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”

Baseball Cards for the Equality Game?

By Karen Shaw Petrou

Although the Federal Reserve resolutely rebuffs suggestions – mine included – that it’s exacerbated U.S. economic inequality, the Bank of England has been forced by public outcry to deal directly with its own inequality impact.  Reacting to strong public protest and withering fire from the Prime Minister, the BoE recently released not only a report denying the charges itself, but now also an exculpatory speech by Andrew Haldane, its influential chief economist.  Clearly feeling the heat, the Bank of England has even come up with a way to sell its positive message:  personalized “scorecards” proving to the skeptical citizenry that it’s better off than personal economic problems might lead it to believe.  Continue reading “Baseball Cards for the Equality Game?”

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”

Should The Fed Become a “Social Wealth Fund?”

By Karen Shaw Petrou

On November 30, the New York Times ran an op-ed arguing that the Fed could make a big economic-equality difference by becoming, in essence, a giant equity holder on behalf of the nation’s least wealthy.  This concept takes Milton Friedman’s idea of “helicopter money” one step farther, creating “helicopter equity” in hopes of improving long-term wealth accumulation instead of the consumption for which Mr. Friedman wanted his dollars dropped from the sky.  From a progressive-policy perspective, turning the Fed into a giant, redistributive mutual fund has considerable appeal.  Continue reading “Should The Fed Become a “Social Wealth Fund?””

Another Reason to Avoid Economic Inequality: Increased Financial-Crisis Risk

By Karen Shaw Petrou

In our post on the inequality impact of quantitative easing, we said that QE-driven asset valuations not only favor the rich, but in concert with ultra-low rates also sows the seeds for the type of asset-bubble that all too often leads to crashes and thus still more macroeconomic misery and inequality.  A new staff paper from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco finds that, even if the asset-price bubble doesn’t burst, inequality on its own could stoke the next U.S. financial crisis, with heightened inequality also found to be the best crisis predictor of all the other, more typical measures that the paper surveys.
Continue reading “Another Reason to Avoid Economic Inequality: Increased Financial-Crisis Risk”