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”

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”

One Small Step for Better Monetary-Policy Models

By Karen Shaw Petrou

When I spoke at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York on March 1, I pressed hard for less reliance on data that washes away growing U.S. economic-inequality gaps.  Happily, many at the talk readily concurred.  For those who disagree, take note: an amendment added on March 6 to a House Financial Services Committee budget statement for the first time demands that the Fed do better when it makes judgments about U.S. prosperity. Continue reading “One Small Step for Better Monetary-Policy Models”

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”

How Equality Hangs in the Balance Sheet

By Karen Shaw Petrou

As Thomas Piketty’s book and much other research show, economic equality is a cumulative-return construct – that is, absent engines of growth, the rich get richer and middle-income households fall ever farther behind.  Thus, when bank balance-sheet capacity shrinks and lending to core economic engines such as housing and small business falters, income distribution widens and wealth inequality grows inexorably worse.  Continue reading “How Equality Hangs in the Balance Sheet”