Arguably, the only groups in America that have truly benefitted from the weak, mismanaged, and ill-advised Fed policy known as “quantitative easing,” are those employed by the government, Wall Street fat cats, the poor and the economically disadvantaged – the latter two only because of greatly expanded entitlement programs.
The largest group of U.S. citizens, middle-class working men and women, has disproporiately suffered the most comparatively. This is because this massive group does not generally benefit from entitlements unless they become unemployed, which is obviously something that never sits well with the working classes.
That is why I read with intense interest Jacob Gaffney’s recent op-ed, “Annaly CEO: Blame Fed policy for failed economic recovery”, published on May 8, in HousingWire. In his piece Gaffney quoted Wellington Denahan, CEO of mortgage REIT Annaly Capital, as railing against quantitative easing and the zero interest rate policy as working to the detriment of average Americans while Denham was on a recent investor conference call. She, in turn, was citing from a recent report from the International Monetary Fund.
What Denahan was saying was that if those at the Federal Reserve (Bernanke, then Yellen and their minions) were trying to improve economic conditions of the average American (read, middle-class working women and men), then they have failed unequivocally, making matters worse for them over time.
Gaffney goes on to further quote [the brackets are mine] Denahan as saying, “Despite their noble [questionable say I] efforts, I believe policymakers have failed to foster the conditions for a credible sustained recovery.” But Denahan also pointed out that Bernanke, Yellen, et al., were very successful in creating both debt and equity market bubbles, however reliant they may be on zero interest rates.
It is obscene to learn from Denahan this confirmation of what we've suspected for quite some time — that global bond markets have dramatically increased in value by some $17 trillion, while global equity markets have sharply risen by an astounding $40 trillion, all the while American wage earners have experienced puny comparative gains of around $722 billion during the same timeframe.
According to Denahan, this means that for every dollar gained by the American worker, the global equity markets have gained $55.
Yes, there really is inequality in America. It goes well beyond what you are being told by the media, however, that QE and its associated zero interest rate policy are a major reason economic inequality is growing instead of shrinking.
The bottom line to all this is that the middle-class workers of America, whether at the top of the group, in the middle or at the lower end, have never received their “fair share” of the wealth that has been created by government policies touted as helping all Americans.
Economist Anthony Randazzo of the Reason Foundation once wrote that QE is fundamentally a regressive redistribution program that has been boosting wealth for those who already own homes or are already engaged in the financial sector, but passing very little along to the rest of the economy. He added that QE is a primary driver of income inequality.
The reason for this is really quite simple. QE drives up the prices of assets, particularly financial assets. Most of the financial assets in America are owned by the wealthiest 5% of Americans.
According to Fed data, the top 5% of Americans own approximately 60% of the nation’s individually-held financial assets. They also reportedly own up to 82% of the individually held stocks and more than 90% of the individually held bonds.
It is undeniable that the majority of middle-class Americans have most of their wealth tied up in their houses (about 5% for most). For the top 5%, homes account for only 10% of wealth, while financial assets account for between one-third and 40%.
It is clear that the Fed policies in question here put more profits into the hands of the top 5% while doing little or nothing to generate well-paying jobs for the rest of America.