Slowdowns in the economy are inevitable. While it may be tempting to rely on Federal Reserve policy as a lone response to recessions, this would be a mistake; we know that fiscal stimulus is effective. Rather than wait for a crisis to strike before designing discretionary fiscal policy, we would be better served by preparing in advance. Enacting evidence-based automatic stabilizer proposals before the next recession will help the next recovery start faster, make job creation stronger, and restore confidence to businesses and households.
Consumer spending, which makes up about 70 percent of aggregate expenditures in the economy, slows sharply during recessions. This slowdown can exacerbate employment losses and reduced production, making a recession even worse. Claudia Sahm proposes automatic direct payments to individuals to support consumer spending when the national unemployment rate rapidly rises.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is both an effective antipoverty program and a natural automatic stabilizer, expanding when the economy is weak and contracting when it is strong. Hilary Hoynes of the University of California, Berkeley and Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach of Northwestern University present reforms to strengthen SNAP’s countercyclical effects.
Work requirements impede SNAP’s dual role as a safety net and automatic stabilizer. This economic analysis provides new evidence about how waivers to these rules functioned during the Great Recession and how the USDA’s proposed rules would have worked had they been in effect from 2007 to present.
Interacting with the criminal justice system is an expensive proposition. Its reliance on bail to encourage return after pretrial release, on fines to punish and provide restitution, and on fees to fund the system implies that an individual’s economic means may determine how burdensome any interaction is. These nine economic facts characterize the current use of monetary sanctions in the criminal justice system, highlighting the economic and social costs that they pose to defendants and society.
The use of monetary sanctions to punish crimes ranging from minor traffic or public order offenses to the most serious felonies is ubiquitous in the United States. Nationally, millions of people hold billions of dollars of criminal debt from past monetary sanctions, much of which is regarded as uncollectible because of the limited financial resources of the debtors. In this paper, Beth Colgan of the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law describes the harms associated with unmanageable monetary sanctions as well as the evidence from day-fines pilot projects. Colgan builds on this evidence to propose a system for graduating sanctions according to ability to pay.