Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Another Roaring Twenties--Part II

 Financial FAQs

For another ‘Roaring Twenties’ recovery to happen, Nobel Prize-winner Joe Stiglitz warns in Project-Syndicate that we must pass President Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan.

“Biden’s proposed spending plan is urgently needed. Recently released data show a slowdown in America’s recovery both in terms of GDP and employment. There is overwhelming evidence that the recovery package will provide enormous stimulus to the economy, and that economic growth will generate substantial tax revenues, not just for the federal government but also for the states and municipalities that are now starved of the funds they need to provide essential services.”

The University of Michigan’s early February consumer sentiment survey says much the same. Consumer sentiment edged downward in early February, with the entire loss concentrated in the Expectation Index and among households with incomes below $75,000 (the income brackets targeted by the government cash payouts).

“Households with incomes in the bottom third reported significant setbacks in their current finances, with fewer of these households mentioning recent income gains than anytime since 2014 (see the chart),” said the U. Michigan survey.

When asked to assess their current financial position, the deep divisions become apparent: among those with incomes in the bottom third, just 23 percent reported improved finances, the lowest since 2014; in contrast, among those with incomes in the top third, 54 percent reported their finances had improved. Mentions of income gains fell to just 17 percent among those in the bottom third, compared with 44 percent in the top income third.

The end result is more layoffs - one million-plus applications for unemployment benefits are still being filed each week. Jobless claims total almost 800,000 at state level and 334,524 file though federal emergency program in early February.

Why won’t the $1.9 trillion in additional government spending cause too high inflation, or some other excess from the fear of too hot economic growth? Because interest rates are in effect at zero, and so is retail (CPI) inflation.

Interest rates measure the cost of money, which in effect is cost-free, at the moment. There is so much money floating around the world’s economy that lenders are begging borrowers to use that surplus, and actually paying borrowers in the case of certain EU countries with negative interest rates.

Now is not the time to hoard what can be used to improve lives—especially the lives of those -such as those police, healthcare essential workers that keep this economy working.

A first priority say leading economists, is to make sure enough funds are available to fight the pandemic, then get children back into schools, as well as allowing state and local governments to provide the essential services we all depend on.

Harlan Green © 2020

Follow Harlan Green on Twitter: https://twitter.com/HarlanGreen

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