America is still in bad shape but the Federal Reserve refuses to admit it. This is cause for real concern among people like me. As America’s central bank, the Federal Reserve is one of the most powerful institutions impacting working people. What it says and does matters very much to families that work but remain in poverty. The Federal Reserve is being urged to raise rates as some say that the economy is stronger. It should resist those calls and until we have reached real full employment or it should design policies to specifically address chronic unemployment or under employment.
I’m 34 years old, the mother of two, and work part time at a McDonald’s for minimum wage. Just last week my daughter was hungry and asked me for a bowl of cereal. I didn’t have milk and I was out of cereal. I told her mommy was out of money. She said, “But mommy you have a job, you work”. It was all I could do to hold back the tears. I face choices like that every day, but the Fed often ignores regular people and listens instead to well-off executives and bankers.
I’m tired of waiting for Fed leaders to acknowledge the difficult, painful economic situation of workers. So I’m going to tell them in person. I’m standing up because if I don’t some Fed members believe I’ll fall for anything. I have to stand up to the Federal Reserve because the economy isn’t working for me.
With a diverse group from around the country, I’m traveling to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where the Federal Reserve will be meeting to discuss their upcoming priorities. When we see Janet Yellen and others, we’re going to get right to the point: we’re going to emphasize that it’s time for the Federal Reserve to implement a full employment agenda to help reduce inequality, raise wages, and give more Americans a shot at not only entering the middle class but staying there.
The Fed touts that the unemployment rate is falling but that is not the real number. I'd like to work more hours, at least closer to 40 hours than the erratic hours I am scheduled. Other workers have their hours reduced yet they are counted as someone who is employed. This inflates "economic recovery" statistics. The Fed needs to look beyond numbers.
Statistics are no substitute for the stories of real people, so we’re going to tell the Fed our stories, and elevate the concerns of real workers above those of Wall Street and financial firms.
We’re going to tell them about how and why the American economy is broken, and what it feels like not to know if you can afford to pay your bills every month or feed your kids.
Like most Americans, I have found it harder and harder to make ends meet in recent years.
Regular workers like me weren’t invited to the conference but we’re going anyway, because we know bankers and others in attendance want to avoid topics like struggling to pay the rent and the fact that Americans across the country continue to wait for economic relief that has yet to arrive.
The Federal Reserve should be doing much more to help vulnerable Americans achieve real economic security. It should be using its political power and policy tools on behalf of working people and the unemployed, instead of the wealthy elite.
At the Jackson Hole conference, Fed leaders will be talking about whether and when it should raise interest rates. Higher rates aren’t in my best interest. If it raises interest rates too soon, it will hurt the economy and make it even harder than it already is for workers to find good jobs, get raises, and achieve real recovery. Workers s should have more direct input in that process.
Fed officials need to get real and reorient their agenda to working families. They need to understand that the economy is still in awful shape and take immediate steps to boost wages, reduce income inequality, and strengthen and expand our country’s shrinking middle class. Things may be fine on Wall Street, but not on my street.
Butler is from Washington D.C. She has been a leader in the fight for increasing the minimum wage with the community organization OurDC. Adams is communications director at OurDC, a nonprofit that fights to bring good jobs to residents of the District of Columbia.