Sunday, September 20, 2015

QE: easy for the rich. Kaletsky's QE: easier for the poor. Corbynomics? Bank of England independence.

Last week's blog had Natalie Bennett at Making Money Work, asking: Could monetary policy do anything about inequality? Steve Keen said that dealing with private debt would address inequality and it was his suggestion that one-off payments to everyone could tackle this, on the condition that debts be repaid first. Lord Turner didn't think there is a 'magic...costless way' of addressing inequality - the way to do this is progressive taxation.

Philip Aldrick (The Times 19 Sept) QE spared Britain a recession...  is particularly clear that monetary policy increased inequality by creating asset price bubbles such as in gilts, bonds and house prices. Inflation is rocketing in these assets, leading, for example, to fading hopes for first-time homeowners.  Low interest rate funding and high demand from UK and non-UK owners buying to let inflates this bubble. [ Private Eye has a searchable map of such overseas owned properties using Land Registry data. Check your area! Whole streets in London are foreign owned].

Clearly monetary policy as carried out since QE in 2009 has increased inequality in housing. But Anatole Kaletsky in Prospect Magazine: How Corbynomics could work  has a neat solution. Instead of QE's £375bn spent to prop up financial markets ('making the rich richer') he proposes that this could have been spent by being given via a weekly £20 payment, to every 'man, woman and child in the UK' until UK growth returned to pre-crisis levels. He proposed this back in 2012. The Free Lunch Blog mentions it here.

So monetary policy could reduce inequality - since equal payments to all inevitably raises living standards proportionally more for the less well off. As long as conditions are strictly adhered to as to the eventual termination of the payment no harm would be done.

That would be a temporary remedy for a sluggish economy. (NB: temporary QE has lasted 6 years so far). But politicians would be wary of the dangers of launching such a citizen-based policy because it would be difficult to stop politically when the monetary need was over. What would be needed to take over would be a similar payment to all but funded by reform of the welfare/tax balanced budget. Such a Citizen's Dividend / Basic Income would need to be established by the end of the monetary booster to avoid the pressure on politicians to extend the  monetary policy dangerously beyond its period of monetary need. Basic Income UK and Citizen's Income Trust have the details of an unconditional non-withdrawable payment to all, as of right.and it is broadly affordable within current budgets. That is the policy that would establish a new citizen's right, like voting, education and a health service.

Another use of monetary policy to promote sustainable growth is suggested by Prof Richard Werner: that credit creating institutions could provide monetary incentives for education purposes '$100,000 for each child born...such a policy would not be inflationary: among all inputs into the production function, human resources are by far the most important.' (New Paradigm in Macroeconomics p340).
To ensure good education for all must be among the most effective ways of poverty reduction and thereby inequality.

Inequality reduction by monetary means would not be magic - merely an effective policy against poverty and as a means of growing the economy.

But QE is magic - for wealthy people. From early 2009 when QE started the UK FTSE 100 share index to date has gained over 60% & UK house prices have risen 67%.

Strange how central bankers and governments fail to take easy steps to help the poor but so easily open doors for the rich to garner greater riches. The Monetary Policy Committee at the Bank of England has met dozens of times since QE started and resolved every time to keep interest rates at 0.5%. Their learned deliberations have now blown up another asset price bubble. Is the BoE really so partisan that it cannot think beyond top layer wealth creation as the sole answer to the crisis? Is it really there for the good of all - as might expected in a democracy? Presumably our government in meekly acquiescing to a measure that has achieved so little for so long, wholly agrees with it.

Bank of England independence is strongly defended. The question to be put is: How dependent on central bank policies ought the government to be?        

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