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Monetary Policy, the Tax Code, and the Real Effects of Energy Shocks

This paper develops a monetary model with taxes to account for the time-varying effects of energy shocks on output and hours worked in post-World War II U.S. data. In our model, the real effects of an energy shock are amplified when the monetary authority responds to that shock by changing its inflation objective. Specifically, higher inflation raises households’ nominal capital gains taxes since those taxes are not indexed to inflation. The increase in taxes behaves as a negative wealth effect and generates an immediate decline in output, investment, and hours worked. The large drop in investment then causes a gradual but very persistent decline in the capital stock. That protracted decline in the capital stock is associated with an extended period of low labor productivity and high inflation. The real effects from the increase in nominal capital gains taxes are magnified by the tax on nominal interest income, which is also not indexed to inflation. A prolonged period of higher inflation and lower labor productivity following a negative energy shock is consistent with the stagflation of the 1970s. The negative effects, however, subsided greatly after 1980 due to the Volcker disinflation policy which prevented the Fed from accommodating negative energy shocks with higher inflation.

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