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Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Helicopter Ben and the new American Left

Helicopter Ben and the new American Left: Talking to any veteran South American lefty about helicopters is likely to trigger less-than-fond memories of the dark days of the 1970s. And while many of the Trump-loving Twitterati are only too happy to give out helicopter rides without charge to supporters of Bernie Sanders, center-left Democratic Party politicians may be seeing political benefits from an altogether different use of the helicopter, David McWilliams writes in the FT.

Opening the floodgates: Former Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke earned his moniker ‘Helicopter Ben’ after he masterminded the central bank’s quantitative easing (QE) strategy during the 2008 financial crisis. In a last-ditch attempt to prevent the implosion of the financial sector, the Fed frantically bought up junk securities and treasury bonds; propping up asset prices, lowering interest rates and staving off economic collapse. The helicopters were deployed above Wall Street and the sector became awash with cash.

And now the millennials have bones to pick: While QE succeeded in protecting the assets held by the boomer generation, it has effectively cordoned off property ownership as an unrealistic ambition for many millennials. This is beginning to exact political consequences, with the generational division of wealth becoming a hot topic in the early run-up to the 2020 presidential election. With Pew Research finding the majority of millennials supporting center-left policy positions, Fed monetary policy may well be responsible for a profound shift in US politics. As McWilliams asks ominously: “What if a policy designed to protect the balance sheets of the wealthy has unleashed force that may lead to the mass appropriation of those assets in the years ahead?”

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