The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in American Well-Being

By Karen Petrou and Matthew Shaw

Yesterday, FRB Vice Chairman Clarida said that the U.S. economy is in “in a good place.”  However, The Fed’s new study of American economic “well-being” shows that huge swaths of the United States are struggling harder than ever before to make ends meet.  All but the most affluent Americans asked about how well they’re doing don’t feel anywhere near that good about it.  Combine this with new data on the evaporating American middle class and an ugly picture quickly merges.  In it, the prosperity in which the Fed takes such comfort rests thinly atop millions – indeed a hundred plus million – of Americans who are barely getting by at the height of the business cycle following a record-breaking “recovery.”  No wonder that so many Americans remain so angry about their economic prospects and why political polarization is sure to define the 2020 election at least as much as it determined 2016’s outcome.

Continue reading “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in American Well-Being”

The Missing Middle Class

By Karen Petrou

When we started this blog in 2017, we began with a plea for the Federal Reserve to factor inequality into its monetary and regulatory policy equation.  We showed at the start, here, here and here, that the Fed’s focus only on averages and aggregates obscures sharp polarization at each end of the U.S. income and wealth distribution.  It is these polarizations, as we’ve repeatedly seen in blog posts that undermine the Fed’s ability to set the U.S. economy on a forward trajectory of shared prosperity and stable growth – i.e., to meet its dual mandate as Congress expressly defined it in the Humphrey-Hawkins Act of 1978.  The Fed is still resolutely crafting monetary policy with its eyes firmly averted from increasing inequality.  Continue reading “The Missing Middle Class”

Big Tech, Big Macroeconomic Problems

By Karen Petrou

It’s easy enough to miss the macroeconomic and financial-sector impact of giant tech-platform companies in the swirl of concern about privacy, political integrity, concentration, and corporate governance.  However, big tech also has massive macroeconomic impact with far-reaching financial-system implications.  We explored safety-and-soundness implications in here and economic-equality impact in here.  Now comes a sweeping IMF study linking and even attributing structural economic transformation to these same big-tech behemoths.  Although inconclusive in critical respects, it’s worth a careful look. Continue reading “Big Tech, Big Macroeconomic Problems”

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”

Making “Responsible Innovation” a Reality: Big Tech, Small Money, and U.S. Economic Equality

By Federal Financial Analytics

FedFin has just released a new policy paper laying out how emerging risks in unregulated tech-based financial products may threaten U.S. economic inequality.  It’s not that regulated institutions have always done that much better, but rather that the power of big data, predictive modeling, and far-flung commercial interests combines with tech-firm culture in still more dangerous ways far outside the reach of effective controls or meaningful enforcement.  Continue reading “Making “Responsible Innovation” a Reality: Big Tech, Small Money, and U.S. Economic Equality”