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”

Still Economic Waters Hide Lurking Danger

By Karen Shaw Petrou

On Tuesday, FRB Chairman Powell delivered a strongly-positive statement on the state of the U.S. economy.  Citing factors such as recent wage growth and employment, Mr. Powell is far more worried about keeping the good times going than about how inequitably the good times deliver the goodies across the gaping U.S. income and wealth divide.  This is setting monetary and regulatory policy the same way a diver looking only at a calm, blue surface jumps into a lake and breaks his neck.  Continue reading “Still Economic Waters Hide Lurking Danger”

Caught in CCAR’s Cross-Fire

By Karen Shaw Petrou

  • CCAR now tries to make big banks a shadow U.S. central bank.
  • Result: more systemic risk and still less economic inequality.

How do you make the financial system less stable and increase U.S. economic inequality at the same time?  It’s not easy, but if you’re the Fed, then you accomplish this frightening feat by toughening up the annual CCAR stress test for the biggest banks without an eye to its systemic or market impact.  Stress testing is fine – indeed an important addition to the post-crisis supervisory arsenal.  But, CCAR itself is founded on two flawed premises:  big BHCs are the heart of financial stability and nothing the central banks does adversely affects economic inequality.  Continue reading “Caught in CCAR’s Cross-Fire”

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”