No, the banks are not the bad guys …

Alton Drew

The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System begin their two-day meeting next Wednesday, one day after the general election. No changes in inter-bank rates are expected, but what will be of interest is a likely repeat of the plea that Congress and the Executive implement a fiscal policy that keeps the economy on life support during the pandemic. Depending on who wins the Electoral College, Chairman Jerome Powell’s post-meeting comments will be either soothing or raise more hairs on the back of the public’s necks.

Mr Powell will reiterate the need for fiscal policy because monetary policy can only do so much. Monetary policy has as one of its goals the backstopping of its member banks, providing needed liquidity when the credit pipes become clogged by opening the flow of credit to businesses via the banks whose inability to lend could stem from not having enough capital to support additional lending.

Fiscal policy, the Fed chairman will likely remind us next Thursday, does a better job of getting cash into the hands of consumers resulting in increased personal expenditures. Consumer spending has historically driven around seventy percent of national income, and that the kind of spending that is needed now.

But this relief is going to be temporary. The more sustaining stimulus will come from an economy that opens back up. If the polls continue to hold and Joe Biden takes office in January 2021, he could take actions to keep needed capital in the United States that probably props up the economy. Would Mr Biden want to tax this capital as part of his promise to bring about an equitable tax environment where the affluent pay their fair share of taxes or will he back pedal on taxing captured capital in order to quell any attempts at tax avoidance while ensuring the availability of stimulative spending?

Mr Biden may also be reminded that in an economy that is credit driven, where banks are the information search agents that help capital seek out higher returns by identifying worthwhile investments, he could also leave banks, their investors, and their depositors off of his tax hit list thus helping the Federal Reserve further unclog the credit pipes.