By Karen Petrou
- Distributional data show clearly that, fiscal stimulus notwithstanding, the U.S. was still more economically unequal in 2020.
- Only fiscal policy once combined also with progressive financial policy will put the inequality engine into reverse.
As we have noted before, the Fed’s new Distributional Financial Accounts of the United States (DFA) is a definitive source of economic-equality data we hope the Fed will not just compile, but also use for policy-making purposes. The latest edition of the DFA demonstrates yet again why distributional data are so compelling, showing now the profound challenge even unprecedented fiscal policy on its own faces slowing down the inexorable engine of inequality. Still more fiscal stimulus in 2021 will boost absolute income and wealth numbers a bit at some benefit to low-, moderate-, and even middle-income households. Still, the upward march of financial markets powered in large part by Fed policy inexorably widens the inequality gap. No matter the “crust of bread and such” from fiscal programs, inequality still increases the slow pace of economic growth, the risk of financial crises, and the odds that the electorate will be even angrier in 2024 than 2020.
Continue reading “Fiscal Policy’s Futile Equality Expectation on Its Own”
By Karen Petrou and Matthew Shaw
Shortly before Thanksgiving, a new study documented that U.S. life expectancy since 2010 has taken a sharp turn for the worse for younger Americans regardless of race, gender, or education. We knew that opioids were devastating, but this study confirmed others showing also that the overall reversal in U.S. life expectancy is due to more profound and mysterious afflictions. Doctors are flummoxed by why U.S. mortality is so much higher than that in other advanced countries, where life expectancy continues to increase for younger citizens, concluding that something endemic is going on behind the epidemic of “diseases of despair.” The latest inequality data demonstrate yet again that the economic “good place” that comforts Fed policy-makers is to be found only in the 100th floor penthouses that are the eyries of the one percent. We thought the data more than dispiriting when we analyzed the Fed’s first distributional financial account; now, we find them devastating, not to mention evil omens of a polarized, angry electorate heading to the 2020 polls. Continue reading “Dark Corners in “Good Places””
By Karen Petrou
There is an extensive literature on the “unbanked.” But what of those one might call the “unsecured?” In previous blog posts, we have pondered “equality banking” and “equality insurance.” Now, we turn to equality investing, doing so not just because savings at ultra-low interest rates has become the road to ruin, but also because several retail brokers have redesigned entry-level investing with considerable equality upside. Although caution is always warranted when products are aimed at inexperienced investors, “fractional share” options and no-commission fees could make a meaningful difference for millennial and lower-income households hoping to have enough put aside over time to own a home, ensure a secure retirement, and protect their families from the unexpected. Continue reading “Why We Need Baby Warbucks: Equities as a Pathway to Equality”
By Karen Petrou
As the chimera of the post-crisis recovery fades and central bankers find themselves powerless to reverse recession, “people’s quantitative easing” is gaining attention as a tool a growing number of central bankers fancy gives them a new way to wreak their beneficent will. People’s QE – also known more colorfully as “helicopter money” – means that, despairing of fiscal-policy remedies, central banks print money and then either just give it to the people or invest it in assets they or their bosses think best for equalizing, trade-deficit dropping, climate-restoring, or other all-to-the-good economic growth. However, it’s not just central bankers casting longing eyes at the ability of central banks to print money – officials ranging from those in the Trump Administration to the Democratic Socialist candidate for President see it as a new way to do what they think are the voter’s bidding without raising the deficit. This is really, really central banking, but for all its power, it’s very problematic. QE so far has done little to spur sustained recovery and much to make the U.S. even more unequal. There’s no reason to believe a people’s QE will be any better. Continue reading ““People’s QE” and Noblesse Oblige”
By Karen Petrou
Progressive Democrats have recently touted modern monetary theory – i.e., that deficits don’t matter – to press social-welfare spending. Similarly dismissive of deficits, the Trump Administration and many Republicans now cotton to giant trickle-down individual tax cuts. But, deficits do matter not just for fiscal hawks, but also for equality advocates. A new IMF study takes an unprecedented look at U.S. public wealth since 1946, concluding that lots less public wealth undermines the ability of fiscal policy to alleviate economic downturns. Continue reading “Public Wealth and Private Worth: The Inequality Impact of Deficit Spending”