Inequality Hits Fiscal Reality

By Karen Petrou

Readers of this blog know well that we think U.S. economic inequality is not only a profound social-welfare and political-consensus problem, but also a scourge to financial-market stability.  We have not generally wandered into fiscal-policy questions, preferring to focus on a far less well-known, but potent inequality force:  U.S. monetary and regulatory policy.  However, financial and fiscal policy are inextricably intertwined.  If inequality increases the risk of financial crises – which it does – and financial crises pose macroeconomic risk – which of course they do – then fiscal policy must ride to the rescue to prevent prolonged recession or even depression.  Could it, given how acute U.S. economic inequality has become?  A new report from Moody’s says that the rating agency may well have to downgrade U.S. debt – the AAA sine qua non of global finance – due to inequality.  Continue reading “Inequality Hits Fiscal Reality”

Disquiet on the Home Front

By Karen Shaw Petrou and Basil N. Petrou

On June 20, FRB Chairman Powell said, “Nine years into an expansion that has sometimes proceeded slowly, the U.S. economy is performing very well.”  Although Mr. Powell noted low labor participation, puzzling inflation, and problematic wage growth, he said that all will come right as long as the Fed stays the course.  No mention was made of unprecedented U.S. income and wealth inequality or of a housing market serving mostly the oldest, wealthiest, and most coastal among us.  Too bad – inequality and the impediments to effective monetary-policy transmission it erects are among the most important reasons that the nine years Mr. Powell cites have seen the slowest recovery in decades in concert with new threats to financial stability. Continue reading “Disquiet on the Home Front”

The Mysterious Case of the Misfiring Monetary Policy

By Karen Shaw Petrou

When former Fed Chairman Bernanke launched a new approach to U.S. monetary policy earlier this year, he prompted many within and outside the U.S. central bank to call for sweeping change that would solve the “mystery” Janet Yellen says bedevils post-crisis monetary-policy transmission.  Just like the blue carbuncle Sherlock Holmes eventually found inside a large goose, central bankers are searching for a new gemstone within reams of data by which to guide increasingly complex policy-transmission channels.  Continue reading “The Mysterious Case of the Misfiring Monetary Policy”

Should The Fed Become a “Social Wealth Fund?”

By Karen Shaw Petrou

On November 30, the New York Times ran an op-ed arguing that the Fed could make a big economic-equality difference by becoming, in essence, a giant equity holder on behalf of the nation’s least wealthy.  This concept takes Milton Friedman’s idea of “helicopter money” one step farther, creating “helicopter equity” in hopes of improving long-term wealth accumulation instead of the consumption for which Mr. Friedman wanted his dollars dropped from the sky.  From a progressive-policy perspective, turning the Fed into a giant, redistributive mutual fund has considerable appeal.  Continue reading “Should The Fed Become a “Social Wealth Fund?””

Is America Really Richer?

By Karen Shaw Petrou and Matthew Shaw

On September 21, the Federal Reserve released its quarterly study of American’s net worth.  As with the Fed’s earlier study on U.S. economic happiness, the release trumpeted the good news revealed in the latest aggregate data.  For net worth, this means a new record in the second quarter, with national household net worth hitting an unprecedented $96.2 trillion.  But, the Fed’s data do not go farther to show which Americans own how much of this giant sum.  We do.
Continue reading “Is America Really Richer?”