Greenspan’s Market Put is Powell’s Inequality Short

By Karen Petrou

On Friday, March 22, the Federal Reserve finally conceded that aggregates and averages mask all-important economic facts, issuing for the first time the “Distributional Financial Accounts of the United States” (DFA).  This will be a quarterly staff assessment of U.S. wealth equality – or, as its data forcefully demonstrate, the lack thereof.  However, the DFA does something more:  it also tracks wealth inequality across the business-cycle over almost three decades, showing clearly that equity-price increases exacerbate wealth inequality.  As a result, the more the Fed strengthens the stock market by keeping rates low and its portfolio huge, the worse U.S. wealth inequality grows.  Continue reading “Greenspan’s Market Put is Powell’s Inequality Short”

Ultra-Low Rates and Extra-High Inequality

By Karen Petrou

On March 12, the Financial Times ran one of Martin Wolf’s insightful columns, this one focusing on a critical facet of post-crisis monetary policy – ultra-low interest rates – to see why so much monetary-policy firepower had had such minimal macroeconomic impact.  Mr. Wolf suspects that the secular stagnation first framed by Lawrence Summers means that ultra-low real rates are here to stay due in part to economic inequality.  However, what if ultra-low rates on their own exacerbate inequality and thus create a negative feedback loop with dangerous implications not only for long-term growth and financial stability, but also for inequality?  Considerable evidence shows that ultra-low rates are inextricably intertwined with extra-high inequality.  Fed thinking on the new neutral rate thus must prick the traditional neo-Keynesian bubble to ensure that Chairman Powell’s new normalization isn’t a path to still worse inequality. Continue reading “Ultra-Low Rates and Extra-High Inequality”

A Paradox: U.S. Growth and Who Got Left Behind

By Matthew Shaw

Absent geopolitical or market surprises, the current U.S. expansion will by summer be the longest consecutive period of economic growth on record.  That’s the good news.  The toxic side-effect of all this prosperity:  how little of it is equitably shared and how angry that makes the majority of Americans ahead of the next election.  If income and wealth growth over the 2016-2019 period tracks 2010 to 2016, then the middle class will be no better off in 2019 than 2001 even with almost a decade of aggregate growth. Continue reading “A Paradox: U.S. Growth and Who Got Left Behind”

Hard Questions on Data Privacy

By Karen Petrou

On February 13, bipartisan Senate Banking leadership asked for views on how best to craft a new consumer-data privacy and security framework.  Reflecting 2017’s Equifax debacle, the inquiry seems rooted in the credit-reporting framework.  Essential though it is, data-integrity fixes for the credit bureaus aren’t anywhere near sufficient protection now that consumer financial data are increasingly clutched in the hands of Facebook, Amazon, Google, and an array of lightly- or un-regulated technology-based consumer-finance providers.  As we have demonstrated, sustainable, sound, and fair consumer credit is critical to economic equality.  Continue reading “Hard Questions on Data Privacy”

More Ways to Make an Equality Bank Make a Difference

After we last year proposed “Equality Banks,” ideas flooded in on possible charters.  We also heard from those who so distrust any venture involving private finance that they believe only a public bank suffices to ensure fair delivery of equality-essential deposit, loan, and payment products.  In this blog post, we build on prior work to lay out an array of charter options suitable for different types of Equality Banks owned by different types of financial or private investors.  We reiterate our worries about public banks, adding to our prior evaluation of state and municipal efforts with an analysis of “low-income” credit unions and of the only equality-focused federal public bank to date.  Each of these well-intentioned initiatives in fact made U.S. inequality a little bit worse, providing important lessons as progressive Democrats ready a raft of proposals not only to craft public banks, but also even to make the Postal Service or Federal Reserve become one. Continue reading “More Ways to Make an Equality Bank Make a Difference”