The Fed Is Bailing Out the Wealthy as Everyone Else Pays the Price
On the eve of the 2020 financial collapse, the US's economic recovery could only be described as "fragile" and disappointing for anyone who wasn't in the top quintiles of earnings and wealth.
Soaring prices in stocks cannot be shown to have benefited those who don't own many stocks. Moreover, since the Great Recession, housing prices were largely flat among lower-priced homes in middle American markets. The benefits of asset price inflation in housing is felt far more in expensive coastal cities, where the wealthy own higher-priced real estate.
How Ultralow Rates Punish Ordinary Savers
In addition to asset price inflation is the problem of yield chasing, fueled by ultralow interest rates. This doesn't just leave low- and moderate-income families behind as asset price inflation does. Ultralow interest rates actually punish ordinary, conservative savers who lack the wealth or sophistication necessary to gain the benefits of high-risk yield chasing in the markets.
Banks and hedge fund managers have access to many tools to take on higher risk and seek out the corners of the market where higher interest offers a better yield. So, ultralow interest rates still leave Wall Street a variety of options. Most ordinary families don't have those options.
Moreover, as banks and other lending institutions searched for higher yields, they lost their interest in lending to regular people:
This is not due only to interest rate policy, however. Petrou also explains how banking regulations after the Great Recession have further driven banks away from lending to small businesses and ordinary borrowers. Federal regulation has further fueled a strengthening of megabanks, which are better able to meet regulatory benchmarks. Community banks, meanwhile—which serve smaller markets and small-time borrowers—are increasingly disappearing. Consequently, wealth continues to be centralized in Wall Street.
Petrou presents all of this information using evidence from countless quantitative studies from a variety of sources, including the Bank of International Settlements and even some member banks of the Federal Reserve System. Hundreds of footnotes enable the reader to follow these reports back to their sources and see for themselves what has happened: Fed policy has done wonders for billionaires and hedge fund managers. The data suggests others have clearly done less well.
Petrou's book certainly has its shortcomings. The book's monetary policy discussion doesn't begin until chapter 5, nearly sixty pages in. Before that, the reader must slog through an overly long discussion about the evils of inequality. Petrou's discussion on digital currency appears to be out of place, and her conclusions are not terribly convincing. And the final quarter of the book is a laundry list of recommended regulations and changes that amount to little more than tinkering with monetary policy. That is, this book is far too timid in calling for any real restraint on Fed power.
But as a resource for quantifying the results of the Fed's unconventional monetary policy, this book is valuable indeed. There is a well-researched and well-detailed hundred-page core in this book that shows in a dozen different ways what should be regarded as undeniable at this point: the Fed is a force for impoverishment, economic stagnation, and inequality.
Agreed. The Federal Reserve system needs to be abolished.