Can We Create Equality Insurance?

By Karen Petrou

Much of the work posted so far on this blog centers on the traditional pillars of financial policy:  monetary policy and the sweeping post-crisis framework of bank regulation.  But, awesome though the Fed’s reach may be and as critical as banking is to income and wealth equality, these financial-policy channels are not the only ones that determine economic equality.  In this blog post, we assess another policy channel:  health, property-and-casualty, and life insurance.  With almost no research in this sector, we pose questions based on what we’ve read and what we think we know based on all our other works.  At the least, insurance requires equality evaluation and, quite likely, significant changes so it makes low-and-moderate income and wealth families healthier, readier to retire, better positioned to bequeath wealth to their children, and all around more equal. Continue reading “Can We Create Equality Insurance?”

Inequality Hits Fiscal Reality

By Karen Petrou

Readers of this blog know well that we think U.S. economic inequality is not only a profound social-welfare and political-consensus problem, but also a scourge to financial-market stability.  We have not generally wandered into fiscal-policy questions, preferring to focus on a far less well-known, but potent inequality force:  U.S. monetary and regulatory policy.  However, financial and fiscal policy are inextricably intertwined.  If inequality increases the risk of financial crises – which it does – and financial crises pose macroeconomic risk – which of course they do – then fiscal policy must ride to the rescue to prevent prolonged recession or even depression.  Could it, given how acute U.S. economic inequality has become?  A new report from Moody’s says that the rating agency may well have to downgrade U.S. debt – the AAA sine qua non of global finance – due to inequality.  Continue reading “Inequality Hits Fiscal Reality”

If You Really Want to Be Unequal, Be Disabled

By Karen Petrou and Matthew Shaw*

Like most who assess U.S. economic inequality, we’ve focused in this blog on the way income and wealth divide across Americans in general, by race, by age, by gender, by ethnicity, and even by nothing more than where one lives.  However, working on another pro bono initiative – this time to speed biomedical research – it’s dawned on us that there’s another major factor that divides the haves from the have-nots that’s even less the result of individual action than all these well-studied demographic criteria:  disability. Continue reading “If You Really Want to Be Unequal, Be Disabled”

Hard Work, Low Pay, High Costs: Life on the Ground in a “Well-Performing” Economy

By Matthew Shaw and Drake Palmer

Recent jobs data sparked excitement as news reports talked of how America is finally going back to work.  This is understandable optimism, based as it was on a concurrent rise in labor-force participation and a drop in the government’s preferred measure of unemploymentHere, we assess whether the Fed’s “solid” and “very well performing” economy has finally allowed low-and-moderate income (LMI) households to share the prosperity rapidly pooling at the very top of the income and wealth distribution.  In short, and sad to say, it isn’t – hourly pay for low-wage/low-skill workers has declined in real (i.e., inflation-adjusted) terms over the past four decades and is essentially flat since 2010.  As we noted in our last blog post, wealth concentration has soared since the financial crisis.  Even if a corner has now been turned for everyone else, it’s just a very tight one at the bottom of the equality canyon. Continue reading “Hard Work, Low Pay, High Costs: Life on the Ground in a “Well-Performing” Economy”

It’s Worse Than You Thought

By Karen Shaw Petrou and Matthew Shaw

Janet Yellen, Ben Bernanke, and Jerome Powell have each bemoaned U.S. economic inequality and then asserted that it’s everyone else’s fault.  On the blog and in our speeches, we counter that post-crisis monetary and regulatory policy had an unintended but nonetheless dramatic and destructive impact on the income and wealth divides.  In doing so, we often point to just how much worse and how much faster inequality became as post-crisis policy took hold.  Demographics, technology, and trade policy didn’t change anywhere near that much that fast.  Now, a new study from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis takes the story forward with a trove of data evaluating U.S. economic inequality from 1949 through 2016.  For all the recovery and employment the Fed cites in its equality defense, these data tell a far different tale.   Continue reading “It’s Worse Than You Thought”