hero working papers

Public Debt and Redistribution with Borrowing Constraints

Number: 435
Year: 2012
Author(s): Florin Bilbiie, Tommaso Monacelli, Roberto Perotti
The effects of public debt and redistribution are intimately related. We illustrate this in a model with heterogenous agents and imperfect credit markets. Our setup differs from the classic Savers-Spenders model of fiscal policy in that all agents engage in intertemporal optimization, but a fraction of them is subject to a borrowing limit. We show that, despite the credit frictions, Ricardian equivalence holds under flexible prices if the steady-state distribution of wealth is degenerate: income effects on labor supply deriving from a tax redistribution are entirely symmetric across agents. When the distribution of wealth is non-degenerate, a tax cut is, somewhat paradoxically, contractionary. Conversely, sticky prices generate empirically plausible deviations from Ricardian equivalence, even in the case of degenerate wealth distribution. A revenue-neutral redistribution from unconstrained to constrained agents is expansionary, while debt...nanced tax cuts have effects that go beyond their redistributional component: the present-value multiplier of a tax cut is positive due to an interplay of intertemporal substitution by those who hold the public debt and income effects on those who do not.