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”

The Inequality Under-Belly of “Sound” Consumer Finance

By Federal Financial Analytics

In remarks on Tuesday, Karen Petrou will lay out two reasons why post-crisis financial regulation makes America less equal: rules are is aligned with real-world business incentives and capital standards unduly penalize equality-critical lending.  Basing her views on Federal Reserve research, Petrou focuses on the Durbin Amendment, qualified-mortgage standards, small-dollar/short-term lending, and subprime mortgages.  Continue reading “The Inequality Under-Belly of “Sound” Consumer Finance”

SIFIs and Sisyphus: The Latest Bank-Regulation Rewrite

By Karen Petrou

Starting in 2010, U.S. regulators erected a pyramid of complex, costly, and stringent safety-and-soundness, resolution-planning, and conduct regulations for the largest U.S. banking organizations that have come to be called SIFIs (i.e., systemically-important financial institutions).  Starting in 2018, the agencies began to demolish the still-incomplete SIFI pyramid, issuing on October 31 two sweeping proposals (here and here) not only to implement new U.S. law, but also to go farther.  Bankers say this is nice, but not enough; critics lambast the proposals as forerunners of the next financial crisis.  Either could be right – the proposals repeat the most fundamental mistake of post-crisis financial regulation:  rules piled upon rules or, now, rules subtracted from rules without even an effort to anticipate how all of the revised rules work taken altogether in the financial marketplace as it exists in the real world, not in a set of academic papers or political edicts. Continue reading “SIFIs and Sisyphus: The Latest Bank-Regulation Rewrite”

Can We Create Equality Insurance?

By Karen Petrou

Much of the work posted so far on this blog centers on the traditional pillars of financial policy:  monetary policy and the sweeping post-crisis framework of bank regulation.  But, awesome though the Fed’s reach may be and as critical as banking is to income and wealth equality, these financial-policy channels are not the only ones that determine economic equality.  In this blog post, we assess another policy channel:  health, property-and-casualty, and life insurance.  With almost no research in this sector, we pose questions based on what we’ve read and what we think we know based on all our other works.  At the least, insurance requires equality evaluation and, quite likely, significant changes so it makes low-and-moderate income and wealth families healthier, readier to retire, better positioned to bequeath wealth to their children, and all around more equal. Continue reading “Can We Create Equality Insurance?”

It Wasn’t the Butler

By Karen and Basil Petrou

Summary

In the raft of crisis retrospectives released during the ten-year anniversary of the Great Financial Crisis, general consensus continues the conventional wisdom that subprime mortgages were the spark of the subsequent conflagration.  A new study from the Federal Reserve Banks of Atlanta and New York mobilizes formidable data to show that hapless subprime purchase-money borrowers were victims, not perpetrators.  The borrowers who did the damage that precipitated the debacle were, they find, prime borrowers whipped into a speculative frenzy by the combination of low rates and flagrantly-unwise mortgage lending.  Theoretically, post-crisis reforms have solved for this.  Actually, maybe not given the exodus of mortgage securitization from regulated entities, sharp rise in cash-out refis, and investment-focused borrowing with house prices well above affordability thresholds in many major markets.  Continue reading “It Wasn’t the Butler”