The Vanishing American Dream, a book developed in collaboration with Larry Summers, Glenn Hubbard, Robert Shiller, Sarah Bloom Raskin, Oren Cass, Belle Sawhill and other experts from across the political spectrum, paints a hard reality ... one the pandemic has only exacerbated.
Americans have been justifiably disturbed by stories of deep-pocketed corporations accepting loans from the Paycheck Protection Program designed to save small businesses and non-profits. But outrage over generous loans to well-heeled businesses is obscuring another troubling problem: The Federal Reserve’s efforts to preserve liquidity in the corporate debt market are, however inadvertently, sending wealth up the income scale, exacerbating inequality.
President Trump has promised to introduce a new tax-cut plan before the November election, but whatever he and congressional Republicans come up with is likely to be dismissed as little more than political theater. Why, after all, would Speaker Nancy Pelosi let any White House-drafted tax bill pass through the Democratic-controlled House ahead of the critical 2020 vote? But one possible part of the plan, which has been under discussion at least since last summer, should have broad bipartisan appeal: cutting the payroll tax, an idea Trump reintroduced Monday in a tweet. “The Democrats in the House should propose a very simple one year Payroll Tax cut,” he wrote. “Great for the middle class, great for the USA!”
When the Roosevelt Administration was fashioning the New Deal, Washington established a well-intentioned tax to help pay for Social Security. The "payroll tax" was simple-enough to administer: money could be taken directly out of each worker's paycheck. And since most incomes fell below the taxable threshold of $3,000, nearly every worker was subject to a small withholding. The burden on taxpayers was minimal, and it funded 1 percent of the federal government's income.
The endless political debate about whether the financial industry has too much or too little regulation distracts from a much more salient inquiry: Are the regulations on the books, in fact, effective? Are they rightsized to the market where they’re applied? Do they properly address the inherent risks?
To read the economic reports coming out of Washington, you might assume that the American economy is firing on all cylinders. But beneath this rosy picture is a much darker reality.
In the current environment, deregulation is in the wind, and the regulatory framework is being reassessed. But given the credit cycle’s natural ups and downs, this period of deregulation won’t last long.
Financial services companies, in particular banks, are racing to harness the potential of artificial intelligence. Lenders are employing algorithms that analyze consumer data to conduct credit scoring and determine appropriate loan amounts, and AI tools examining customer transaction habits are improving fraud alerts and reducing money-laundering risk.
York, Pa., where I’m from, is emblematic of what’s happening in too many cities and towns across America. It used to be a bustling town with booming industry. Retirement for many wasn’t a worry because a good pension was essentially guaranteed. It was an article of faith that your life would be better than your parents’.
No one has a crystal ball that can identify tail risk, but experience and recent developments suggest several danger signs that can point us in the right direction.
Governments around the world are taking bold steps to minimize the likelihood of another catastrophic financial crisis. Regulators and financial institutions already have their hands full, so the bar for adding anything to the agenda should be high.
The payroll tax cut being debated in Congress is one of our last, best hopes to break the spell of unemployment that continues to hang over the economy. If both parties fail to reach an agreement, the economic and political consequences will be devastating. There is a way out, but it requires an understanding of why payroll taxes are particularly bad for economic growth.
Held September 16th, Gene Ludwig, Belle Sawhill, Deval Patrick, Janet Yellen and other luminaries discussed the prescient topics of Gene Ludwig’s new book The Vanishing American Dream, delving into the challenges facing lower- and middle-income Americans and also discussed potential solutions. The video of the entire event is available to view below.