On July 2, the New York Times Editorial Board ran an Op Ed piece about the bottom 90% of earners in the country paying for the nation’s hypothetical next recession. It was the top trending piece in the newspaper that day.
What was everyone reading? Here is a summary:
The Times Editorial Board indicated that Fed forecasters predict that the fed fund rate, currently standing at 1.91%, is headed to 3.4% by the end of 2020. Such an increase means that you and I will pay more for our mortgage loans, new car loans and more to carry our loans on our credit cards. How much more? Probably “enough to absorb any income we might enjoy from lower tax rates and/or higher wages.”
Additionally, Fed forecasters predict that inflation will increase to 2.1%, currently 2.0%, in 2019 and stay at that rate into 2020. Unemployment is predicted to drop from its current 3.8% rate to 3.6% by the end of 2018. That means more people spending money that can actually buy less, aka inflation.
With its announced four interest rate hikes this year and three interest rate hikes in 2019, the Fed is essentially “picking our pockets” because “the Fed is legally required to keep inflation in check by raising (interest) rates,” according to this NYT Op Ed piece.
Why the urgency, you might ask, with all these interest rate hikes. A modest .1% rise in inflation doesn’t seem to be all that much, does it? Wrong…couple any rate increase in monthly mortgage rates with a rise in inflation and “…the Republicans’ $1.5T tax giveaway to wealthy individuals and corporations…” and there is a problem. “Those who benefited the least – anyone not on the top 10% of earners – will have to pay the bulk of that bill to mitigate the damage it causes to the economy.”
According to the NYT Editorial Board in the 7/2 Op Ed piece, the former Federal Reserve Board chair Ben Bernanke recently appeared at the American Enterprise Institute and said he “believed that any “stimulative” effect by the tax cuts (on the economy) will have run its course by 2020 and we will be facing what Bernanke called a ‘Wile E. Coyote economy.’”
Where do our credit cards come into play here? Credit card debt is tied to prime interest rates and prime interest rates are tied to the federal fund rate. Remember our federal fund rate now stands at 1.9% and Fed forecasters predict the fed fund rate will increase to 3.4% in 2020.
Right now, “just” credit card debt hit $1T with an average rate of 16.8% on that credit card debt with an average rate of 16.8% on that debt. The average credit card debt per borrower is approximately $5,700 and growing at a rate of 4.7% while wage growth is estimated at approximately 3%. The credit reporting company TransUnion reports that rising interest rates affect 92M consumers, 9.3M severely.
“In Q1 2018 and with rising interest rates, household debt reached $13.2T. Household debt service payments reached 5.9% of our disposable incomes. According to the Federal Reserve, this figure of 5.9% has not been reached since just before the Great Recession.”
Two more pieces of bad news according to this 7/2 Op Ed piece. Deutsche Bank indicates that more families than ever have zero or negative wealth, excluding their homes “…despite high stock prices and record home prices.” High net worth people are doing great with their net worth increasing an average of 27% but middle class net worth has decreased 20-30%.
Secondly, the St. Louis Fed reported that those born in the 1980’s “…are at a substantial risk of accumulating less wealth over their life spans than members of previous generations.”
Bottom line, according to the NYT Editorial Board’s 7/2 Op Ed piece, the wealthiest 10% own 75% of the nation’s household wealth. The top 0.1% owns as much wealth as the bottom 90% of us own.
For us, the bottom 90%, our “…ability to build wealth rests on (our) ability to save which (we) can’t do if interest rates are rising…”
So, what will it be…rising interest rates to keep rising inflation in check…or decreasing interest rates to “fight the next recession?”
Add trade wars to this stew of rising interest rates and rising inflation and what do you have? Increasing household debt, increasing credit card debt and likely, decreasing home sales.