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”

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”

Very, Very Safe Banks and a Very, Very Unequal Economy

By Karen Shaw Petrou

On April 13, federal banking agencies released their plan to require regulatory-capital recognition of the FASB’s new current expected credit loss (CECL) accounting method.  Doesn’t it sound technical, dull, and irrelevant to economic equality?  The integration of capital regulation with CECL is indeed technical and often dull, but it’s absolutely critical to the ability of U.S. banks to make the long-term, higher-risk loans essential for reversing at least some U.S. income and wealth inequality. Continue reading “Very, Very Safe Banks and a Very, Very Unequal Economy”

How to Turn CRA into a Positive Force for Economic Equality

By Karen Shaw Petrou

On January 10, the Wall Street Journal confirmed that Trump Administration regulators plan to advance the reforms to the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) first outlined in a 2017 Treasury Department report.  The CRA dates backs to an era when progressive Democrats controlled federal financial regulation and is now a hallowed artifact of policy that progressives believe advances economic equality.  Community advocates and many Democrats will thus cry foul as this Trump Administration initiative begins.  Are they right?  Does the CRA really advance economic equality?  Continue reading “How to Turn CRA into a Positive Force for Economic Equality”

Refi Madness

By Karen Shaw Petrou

The ability of U.S. borrowers to refinance their residential mortgages may seem like a small matter when considering economic inequality, but it’s actually a critical question given the central importance of homes to wealth accumulation for all but the richest Americans.  Some have suggested that mortgage refinancings (refis) simply be banned for lower-income households to prevent wealth-destroying equity extraction, while others have claimed that refis not only promote home ownership and economic growth, but also validate the equality benefits of post-crisis monetary policy.  A new paper from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia demonstrates that refis aren’t economic equality curses or blessings – instead, they’re procyclical accelerants that put vulnerable borrowers at risk in booms when credit flows far too freely and that then excludes those most in need of lower-cost loans as post-crisis loans go only to the wealthiest households in the highest-priced homes.  Continue reading “Refi Madness”