Many people predicted that the Reagan deficits would produce soaring interest rates. The deficits appeared, but the 10-year interest rate peaked before the Reagan tax cuts took effect and plummeted in the latter half of 1982, in spite of then-record deficits.
Paul Krugman responds:
The Reagan years were marked by two things: large budget deficits — although much smaller as a percentage of GDP than we’re seeing now — and a huge disinflation, engineered by Paul Volcker. So we need to look at real, not nominal interest rates — and real rates were in fact very high by historical standards during the Reagan years. 10-year bond rates ranged between 8 and 9 percent in the later Reagan years, while inflation generally ran under 4 percent. And may I say, I thought that this was part of what every economist knows — the story of the tight-money loose-fiscal mix of the Reagan era is, literally, a textbook case that’s in just about every undergrad macro book.
Not much to add except to note a couple of other economic papers that fell into Kling’s muddled thinking including something the American Economic Review published in March 1985 by Paul Evans entitled: “"Do Large Deficits Produce High Interest Rates?". His conclusion was no with part of his evidence being the same Reagan years. Alan Reynolds noted this paper and its Barro-Ricardian Equivalence explanation in defense of the Bush43 tax cuts. Reynolds goes onto to assert:
Confronted with this evidence, some began to say that it was not nominal interest rates that were driven up by deficits but real interest rates. But the only way deficits could raise real rates without raising nominal rates would be if deficits caused inflation to fall, which does not make sense.
I guess that since the Volcker tight money policy coincided with the Reagan fiscal stimulus, one could abuse the term “cause” to say deficits caused inflation to fall. I prefer to suggest that Reynolds was just being silly with this paragraph. Let’s also note the reason Barro-Ricardian Equivalence is supposed to make fiscal stimulus something that is not going to impact interest rates even in a full employment economy. The proposition is that households will fully save and not consume their tax cuts if they are not accompanied with at least some expectation of future spending cuts. But we should recall that U.S. consumption did jump after the Reagan tax cuts even though we never saw appreciable spending cuts. In a words – national savings fell, which in the full employment classical world that Robert Barro, Paul Evans, and Alan Reynolds live in means an increase in real interest rates. Which is exactly what we saw during the 1980’s.