Of Money and Madness

By Karen Petrou

  • In 1975, the rewards of national economic growth were evenly distributed regardless of income.  By 2018, most Americans lost their fair share based on per capita GDP.
  • The cost of lost income due to increased inequality to the bottom 90% over this period amounts to $2.5 trillion compared to what it would have been if GDP had remained as equitably distributed as it was before 1975.
  • Looked at another way, the majority of U.S. workers never shared in the economic growth from 1975 to 2018.
  • It may seem that racial disparities in U.S. income improved over this period, but this wasn’t the result of a society become more fair, if not also economically more equal.  In fact, racial disparity dropped not because Black male workers with below-median income held their own, but because white men did worse than before.  The same phenomenon erases what appears to be a drop in the gender gap for working women who did a bit better – largely due to more working hours – than men.
  • Fed policy premised on aggregates and averages as well as the benefits of GDP growth without regard to distributional realities is not only doomed to fail, but sure to continue to exacerbate inequality.
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Why a Racial-Equity Mandate Isn’t Enough: Action for Inclusive Financial Policy

By Karen Petrou

  • The lack of racial equity in U.S. monetary and regulatory policy is only part of the problem.  Inclusive policy must reach all groups – including persons with disabilities – now overlooked by the Fed and thus left behind by the U.S. economy.
  • The Fed’s monetary policy mandate in current law is already inclusive, but unmet and unenforced.  Fixing that by legislation may focus the Fed’s attention with better data, but data aren’t enough.
  • Inclusive financial policy effectively reaches all under-served groups via equality-focused financial regulation and ground-up – not trickle-down monetary policy.  The Fed is already a fiscal agent via its huge asset purchases, but this is the opposite of inclusive policy due to its direct and unequal wealth impact.  Inclusive policy realigns monetary and regulatory accountability, but does not replace it with a still greater fiscal presence.
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Bad Things about the Good Place and How to Pretty It Back Up

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”

Inequality Rising

By Karen Petrou

As the COVID crisis continues, some have speculated that wealth inequality will drop because it did in the 1400s during the Black Death.  However, this cure is not only of course considerably worse than the disease, but it’s also no cure.  Economic inequality is a cumulative process – the worse off you are, the worse off you get unless something positive reverses this compound effect.  Conversely, the better off, the still more comfortable unless something comes along to redistribute your gains, however well or ill gotten.  Given how unequal the U.S. was before COVID, it will surely get only more so now, especially if the Fed stays the course with trillions for financial markets and pennies for everyone else. Continue reading “Inequality Rising”

The Family Financial Facility: Urgent, Overdue, Equitable Fed Support for Those Most in Need

By Karen Petrou

As I write this, thousands of small businesses are clamoring for urgent SBA loans and so many Americans are filing for unemployment insurance that systems have crumpled across the country.  At the same time, the S&P rose over three percent since Monday’s open.  The reason for this dissonance lies in the fact that key parts of the financial market have been bailed out while ordinary borrowers are stuck and then some.  Saving markets won’t salvage the economy – at its root, the U.S. is a consumption-driven economy.  If consumers can’t survive, neither will the economy.  The Fed must add a Family Financial Facility to all those it has crafted for the financial market and it should open one fast.  In this crisis, time is truly money and money is what most families don’t have.

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