Tuesday, November 20, 2012 11:13am

Ten-year Budgets

Question A: Because federal spending on Medicare and Medicaid will continue to grow under current policy beyond the 10-year window of most political budget debates, it is easy for a politician to devise a budget plan that would reduce federal deficits over the next decade without really making the U.S. fiscally sustainable.

Responses
 

Source: IGM Economic Experts Panel
www.igmchicago.org/igm-economic-experts-panel

Responses weighted by each expert's confidence

Source: IGM Economic Experts Panel
www.igmchicago.org/igm-economic-experts-panel

Question B: Comparing two plans that would reduce federal budget deficits by identical amounts in each of the next 10 years, one that did so partly by reducing significantly the long-term growth rate of Medicare and Medicaid spending would do more to make the U.S. budget fiscally sustainable than one that did not lower the growth of these spending programs.

Responses
 

Source: IGM Economic Experts Panel
www.igmchicago.org/igm-economic-experts-panel

Responses weighted by each expert's confidence

Source: IGM Economic Experts Panel
www.igmchicago.org/igm-economic-experts-panel

Question A Participant Responses

Participant University Vote Confidence Comment Bio/Vote History
Acemoglu Daron Acemoglu MIT Agree 4
Bio/Vote History
         
Alesina Alberto Alesina Harvard Strongly Agree 9
Bio/Vote History
         
Altonji Joseph Altonji Yale Strongly Agree 8
"Easy" is too strong, but the growth rate of medical costs and adverse demographic trends pose long term problems
Bio/Vote History
         
Auerbach Alan Auerbach Berkeley Strongly Agree 9
Bio/Vote History
         
Autor David Autor MIT Disagree 7
With or w/o Medicare, it's hard to do a budget that fixes federal deficits over 10 yrs. But ignoring Med makes it easier than it should be!
Bio/Vote History
         
Baicker Katherine Baicker Harvard Agree 4
Bio/Vote History
         
Bertrand Marianne Bertrand Chicago Agree 3
Bio/Vote History
         
Chetty Raj Chetty Harvard Strongly Agree 9
Bio/Vote History
         
Chevalier Judith Chevalier Yale Agree 9
Bio/Vote History
         
Currie Janet Currie Princeton Uncertain 6
It might be easy for technocrats to devise a plan, but it seems very difficult to get politicians to do so.
Bio/Vote History
         
Cutler David Cutler Harvard Disagree 7
Nothing is easy about deficit reduction.
Bio/Vote History
         
Deaton Angus Deaton Princeton Strongly Agree 9
Bio/Vote History
         
Duffie Darrell Duffie Stanford Strongly Agree 3
Bio/Vote History
         
Edlin Aaron Edlin Berkeley Agree 7
Bio/Vote History
         
Eichengreen Barry Eichengreen Berkeley Uncertain 5
Bio/Vote History
         
Fair Ray Fair Yale Agree 5
Bio/Vote History
         
Goldberg Pinelopi Goldberg Yale Agree 6
Bio/Vote History
         
Goldin Claudia Goldin Harvard Agree 3
Bio/Vote History
         
Goolsbee Austan Goolsbee Chicago Strongly Disagree 10
you think a significant 10 yr deficit cut would be 'easy'? welcome to earth, friend.
Bio/Vote History
         
Greenstone Michael Greenstone Chicago Agree 3
Disagree w word "easy" but agree that the budget problem for the next 10 years differs from the one over longer terms.
Bio/Vote History
         
Hall Robert Hall Stanford Disagree 6
Health spending spending will rise a lot in 10 years, so a plan that limited the deficit for that period of time would be a good step
Bio/Vote History
         
Holmström Bengt Holmström MIT Did Not Answer
Bio/Vote History
         
Hoxby Caroline Hoxby Stanford Did Not Answer
Bio/Vote History
         
Judd Kenneth Judd Stanford Did Not Answer
Bio/Vote History
         
Kashyap Anil Kashyap Chicago Strongly Agree 7
Bio/Vote History
         
Klenow Pete Klenow Stanford Strongly Agree 10 Bio/Vote History
         
Lazear Edward Lazear Stanford Did Not Answer
Bio/Vote History
         
Levin Jonathan Levin Stanford Uncertain 4
Easier, yes, but CBO says even eliminating deficits over ten years means noticeable spending cuts and/or tax increases.
-see background information here
Bio/Vote History
         
Maskin Eric Maskin Harvard Agree 8
Bio/Vote History
         
Nordhaus William Nordhaus Yale No Opinion
Bio/Vote History
         
Obstfeld Maurice Obstfeld Berkeley Agree 7
Bio/Vote History
         
Saez Emmanuel Saez Berkeley Uncertain 5
Controlling US health care costs is necessary (and not only for fiscal sustainability). But other fiscal issues also need addressing.
Bio/Vote History
         
Scheinkman José Scheinkman Princeton No Opinion
Bio/Vote History
         
Schmalensee Richard Schmalensee MIT Did Not Answer
Bio/Vote History
         
Shin Hyun Song Shin Princeton Agree 5
Bio/Vote History
         
Stokey Nancy Stokey Chicago Agree 9
Bio/Vote History
         
Thaler Richard Thaler Chicago Agree 8
arithmetic
Bio/Vote History
         
Udry Christopher Udry Yale Agree 5
"Easy" might not be the right word.
Bio/Vote History
         
Zingales Luigi Zingales Chicago Agree 5
Bio/Vote History
         

Question B Participant Responses

Participant University Vote Confidence Comment Bio/Vote History
Acemoglu Daron Acemoglu MIT Uncertain 4
Alternative could be as sound if it reduced growth rate of Social Security (e.g. by means testing) and reduced inefficient tax deductions.
Bio/Vote History
         
Alesina Alberto Alesina Harvard Strongly Agree 10
Bio/Vote History
         
Altonji Joseph Altonji Yale Strongly Agree 9
Bio/Vote History
         
Auerbach Alan Auerbach Berkeley Strongly Agree 9
Bio/Vote History
         
Autor David Autor MIT Strongly Agree 10
Rising health care costs are the greatest threat to U.S. fiscal solvency (that we know of) looking over multiple decades.
Bio/Vote History
         
Baicker Katherine Baicker Harvard Agree 4
Bio/Vote History
         
Bertrand Marianne Bertrand Chicago Agree 3
Bio/Vote History
         
Chetty Raj Chetty Harvard Agree 8
Bio/Vote History
         
Chevalier Judith Chevalier Yale Strongly Agree 9
Bio/Vote History
         
Currie Janet Currie Princeton Agree 9
Health care costs are driving the growth in the deficit.
Bio/Vote History
         
Cutler David Cutler Harvard Strongly Agree 10
Bio/Vote History
         
Deaton Angus Deaton Princeton Strongly Agree 9
Bio/Vote History
         
Duffie Darrell Duffie Stanford Strongly Agree 3
Bio/Vote History
         
Edlin Aaron Edlin Berkeley Agree 7
An important caveat though: It can be difficult to know today, what will lower long term growth more than 10 years out.
Bio/Vote History
         
Eichengreen Barry Eichengreen Berkeley Uncertain 5
Bio/Vote History
         
Fair Ray Fair Yale Agree 5
Bio/Vote History
         
Goldberg Pinelopi Goldberg Yale Agree 6
Bio/Vote History
         
Goldin Claudia Goldin Harvard Uncertain 3
Depends what the alternative is.
Bio/Vote History
         
Goolsbee Austan Goolsbee Chicago Agree 6
if it meant the lower growth rate would continue, then yes, clearly
Bio/Vote History
         
Greenstone Michael Greenstone Chicago Strongly Agree 1
True but more revenues need to be part of solution. We are collecting low levels of revenue by historical stds and population is aging.
Bio/Vote History
         
Hall Robert Hall Stanford Agree 5
Rationalizing Medicare and bringing contributions for higher-income families into line with benefits would be a good idea on its own.
Bio/Vote History
         
Holmström Bengt Holmström MIT Did Not Answer
Bio/Vote History
         
Hoxby Caroline Hoxby Stanford Did Not Answer
Bio/Vote History
         
Judd Kenneth Judd Stanford Did Not Answer
Bio/Vote History
         
Kashyap Anil Kashyap Chicago Strongly Agree 10
Medicare and Medicaid are (along with growth) the key factors for long term sustainability. We never paid for the Bush plan, let alone ACA.
Bio/Vote History
         
Klenow Pete Klenow Stanford Strongly Agree 10
Bio/Vote History
         
Lazear Edward Lazear Stanford Did Not Answer
Bio/Vote History
         
Levin Jonathan Levin Stanford Agree 3
Hard to disagree, but question seems too hypothetical - fiscal situation also would look better with 5%/ yr GDP growth!
Bio/Vote History
         
Maskin Eric Maskin Harvard Agree 7
Bio/Vote History
         
Nordhaus William Nordhaus Yale Agree 6
Bio/Vote History
         
Obstfeld Maurice Obstfeld Berkeley Agree 7
Bio/Vote History
         
Saez Emmanuel Saez Berkeley Agree 6
Bio/Vote History
         
Scheinkman José Scheinkman Princeton Agree 5
Bio/Vote History
         
Schmalensee Richard Schmalensee MIT Did Not Answer
Bio/Vote History
         
Shin Hyun Song Shin Princeton Agree 8
Bio/Vote History
         
Stokey Nancy Stokey Chicago Agree 8
Bio/Vote History
         
Thaler Richard Thaler Chicago Agree 7
ditto. Real issue should be to abolish the 10 year window and especially misleading attempts to disguise things via "temporary" tax cuts.
Bio/Vote History
         
Udry Christopher Udry Yale Strongly Agree 4
Bio/Vote History
         
Zingales Luigi Zingales Chicago Agree 5
Bio/Vote History
         

10 New Economic Experts join the IGM Panel


For the past two years, our expert panelists have been informing the public about the extent to which economists agree or disagree on important public policy issues. This week, we are delighted to announce that we are expanding the IGM Economic Experts Panel to add ten new distinguished economists. Like our other experts, these new panelists have impeccable qualifications to speak on public policy matters, and their names will be familiar to other economists and the media.

To give the public a broad sense of their views on policy issues, each new expert has responded to a selection of 16 statements that our panel had previously addressed. We chose these 16 statements, which cover a wide range of important policy areas, because the original panelists' responses to them were analyzed in a paper comparing the views of our economic experts with those of the American public. You can find that paper, by Paola Sapienza and Luigi Zingales, here. The paper, along with other analyses of the experts' views, was discussed during the American Economic Association annual meetings, and the video can be found here.

The new panelists' responses to these statements can be seen on their individual voting history pages. Our ten new economic experts are:

Abhijit Banerjee (MIT)
Markus K. Brunnermeier (Princeton)
Liran Einav (Stanford)
Amy Finkelstein (MIT)
Oliver Hart (Harvard)
Hilary Hoynes (Berkeley)
Steven N. Kaplan (Chicago)
Larry Samuelson (Yale)
Carl Shapiro (Berkeley)
Robert Shimer (Chicago)


Please note that, for the 16 previous topics on which these new panelists have voted, we left the charts showing the distribution of responses unchanged. Those charts reflect the responses that our original panelists gave at the time, and we have not altered them to reflect the views of the new experts.

We have also taken this opportunity to ask our original panelists whether they would vote differently on any of the statements we have asked about in the past. Several experts chose to highlight statements to which they would currently respond differently. In such cases, you will see this "revote" below the panelist's original vote. We think you will enjoy seeing examples of statements on which some experts have reconsidered.

As with the 16 previous statements voted on by new panelists, these "revote" responses are not reflected in the chart that we display showing the distribution of views for that topic: all the charts for previous questions reflect the distribution of views that the experts expressed when the statement was originally posed.

About the IGM Economic Experts Panel

This panel explores the extent to which economists agree or disagree on major public policy issues. To assess such beliefs we assembled this panel of expert economists. Statistics teaches that a sample of (say) 40 opinions will be adequate to reflect a broader population if the sample is representative of that population.

To that end, our panel was chosen to include distinguished experts with a keen interest in public policy from the major areas of economics, to be geographically diverse, and to include Democrats, Republicans and Independents as well as older and younger scholars. The panel members are all senior faculty at the most elite research universities in the United States. The panel includes Nobel Laureates, John Bates Clark Medalists, fellows of the Econometric society, past Presidents of both the American Economics Association and American Finance Association, past Democratic and Republican members of the President's Council of Economics, and past and current editors of the leading journals in the profession. This selection process has the advantage of not only providing a set of panelists whose names will be familiar to other economists and the media, but also delivers a group with impeccable qualifications to speak on public policy matters.

Finally, it is important to explain one aspect of our voting process. In some instances a panelist may neither agree nor disagree with a statement, and there can be two very different reasons for this. One case occurs when an economist is an expert on a topic and yet sees the evidence on the exact claim at hand as ambiguous. In such cases our panelists vote "uncertain". A second case relates to statements on topics so far removed from the economist's expertise that he or she feels unqualified to vote. In this case, our panelists vote "no opinion".

The Economic Experts Panel questions are emailed individually to the members of the panel, and each responds electronically at his or her convenience. Panelists may consult whatever resources they like before answering.

Members of the public are free to suggest questions (see link below), and the panelists suggest many themselves. Members of the IGM faculty are responsible for deciding the final version of each week’s question. We usually send a draft of the question to the panel in advance, and invite them to point out problems with the wording if they see any. In response, we typically receive a handful of suggested clarifications from individual experts. This process helps us to spot inconsistencies, and to reduce vagueness or problems of interpretation.

The panel data are copyrighted by the Initiative on Global Markets and are being analyzed for an article to appear in a leading peer-reviewed journal.

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