The Fed, Apple (AAPL), and Trickle-Down Economics

The Fed’s policy of keeping interest rates near zero is another form of trickle-down economics.

For evidence, look no further than Apple’s decision to borrow a whopping $17 billion and turn it over to its investors in the form of dividends and stock buy-backs.

Apple (AAPL) is already sitting on $145 billion. But with interest rates so low, it’s cheaper to borrow. This also lets Apple avoid U.S. taxes on its cash horde socked away overseas where taxes are lower.

Other big companies are doing much the same on a smaller scale.

Who gains from all this? The richest 10 percent of Americans who own 90 percent of all shares of stock.

But little or nothing is trickling down. The average American can’t borrow at nearly the low rates Apple or any other big company can. Most Americans no longer have a credit rating that allows them to borrow much of anything.

It would be one thing if Apple and other giant companies were borrowing in order to expand operations and create new jobs. But that’s not what’s going on. Apple, remember, is still sitting on $145 billion.

The reason big companies aren’t creating more jobs is consumers aren’t buying enough to justify the expansion. And government is cutting back on spending.

Big corporations are borrowing simply in order to push stock prices up and reward their investors.

It’s a sump pump with the Fed on one end buying up bonds to keep interest rates low, and shareholders on the other end raking in the returns.

Get it? Easy money from the Fed can’t get the economy out of first gear when the rest of government is in reverse.

Trickle-down economics is the first cousin of austerity economics. Austerity is nuts when so many millions are out of work. And as we’ve learned before, trickle-down is a fraud. Nothing ever trickles down.

About Robert Reich 547 Articles

Robert Reich is the nation's 22nd Secretary of Labor and a professor at the University of California at Berkeley.

He has served as labor secretary in the Clinton administration, as an assistant to the solicitor general in the Ford administration and as head of the Federal Trade Commission's policy planning staff during the Carter administration.

He has written eleven books, including The Work of Nations, which has been translated into 22 languages; the best-sellers The Future of Success and Locked in the Cabinet, and his most recent book, Supercapitalism. His articles have appeared in the New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal. Mr. Reich is co-founding editor of The American Prospect magazine. His weekly commentaries on public radio’s "Marketplace" are heard by nearly five million people.

In 2003, Mr. Reich was awarded the prestigious Vaclev Havel Foundation Prize, by the former Czech president, for his pioneering work in economic and social thought. In 2005, his play, Public Exposure, broke box office records at its world premiere on Cape Cod.

Mr. Reich has been a member of the faculties of Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and of Brandeis University. He received his B.A. from Dartmouth College, his M.A. from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar, and his J.D. from Yale Law School.

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