The Federal Reserve has recently admitted, through various policy speeches and interviews, that quantitative easing’s primary goal was to foster a wealth effect by raising asset prices across the board.
If that’s true, then why did the middle class largely evaporate over the same period? Because the middle class does not own large amounts of financial assets.
Numbers don’t lie
Income inequality and wealth inequality are significant issues. The problem is growing and will continue to do so because the monetary policies enacted thus far have exacerbated the underlying imbalances in the economy. Growing the wealth of the wealthy at the expense of the rest of the population is not only counterproductive, it’s actually dangerous.
The primary driver of US economic activity is consumption. That means that a prosperous middle class is critical to a flourishing US economy. Spenders that have an increased sense of wealth and rising incomes will buy larger homes, make more discretionary purchases, be better equipped to support larger families and ultimately that adds to our GDP.
Economic sanity must be restored
Favoring the wealthy and large corporations has created the problems that our economy will face in the future. Adding to that, the enormous student debt owed by today’s generation of new entrants to a workforce with less high paying jobs will significantly hinder their ability to buy a home, car or make large discretionary purchases. Thus robbing future demand from the economy.
This is a significant headwind for the US economy as we move forward in to a future that has been defined by the actions of today. The only means of reaching an escape velocity whereby the middle class can thrive again is to re-examine the current economic paradigm with a focus on the future. And I don’t mean in terms of 4 years or the next election cycle.
We can decide our destiny
The future of our country can be a wonderful one should we so choose to exert the effort necessary to make it so. But that will mean difficult choices about spending priorities, it will mean forgiving large amounts of student debt and favoring the individual over the interests of the corporation (as a change). It will mean bringing back regulation that strengthens oversight of Wall Street and banks (Glass-Steagall would be a good start).
Most importantly, though, we need to focus on our country. Minimizing participation in global conflict and putting forward programs to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure. Our roads, trains, power lines, water pipes and broadband delivery systems can all use a massive investment to bring the US back to being a global leader. A position we have earned, but have failed to maintain.