Consumption and the Aggregate Expenditures Model

Read this chapter to examine consumption and its determinants within the aggregate expenditures model. Consumption is the largest component of Aggregate Demand the United States, therefore, the factors that determine consumption, also determine the success of the economy.

13.2 The Aggregate Expenditures Model

Case in Point: Fiscal Policy in the Kennedy Administration

It was the first time expansionary fiscal policy had ever been proposed. The economy had slipped into a recession in 1960. Presidential candidate John Kennedy received proposals from several economists that year for a tax cut aimed at stimulating the economy. As a candidate, he was unconvinced. But, as president he proposed the tax cut in 1962. His chief economic adviser, Walter Heller, defended the tax cut idea before Congress and introduced what was politically a novel concept: the multiplier.

In testimony to the Senate Subcommittee on Employment and Manpower, Mr. Heller predicted that a $10 billion cut in personal income taxes would boost consumption "by over $9 billion".

To assess the ultimate impact of the tax cut, Mr. Heller applied the aggregate expenditures model. He rounded the increased consumption off to $9 billion and explained,

"This is far from the end of the matter. The higher production of consumer goods to meet this extra spending would mean extra employment, higher payrolls, higher profits, and higher farm and professional and service incomes. This added purchasing power would generate still further increases in spending and incomes. … The initial rise of $9 billion, plus this extra consumption spending and extra output of consumer goods, would add over $18 billion to our annual GDP".

We can summarize this continuing process by saying that a "multiplier" of approximately 2 has been applied to the direct increment of consumption spending.

Mr. Heller also predicted that proposed cuts in corporate income tax rates would increase investment by about $6 billion. The total change in autonomous aggregate expenditures would thus be $15 billion: $9 billion in consumption and $6 billion in investment. He predicted that the total increase in equilibrium GDP would be $30 billion, the amount the Council of Economic Advisers had estimated would be necessary to reach full employment.

In the end, the tax cut was not passed until 1964, after President Kennedy's assassination in 1963. While the Council of Economic Advisers concluded that the tax cut had worked as advertised, it came long after the economy had recovered and tended to push the economy into an inflationary gap. As we will see in later chapters, the tax cut helped push the economy into a period of rising inflation.