The Low-Skill Losers

By Karen Petrou

As we have noted, here and here, the Fed is devoting increasing analytical – if not yet policy-maker – attention to the unequalizing impact of unconventional policy.  It’s a start – a major problem besetting central banks in countries without a robust middle class – i.e., the U.S. – is that old-school representative-agent thinking leads to unanticipated, unequal outcomes when wealth and income are disproportionately enjoyed by the very few, very rich.  It is for this reason that the Fed’s touted employment benefit and “robust” economy in the wake of post-crisis policy has done so little for so many who remain so angry.  A new Fed paper helps to show why. Continue reading “The Low-Skill Losers”

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”

Guarantees that Deliver the Equality Goods

By Basil N. Petrou and Karen Shaw Petrou

At a recent meeting with senior White House and Congressional budget experts, we revisited the benefits of using federal guarantees to drive private capital to public need.  Much of the discussion centered on taxpayer protection, a significant challenge due to risk-taking incentives baked into the federal budgeting process.  There are many reasons – billions of them in fact – to reject the budgeting approach mandated by the Federal Credit Reform Act (FCRA) in favor of a fair-value methodology.  Less known and not discussed is an issue of equal importance:  getting guarantees right not just for taxpayers, but also for the regulated financial companies from which the private capital for successful guarantees must come.  Here, we lay out principles for equality-enhancing guarantees that meet needs ranging from sound mortgage lending to translational biomedical research. Continue reading “Guarantees that Deliver the Equality Goods”

What a Post-Office Bank Can and Can’t Do for Economic Equality

By Karen Shaw Petrou

Yes, I know – getting the post office into finance when you despair of getting your own mail, not the neighbor’s, is a stretch.  But the economics of small-dollar banking under the post-crisis monetary and regulatory framework force a hard choice:  create an equality-focused utility for otherwise-unbankable customers or consign them to the only financial sector that profits from them:  predatory companies.  Maybe someday fintech will figure out a way to handle huge volumes of small transactions, but some day is far away and un- and under-banked customers are losing income and wealth every day they cannot obtain affordable, sustainable financial services. Continue reading “What a Post-Office Bank Can and Can’t Do for Economic Equality”