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”

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”

Public Banking Under a Blue Wave

By Karen Petrou

In a blog post this summer, we assessed the history of U.S. public banks over three centuries.  We concluded that, “The best way to ensure that financial intermediation advances social welfare is to define a carefully-constrained charter, mandate transparent limits on self-dealing up front, and ensure that the bank is fit for purpose under reasonable rules that ensure long-term profit in concert with effective public service.  Public subsidies to support public service make sense, but only when sufficient regulation and private-sector discipline constrain the natural self-serving instincts of all-too-many politicians.”  Maybe so, but sizeable minorities of voters this November said that they so distrust private banks that they want a public alternative no matter the controls that might apply.  In a blue-wave mood, federal legislators are listening.  Continue reading “Public Banking Under a Blue Wave”

Profits, Purpose, and Payday Lending

By Karen Shaw Petrou

On May 23, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) issued a bulletin allowing national banks into the short-term, small dollar lending often stigmatized as payday lending.  The policy shift is intended to spur regulated banks into a business prone to predatory practice, thus giving vulnerable borrowers a better way to tide them over short-term financial hardships.  Will banks start making short-term, small-dollar loans now that they have the OCC’s blessing?  Not if they can’t find a way to make money. 

Continue reading “Profits, Purpose, and Payday Lending”