

-5.57095

-2.56008

hightax

Equal variances assumed

-14.776

.000

-44.75357

-34.09587

 

Equal variances not assumed

-14.166

.000

-45.01705

-33.83239

             

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cut Point of 7,500.00

 

t-test for Equality of Means

 

 

 

t

Sig. (2-tailed)

95% Confidence Interval of the Difference

 

 

 

 

Lower

Upper

primloan

Equal variances assumed

.786

.435

-1.34176

3.08408

 

Equal variances not assumed

1.212

.231

-.57134

2.31366

lowtax

Equal variances assumed

-2.867

.006

-5.32604

-.95212

 

Equal variances not assumed

-3.617

.001

-4.91013

-1.36804

hightax

Equal variances assumed

-6.518

.000

-44.95447

-23.86763

 

Equal variances not assumed

-12.503

.000

-39.92416

-28.89794

             

 

 

 

 

Cut Point of 10,000.00

 

t-test for Equality of Means

 

 

 

t

Sig. (2-tailed)

95% Confidence Interval of the Difference

 

 

 

 

Lower

Upper

primloan

Equal variances assumed

-.557

.579

-4.38884

2.47452

 

Equal variances not assumed

-1.102

.302

-2.94960

1.03527

lowtax

Equal variances assumed

-3.499

.001

-9.06513

-2.47681

 

Equal variances not assumed

-12.407

.000

-6.70106

-4.84088

hightax

Equal variances assumed

-3.299

.002

-51.48591

-12.65957

 

Equal variances not assumed

-11.319

.000

-37.73188

-26.41360

             

 

 

These results provide substantial support for Keynes’ advocacy of using fiscal policy (I3) instead of monetary policy to stabilize and somewhat control the economy.  Given that GDP is more strongly correlated to the tax rates across the cut points, we see Keynes’ theory in work.  The modern consensus (I4 & hypothesis) is not supported by this data because the interest rates are not significant except at the cut point of $5,000.  Thus, there is little support for my hypothesis, but support for I3 and Keynesianism.

 

 

Correlation

 

            Overall, the results of the correlation test support I4 and thus my hypothesis.  The prime loan rate is strongly correlated with all of the independent variables, supporting the monetarist theory (I2).  The tax rates are correlated with the rate of unemployment and GDP, but not with the rate of inflation.  These results lend support for Keynesianism (I3) overall, but not when inflation is used as an indicator.  Thus, I4, the modern consensus and the combination of fiscal and monetary policy, receives support as well.  This combination of results bolsters my hypothesis and indicates that Congress leaves the Fed to deal with matters of inflation via the adjustment of interest rates.

           

 

 

unemploy

inflation

gdp

primloan

lowtax

hightax

unemploy

Pearson Correlation

1

.039

.085

.319(**)

-.611(**)

-.223

 

Sig. (2-tailed)
 

 

.755

.492

.008

.000

.069

 

N
 

67

67

67

67

67

67

inflation

Pearson Correlation

.039

1

-.090

.362(**)

-.078

.051

 

Sig. (2-tailed)
 

.755

 

.468

.003

.529

.682

 

N
 

67

67

67

67

67

67

gdp

Pearson Correlation

.085

-.090

1

.495(**)

-.573(**)

-.914(**)

 

Sig. (2-tailed)
 

.492

.468

 

.000

.000

.000

 

N
 

67

67

67

67

67

67

primloan

Pearson Correlation

.319(**)

.362(**)

.495(**)

1

-.428(**)

-.536(**)

 

Sig. (2-tailed)
 

.008

.003

.000

 

.000

.000

 

N
 

67

67

67

67

67

67

lowtax

Pearson Correlation

-.611(**)

-.078

-.573(**)

-.428(**)

1

.644(**)

 

Sig. (2-tailed)
 

.000

.529

.000

.000

 

.000

 

N
 

67

67

67

67

67

67

hightax

Pearson Correlation

-.223

.051

-.914(**)

-.536(**)

.644(**)

1

 

Sig. (2-tailed)
 

.069

.682

.000

.000

.000

 

 

N
 

67

67

67

67

67

67

**  Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed).

 

 

 

Partial Correlations

 

            Controlling for inflation and GDP, unemployment is still a significant influence on the dependent variables.  The significance is well below .05 (.006 for the prime loan rate, .000 for the lowest tax bracket, and .003 for the highest tax bracket).  The direction of the correlations described above remains the same.


 

 

Control Variables

 

 

primloan

lowtax

hightax

unemploy

inflation & gdp

primloan

Correlation

1.000

-.147

-.225

.338

  

Significance (2-tailed)
 

.

.243

.071

.006

  

df
 

0

63

63

63

 

lowtax
 

Correlation

-.147

1.000

.354

-.691

  

Significance (2-tailed)
 

.243

.

.004

.000

  

df
 

63

0

63

63

 

hightax
 

Correlation

-.225

.354

1.000

-.358

  

Significance (2-tailed)
 

.071

.004

.

.003

  

df
 

63

63

0

63

 

unemploy
 

Correlation

.338

-.691

-.358

1.000

  

Significance (2-tailed)
 

.006

.000

.003

.

  

df
 

63

63

63

0

 

 

            When controlling for inflation and unemployment, we find that GDP has the strongest relationship with all of the dependent variables with a significance of .000 for all of them.  The correlation coefficient is stronger for all of the relationships as well.

 

Control Variables

 

 

primloan

lowtax

hightax

gdp

inflation & unemploy

primloan

Correlation

1.000

-.308

-.566

.573

  

Significance (2-tailed)
 

.

.013

.000

.000

  

df
 

0

63

63

63

 

lowtax
 

Correlation

-.308

1.000

.664

-.671

  

Significance (2-tailed)
 

.013

.

.000

.000

  

df
 

63

0

63

63

 

hightax
 

Correlation

-.566

.664

1.000

-.922

  

Significance (2-tailed)
 

.000

.000

.

.000

  

df
 

63

63

0

63

 

gdp
 

Correlation

.573

-.671

-.922

1.000

  

Significance (2-tailed)
 

.000

.000

.000

.

  

df
 

63

63

63

0

 

 

            Inflation is only significant with interest rates when controlling for unemployment and GDP.  It was not significant for any of the other dependent variables previously, and is now .000 instead of .003 seen when not controlling for unemployment and GDP.

 

 

Control Variables

 

 

primloan

lowtax

hightax

inflation

unemploy & gdp

primloan

Correlation

1.000

.026

-.136

.481

  

Significance (2-tailed)
 

.

.839

.281

.000

  

df
 

0

63

63

63

 

lowtax
 

Correlation

.026

1.000

.167

-.175

  

Significance (2-tailed)
 

.839

.

.183

.163

  

df
 

63

0

63

63

 

hightax
 

Correlation

-.136

.167

1.000

-.066

  

Significance (2-tailed)
 

.281

.183

.

.602

  

df
 

63

63

0

63

 

inflation
 

Correlation

.481

-.175

-.066

1.000

  

Significance (2-tailed)
 

.000

.163

.602

.

  

df
 

63

63

63

0

 

 

 

Correlation Conclusions

 

            The results of the partial correlations mirror the results of the first correlation in which I2, I3, and I4 were all supported.  Thus, the support for my hypothesis continues and is strengthened.

 

 

 

Regression

 

            Using the regression statistics, all of the independent variables are significant indicators of the prime loan rate.  The significance of inflation and GDP is .000 while unemployment is .006.  GDP is the strongest predictor with a Beta of .509.  All of the betas are positive meaning that they are all positively correlated with the prime loan rate.

 

Model

 

Unstandardized Coefficients

Standardized Coefficients

t

Sig.

  

B
 

Std. Error

Beta

  

1

(Constant)

-1.184

1.158

 

-1.022

.310

 

unemploy
 

.465

.163

.260

2.852

.006

 

inflation
 

.445

.102

.398

4.356

.000

 

gdp
 

.001

.000

.509

5.555

.000

a  Dependent Variable: primloan

 

 

            For the dependent variable of the lowest tax bracket, only unemployment and GDP are significant.  These independent variables have betas that are very near each other, -.561 and -.535 respectively.  The betas are all negative, as has been seen through all of the other statistics.

 

Model

 

Unstandardized Coefficients

Standardized Coefficients

t

Sig.

  

B
 

Std. Error

Beta

  

1

(Constant)

25.069

.981

 

25.563

.000

 

unemploy
 

-1.047

.138

-.561

-7.577

.000

 

inflation
 

-.122

.087

-.105

-1.413

.163

 

gdp
 

-.001

.000

-.535

-7.192

.000

a  Dependent Variable: lowtax

 

 

            Again inflation does not significantly predict the highest tax rates either, but unemployment and GDP do.  Of these two variables GDP has the highest beta of -.904.  All of the betas are again negative.

 

Model

 

Unstandardized Coefficients

Standardized Coefficients

t

Sig.

  

B
 

Std. Error

Beta

  

1

(Constant)

108.503

3.691

 

29.394

.000

 

unemploy
 

-1.583

.520

-.145

-3.043

.003

 

inflation
 

-.171

.326

-.025

-.524

.602

 

gdp
 

-.007

.000

-.904

-18.876

.000

a  Dependent Variable: hightax

 

 

 

Regression Conclusions

 

            The first table supports the monetarist theory (I2).  The results indicate that the Fed makes changes to the interest rate depending on these economic indicators, and because it chooses to do so it believes monetary policy to be effective.  The other tables would point toward fiscal policy being most effective in combating inflation and responding to fluctuations in GDP, which would support Keynesian economics (I3).  Combined, these results most strongly support the modern consensus (I4), which says that a combination of monetary and fiscal policy is best in combating economic downturns.  Thus, these results support my hypothesis that economic policy is made at the conjunction of monetary and fiscal policy decisions.

 

 

 

Conclusions

 

            Keynesianism was supported as was portions of the monetarist theory.  Fiscal policy was used in response to the independent variables, as Keynes argued they should be.  At the same time, monetary policy was also influenced by the same factors.  Keynes argued that monetary policy was ineffective, and the monetarists argued that fiscal policy was also ineffective.  Neither of these second halves of the respective views are supported by the data, which means that the modern consensus is the most applicable theory to apply.  The modern consensus among economists is that a combination of Keynesian economics and monetarism is the most effective tool to fighting economic downturns and fluctuations and this is what the data would indicate that Congress and the Fed believe as well. 

These results are supportive overall of the modern consensus in terms of both monetary and fiscal policy.  Throughout the statistical test, there was significant support for both the monetarist and Keynesian theories of economics, but little for the classical economic theory.  The combination of these results leads to strong support for the modern consensus and my hypothesis, which means that Congress and the Fed do work together for the overall benefit of the economy.  Only when fiscal policy joins with monetary policy is the best economic policy made.

 

References
 

Bernanke, Ben S., Thomas Laubach, Frederic S. Mishkin, and Adam S. Posen, Inflation Targeting:  Lessons from the International Experience (Princeton, New Jersey:  Princeton University Press, 1999). 

 

Blinder, Alan S., “Can Fiscal Policy Improve Macro Stabilization?”, ed. by Richard W. Kopcke, Geoffrey M. B. Tootell, and Robert K. Triest (Cambridge, Massachusetts:  The MIT Press, 2006).

 

Friedman, Milton, A Monetary History of the United States 1867 – 1960 (Princeton, New Jersey:  Princeton University Press, 1963).

 

Kennedy, Peter E., Macroeconomic Essentials:  Understanding Economics in the News (Cambridge, Massachusetts:  The MIT Press, 2000).

 

Keynes, John Maynard, The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money (London:  Macmillan and Co., ltd, 1936).

 

Krugman, Paul and Robin Wells, Macroeconomics (New York:  Worth Publishers, 2006).

 

Makin, John H. and Norman J. Ornstein, Debt and Taxes (New York:  Times Books, 1994).

 

Timberlake, Richard H., Monetary Policy in the United States:  An Intellectual and Institutional History  (Chicago:  The University of Chicago Press, 1993).

 

 

Data Sources

 

Employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics <http://www.bls.gov/news.release/youth.t01.htm>

 

GDP Information from Louis D. Johnston and Samuel H. Williamson, "The Annual Real and Nominal GDP for the United States, 1790 - Present." Economic History Services, October 2005, URL : http://www.eh.net/hmit/gdp/

 

Inflation data from  http://www.inflationdata.com/Inflation/Inflation_Rate/HistoricalInflation.aspx

 

Prime loan rate Data obtained from Hummel, William F.  “Money:  What it Is;  How it Works.”  26 April 2007 <http://wfhummel.cnchost.com/index.html#12>.

 

Tax rate data from  IRS, Statistics of Income 2007 Fall Bulletin, Publication 1136.