Dialing for Dollars: Solving CBDC’s Equality Conundrum

By Karen Petrou

  • CBDC advocates tout its inclusiveness, but the digital divide is a profoundly exclusionary impediment to CBDC access for LMI, disabled, older, and rural households. 
  • Centralized deposit-taking and payments via the Post Office and/or Fed pose challenges to personal privacy and even freedom of expression that, if not averted in initial design, could come to pose significant political and governance risk.  Lack of private competition also presents discrimination risk based on pricing or other terms not subject to outside scrutiny.
  • If CBDC succeeds as some envision it, then lending will come either from the federal government – Big Brother problems of still more concern – or capital-markets sources outside the perimeter of safety-and-soundness and often also consumer-protection regulation and enforcement.
  • A CBDC in which the Fed acts as an open-source utility corrects for many current inclusion, governance, and intermediation obstacles to payment-system speed and efficiency. 
Continue reading “Dialing for Dollars: Solving CBDC’s Equality Conundrum”

Trying to Get By While Black

By Karen Petrou

  • African-Americans were better off before the civil-rights era began than they were in mid-2019.
  • Truly huge disparities lie between white and black Americans in terms of income, wealth, and inter-generational mobility.
  • And that was before COVID eviscerated low-income households of color from both a health and economic point of view.
  • It’s past time for equality-focused financial policy, starting first with Equality Banks.

Continue reading “Trying to Get By While Black”

Inequality Rising

By Karen Petrou

As the COVID crisis continues, some have speculated that wealth inequality will drop because it did in the 1400s during the Black Death.  However, this cure is not only of course considerably worse than the disease, but it’s also no cure.  Economic inequality is a cumulative process – the worse off you are, the worse off you get unless something positive reverses this compound effect.  Conversely, the better off, the still more comfortable unless something comes along to redistribute your gains, however well or ill gotten.  Given how unequal the U.S. was before COVID, it will surely get only more so now, especially if the Fed stays the course with trillions for financial markets and pennies for everyone else. Continue reading “Inequality Rising”

The Low-Income High-Risk Myth

By Karen Petrou

In the wake of the great financial crisis, an axiom of consumer finance is that high-risk borrowers are disproportionately lower-income people.  Indeed, the term “subprime” has become a virtual synonym for the lower-income households generally designated with low credit scores and, thus, the subprime sobriquet.  However, a growing body of research demonstrates conclusively that subprime borrowers were not the villains of the mortgage debacle at the heart of the 2008 cataclysm:  it turns out that prime borrowers behaving in subpar ways defaulted far more often than low-income households trying to become homeowners. Continue reading “The Low-Income High-Risk Myth”

Wheelies on the Yield Curve:  Inequality, Disintermediation and the Hazards of New QE

By Karen Petrou

Starting with our very first EconomicEquality blog post, we demonstrated the direct link between quantitative easing (QE) and the sharp rise in U.S. wealth inequality that differentiates this recovery from all that came before.  QE exacerbates inequality because, combined with post-crisis rules and ultra-low rates, it creates a market dynamic in which banks hold huge excess-reserve balances instead of making equality-essential loans and markets relentlessly chase yield, increasing equity valuations and driving credit to borrowers such as highly-leveraged companies.  In 2019, the Fed bulked up its portfolio in what is now known as QE-lite in hopes of rescuing the repo market, reinvigorating sputtering equity markets no matter the Fed’s ongoing insistence that this round of portfolio increases isn’t QE. Continue reading “Wheelies on the Yield Curve:  Inequality, Disintermediation and the Hazards of New QE”