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. 

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Still Economic Waters Hide Lurking Danger

By Karen Shaw Petrou

On Tuesday, FRB Chairman Powell delivered a strongly-positive statement on the state of the U.S. economy.  Citing factors such as recent wage growth and employment, Mr. Powell is far more worried about keeping the good times going than about how inequitably the good times deliver the goodies across the gaping U.S. income and wealth divide.  This is setting monetary and regulatory policy the same way a diver looking only at a calm, blue surface jumps into a lake and breaks his neck.  Continue reading “Still Economic Waters Hide Lurking Danger”

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”

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?””

Paternalism, Payday Lending, and the Post Office

By Karen Shaw Petrou

It is a truth known to all who seek consumer protection from predatory lending that payday lending is a scourge.  However, it is also a truth among business analysts that financial institutions will not willingly go broke. Regulated companies will exit a business which cannot generate profit regardless of unmet demand.  It is also a truth among business analysts that unregulated companies then rise to meet this demand, often undeterred by the social-welfare scruples that underpin the consumer-protection rules.
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