Bargaining over Taxes and Entitlements
Marina Azzimonti (),
Gabriel Mihalache () and
No 27595, NBER Working Papers from National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc
We analyze the welfare implications of introducing budget rules, composed by a tax code and an entitlement program , in a dynamic infinite horizon political-economy model featuring disagreement over the distribution of resources. Poor agents want expansive entitlement programs, whereas rich agents prefer a small government that imposes low taxes. Under budget rules, changes in the tax code and the generosity of entitlement programs require bipartisan support. We model these rules following the literature on legislative bargaining with endogenous status quo, and find that entitlement programs induce under-provision of public goods but also a smoother path for private consumption. Whether budget rules are welfare-improving depends critically on political turnover. When proposers alternate frequently, such rules benefit society because they reduce the volatility of private consumption. Outcomes under rules, however, can be worse than under discretion if the political power of a proposer is persistent enough. Even though the political equilibrium may be more efficient in such case, it can also be significantly less equitable, exacerbating the initial degree of income inequality. We also consider an institutional reform, where parties are allowed to vote on both, the introduction and generosity of the entitlement program and the tax code. Because such a reform must be Pareto improving (by design), policymakers may prefer to stay under discretion.
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