Two Percent For The One Percent

Gradual inflation has a numbing effect. It impoverishes the lower and middle class, but they don’t notice.”—Andrew Bosomworth, PIMCO Germany, as quoted in Der Spiegel

Media reports and political candidates have been stressing the rising wealth and income inequality gaps in the United States. They do so to advance their agendas, but the problem is real and they are justified in raising it. At the same time, both groups are largely overlooking an important piece of the puzzle in the way they talk about it. To properly diagnose this important problem, we need to understand the role the Federal Reserve plays in managing economic growth and how it contributes to these rising imbalances. This article examines the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy objectives and their stated inflation goals to help you better appreciate the role they play in this troubling and growing problem.  

Populism on the Rise

The political success of Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders and more recently Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez leave scant doubt that populism is on the rise. Voters from both parties are demanding change and going to extremes to achieve it. Much of what is taking place is rooted in the emergence of the greatest wealth inequality gap since the roaring ’20s.

Over the last twenty years, the “1%” have been able to accumulate wealth at an ever-increasing rate. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the top 1% take home 21% of all income in the United States, the largest share since 1928. The graph below, while slightly dated, shows the drastic change in income trends that have occurred over the last 35 years.

Graph Courtesy: New York Times – One Broken Economy, in One Simple Chart

This grab for riches by the few is coming at the expense of the many. There are a variety of social, political and economic factors driving the growing discrepancy, but there is one critical factor that is being ignored.

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