No blog do Greg Mankiw a discussão situa-se num instrumento, que por aqui não se ouve falar mas nos EUA têm uma grande importância. Esse instrumento são senhas de consumo de alimentos e estas são atribuídas em maior quantidade em alturas de recessão, aliviando o orçamento das famílias mais pobres, permitindo um maior consumo noutros bens que serão produzidos por empresas domésticas reduzindo deste modo a espiral de recessão. Jason Fruman avança com a argumentação:
“The Congressional Budget Office menu is responsive to the question policymakers from both parties are asking today: if we want to increase aggregate demand in the short run, what is the best way to do it. And a temporary increase in food stamps is, appropriately, high up on this list. Food Stamp administrators could simply press a button and everyone’s electronic debit cards would have, say, an additional 20 percent more money starting almost immediately and ending whenever policymakers want. Plus as Marty Feldstein explained:“Food stamps strikes me as a pure cash transfer to people with a high propensity to spend and people who would not benefit from a tax cut.” Tax rebates are administratively more difficult and have somewhat lower bang-for-the-buck, but have the big benefit of being scalable to the size policymakers desire – which is why Doug Elmendorf and I recently included them in our list of more effective stimulus options.“
Ao que Mankiw responde:
“Marty Feldstein may well be right that those on food stamps have a higher-than-average marginal propensity to consume. Nonetheless, I wonder if we really want to target such cyclical measures on the poorest members of society. That is, for any mean level of food stamps, wouldn’t the poor be better off with a constant stream of benefits than with a benefit that fluctuates over the business cycle? Using food stamps as a cyclical tool seems to risk destabilizing some families’ food consumption in an attempt to stabilize the overall business cycle.
If we are going to use fiscal policy to smooth out the business cycle on a regular basis, then we should think harder about improving the economy’s automatic stabilizers. For example, imagine we enacted an investment tax credit, the size of which was a function of the unemployment rate. Firms would have an incentive to time their investment projects toward those periods when the economy was weakest and most needed a shot in the arm.
I can more easily imagine, when the economy starts to overheat, telling corporations that their investment credit has shrunk or disappeared than telling poor families that their food budget has been cut.”
O debate sobre política económica está vivo e de boa saúde. O mais impressionante é que os EUA ainda nem estão em recessão. Um exercício de maturidade na política económica séria e desinibida e um óptimo exemplo para Portugal.