Bad Things about the Good Place and How to Pretty It Back Up

By Karen Petrou

  • Pre-COVID inequality evidenced itself instantly in post-COVID consumer-finance extremis.
  • A unique construct of ground-up recovery policies is an essential, urgent response.
  • Regulatory revisions would help and long-overdue equitable liquidity facilities would do still more.
  • New public guarantees are critical.

Ever since the U.S. economy crept out of recession, the Fed has represented its slow, inequitable recovery as a “good place.”  Its own 2018 economic well-being survey contradicted this and the latest data released on May 14 are no better before COVID came and a lot worse thereafter.  These data make it still more clear that the Fed must quickly reorient its trickle-down rescues to move money starting at ground level, but even that won’t be sufficient given the magnitude of COVID’s economic impact.  The combination of macroeconomic harm and financial-system hurt also requires a reset in which new public guarantees for prudent private financing fully recognized by new rules play a major part. Continue reading “Bad Things about the Good Place and How to Pretty It Back Up”

Inequality Rising

By Karen Petrou

As the COVID crisis continues, some have speculated that wealth inequality will drop because it did in the 1400s during the Black Death.  However, this cure is not only of course considerably worse than the disease, but it’s also no cure.  Economic inequality is a cumulative process – the worse off you are, the worse off you get unless something positive reverses this compound effect.  Conversely, the better off, the still more comfortable unless something comes along to redistribute your gains, however well or ill gotten.  Given how unequal the U.S. was before COVID, it will surely get only more so now, especially if the Fed stays the course with trillions for financial markets and pennies for everyone else. Continue reading “Inequality Rising”

The Family Financial Facility: Urgent, Overdue, Equitable Fed Support for Those Most in Need

By Karen Petrou

As I write this, thousands of small businesses are clamoring for urgent SBA loans and so many Americans are filing for unemployment insurance that systems have crumpled across the country.  At the same time, the S&P rose over three percent since Monday’s open.  The reason for this dissonance lies in the fact that key parts of the financial market have been bailed out while ordinary borrowers are stuck and then some.  Saving markets won’t salvage the economy – at its root, the U.S. is a consumption-driven economy.  If consumers can’t survive, neither will the economy.  The Fed must add a Family Financial Facility to all those it has crafted for the financial market and it should open one fast.  In this crisis, time is truly money and money is what most families don’t have.

Continue reading “The Family Financial Facility: Urgent, Overdue, Equitable Fed Support for Those Most in Need”

The Low-Income High-Risk Myth

By Karen Petrou

In the wake of the great financial crisis, an axiom of consumer finance is that high-risk borrowers are disproportionately lower-income people.  Indeed, the term “subprime” has become a virtual synonym for the lower-income households generally designated with low credit scores and, thus, the subprime sobriquet.  However, a growing body of research demonstrates conclusively that subprime borrowers were not the villains of the mortgage debacle at the heart of the 2008 cataclysm:  it turns out that prime borrowers behaving in subpar ways defaulted far more often than low-income households trying to become homeowners. Continue reading “The Low-Income High-Risk Myth”

Wheelies on the Yield Curve:  Inequality, Disintermediation and the Hazards of New QE

By Karen Petrou

Starting with our very first EconomicEquality blog post, we demonstrated the direct link between quantitative easing (QE) and the sharp rise in U.S. wealth inequality that differentiates this recovery from all that came before.  QE exacerbates inequality because, combined with post-crisis rules and ultra-low rates, it creates a market dynamic in which banks hold huge excess-reserve balances instead of making equality-essential loans and markets relentlessly chase yield, increasing equity valuations and driving credit to borrowers such as highly-leveraged companies.  In 2019, the Fed bulked up its portfolio in what is now known as QE-lite in hopes of rescuing the repo market, reinvigorating sputtering equity markets no matter the Fed’s ongoing insistence that this round of portfolio increases isn’t QE. Continue reading “Wheelies on the Yield Curve:  Inequality, Disintermediation and the Hazards of New QE”