By Karen Petrou
- Economic inequality and ultra-low interest rates create a vicious cycle in which rates drive down savings, financial intermediation becomes less profitable, unequal households have still more difficulty preserving income and accumulating wealth, banks drop equality-essential services, consumers are made still more unequal, and it all starts all over again.
- Breaking this cycle requires hard decisions about which retail-banking services genuinely enhance economic equality and quickly developing effective, measurable delivery channels to promote widespread adoption.
- There is no shortage of commitments from high-level federal officials supporting equitable finance; what’s missing are specific, near-term action steps.
- This post thus provides a step-by-step roadmap for quick public- and private-sector innovation, regulation, and inclusion.
Almost a decade to the day after the “Occupy Wall Street” movement crystalized the populist politics that now characterizes U.S. debate, the Acting Comptroller of the Currency announced that his agency’s top priority is reducing inequality. This echoes the Biden Administration’s emphasis on equality and racial equity, but all of these high-minded goals are more hortatory than clear directives. They are thus unlikely to advance equitable banking, exacerbating not just economic inequality, but also America’s discontent and resulting disfunction. Reducing economic inequality is clearly essential, with banks and other financial companies sure to face mandates or even public-finance competitors if vital needs are not quickly and equitably met.
Continue reading “Equality Banking: A Roadmap”
By Karen Petrou
- Distributional data show clearly that, fiscal stimulus notwithstanding, the U.S. was still more economically unequal in 2020.
- Only fiscal policy once combined also with progressive financial policy will put the inequality engine into reverse.
As we have noted before, the Fed’s new Distributional Financial Accounts of the United States (DFA) is a definitive source of economic-equality data we hope the Fed will not just compile, but also use for policy-making purposes. The latest edition of the DFA demonstrates yet again why distributional data are so compelling, showing now the profound challenge even unprecedented fiscal policy on its own faces slowing down the inexorable engine of inequality. Still more fiscal stimulus in 2021 will boost absolute income and wealth numbers a bit at some benefit to low-, moderate-, and even middle-income households. Still, the upward march of financial markets powered in large part by Fed policy inexorably widens the inequality gap. No matter the “crust of bread and such” from fiscal programs, inequality still increases the slow pace of economic growth, the risk of financial crises, and the odds that the electorate will be even angrier in 2024 than 2020.
Continue reading “Fiscal Policy’s Futile Equality Expectation on Its Own”
By Karen Petrou
- Pre-COVID inequality evidenced itself instantly in post-COVID consumer-finance extremis.
- A unique construct of ground-up recovery policies is an essential, urgent response.
- Regulatory revisions would help and long-overdue equitable liquidity facilities would do still more.
- New public guarantees are critical.
Ever since the U.S. economy crept out of recession, the Fed has represented its slow, inequitable recovery as a “good place.” Its own 2018 economic well-being survey contradicted this and the latest data released on May 14 are no better before COVID came and a lot worse thereafter. These data make it still more clear that the Fed must quickly reorient its trickle-down rescues to move money starting at ground level, but even that won’t be sufficient given the magnitude of COVID’s economic impact. The combination of macroeconomic harm and financial-system hurt also requires a reset in which new public guarantees for prudent private financing fully recognized by new rules play a major part. Continue reading “Bad Things about the Good Place and How to Pretty It Back Up”
By Karen Petrou
There is an extensive literature on the “unbanked.” But what of those one might call the “unsecured?” In previous blog posts, we have pondered “equality banking” and “equality insurance.” Now, we turn to equality investing, doing so not just because savings at ultra-low interest rates has become the road to ruin, but also because several retail brokers have redesigned entry-level investing with considerable equality upside. Although caution is always warranted when products are aimed at inexperienced investors, “fractional share” options and no-commission fees could make a meaningful difference for millennial and lower-income households hoping to have enough put aside over time to own a home, ensure a secure retirement, and protect their families from the unexpected. Continue reading “Why We Need Baby Warbucks: Equities as a Pathway to Equality”