Solvency First: A Workable Solution

Michael Stephens | November 23, 2011

In a new policy note Marshall Auerback argues that discussions of how to solve the euro crisis often conflate two distinct issues:  solvency and insufficient demand.  “Policymakers want the ECB to do both,” he writes, “but in fact, the ECB is only required to deal with the solvency issue. When you do that in a credible way, then you get the capital markets reopened and you give countries a better chance to fund themselves again via the capital markets.”

Auerback considers a proposal that would, by addressing national solvency, give member-states the space necessary address the growth problem.  The proposal (developed also by Warren Mosler) calls for the ECB to make annual distributions of euros to national governments on a per capita basis.  By contrast with targeted bailouts, these per capita distributions would avoid problems of moral hazard, says Auerback.  They would also provide the ECB with a more effective policy lever (withholding of payments) to ensure compliance with the Stability and Growth Pact.  Concerns about inflation with respect to this plan are misplaced, he argues:

To anticipate the screams of the hyperinflation hyperventillistas, the revenue sharing proposal would be noninflationary. What is inflationary with regard to monetary and fiscal policy is actual spending. These distributions would not alter the actual annual government spending and taxation levels demanded by the austerity measures and SGP constraints. They would simply address the solvency issue, which has effectively cut the PIIGS off from market funding (because the markets believe they are insolvent).

Read the whole thing here.

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