New Article: Luke Herrine, Credit Reporting’s Vicious Cycles, NYU Rev. L. & Soc. Change forthcoming, SSRN 2015. Abstract below:
This article argues that consumer credit reports can create two sorts of vicious cycles, which can contribute to to cycles of poverty and deepen race-based disenfranchisement. The first takes place in credit markets themselves. Even on a neoclassical model of credit reporting, credit reports can amplify past problems with debt, most of which are brought on by systemic inequality. Loosening the neoclassical model reveals the possibility of even more drastic inequality amplification. The second cycle arises when credit reports are used on extra-lending contexts. In non-lending contexts such as employment credit checks, credit reports do not seem to provide any useful information to employers, but they do reinforce the first vicious cycle and the disadvantage it amplifies. In quasi-lending contexts like insurance pricing, credit reports may provide predictive information, but the information they reveal seems only to be economic instability and by forcing economically unstable individuals to pay more for insurance, they deepen their economic instability. The article concludes with several policy implications.
New Article: Richard R.W. Brooks, The Banality of Racial Inequality, 124 Yale L.J. 2202 (2015). [Reviewing Daria Roithmayr, Reproducing Racism: How Everyday Choices Lock in White Advantage (2014).]
New Article: James Kwak, Reducing Inequality with a Retrospective Tax on Capital, Cornell J. L. & Pub. Pol’y forthcoming, SSRN May 2015. Abstract below:
Inequality in the developed world is high and growing: in the United States, 1% of the population now owns more than 40% of all wealth. In Capital in the Twenty-First Century, the economist Thomas Piketty argues that inequality is only likely to increase: invested capital tends to grow faster than the economy as a whole, causing wealth to concentrate in a small number of hands and eventually producing a society dominated by inherited fortunes. The solution he proposes, an annual wealth tax, has been reflexively dismissed even by supporters of his overall thesis, and presents a number of practical difficulties. However, a retrospective capital tax — which imposes a tax on the sale of an asset based on its (imputed) historical values — can reduce the rate of return on investments and thereby slow down the growth of wealth inequality. A retrospective capital tax mitigates or avoids the administrative and constitutional problems with a simple annual wealth tax and can reduce the rate of return on capital more effectively than a traditional income tax. This Article proposes a revenue-neutral implementation of a retrospective capital tax in the United States that would apply to only 5% of the population and replace most existing taxes on capital, including the estate tax and the corporate income tax. Despite conventional wisdom, there are reasons to believe that such a tax could be politically feasible even in the United States today.
New Article: Emma Coleman Jordan, The Federal Reserve and a Cascade of Failures: Inequality, Cognitive Narrowness and Financial Network Theory, SSRN May 2015. Abstract below:
The recent financial crisis hollowed out the core of American middle-class financial stability. In the wake of the financial crisis, household net worth in the U.S. fell by 24%, for a loss of $16 trillion. Moreover, retirement accounts, the largest class of financial assets, took a steep drop in value, as did house prices, and these two classes of assets alone represent approximately 43% of all household wealth. The losses during the principal crisis years, 2007-2009, were devastating, “erasing almost two decades of accumulated prosperity,” in the words of a 2013 report. By the Federal Reserve. Beyond these direct household balance-sheet losses, 1 out of every 4 homeowners were underwater by 2009 with mortgages worth less than the value of their homes. If we add the 3.7 to 5 million foreclosures that forced Americans to move from the economic and emotional stability of family homes, we see a portrait of dramatic financial instability in the wake of the financial collapse. And the Federal Reserve’s commitment to low interest rates, so beloved on Wall Street, has prevented many families from rebuilding their wealth through interest on savings; these “zero-bound” interest rates are an impediment to middle-class recovery from the losses of the crisis.
By contrast, the financial sector, the cause of the crisis, has prospered from adversity, growing to 9% of GDP by 2010 even as it became less efficient. This is one of the highest shares of GDP in the past half century and represents 29% of all profits in America. The financial sector earns profits by pooling funds to bring net savers together with net borrowers in financial contracts, a process known as intermediation. Economist Thomas Philippon of New York University found that the profits from intermediation grew from less than 2% of GDP in 1870 to nearly 6% before the economic crash of 1929. After World War II, financiers gradually increased their share of the economy to 5% by 1980, close to what it had been before the crash. The focused deregulatory agenda of the Reagan administration and Alan Greenspan’s deregulatory passions at the helm of the Fed from 1987 to 2006 swelled the balance sheets of financial firms to the high point of 9% of GDP by 2010.
The return to investors did not match the growth in the financial sector’s share of GDP. So what did investors get for their money? Philippon says it’s impossible to beat the market in part because of high-frequency trading that locks out the ordinary investor through sophisticated high-speed computer transmission of orders with preferential cable and algorithmic access to the trading desks.