Activists confront Fed leaders to warn against rate hike

Activists confront Fed leaders to warn against rate hike

Liberal activists are descending upon a global economic conference in Jackson Hole, Wyo., to criticize Federal Reserve officials for adopting an "insane" economic agenda that doesn't benefit minorities.

The liberal Center for Popular Democracy has launched a "Fed Up" campaign to urge the central bank’s chairwoman, Janet Yellen, and her team of policymakers against raising interest rates.

Many Fed watchers anticipate Yellen and her team to increase the interest rate, lowered to zero percent following the 2008 economic crisis to spur economic growth as soon as September, citing steady growth.

But the campaign, whose board includes members of the AFL-CIO and Service Employees International Union (SEIU), says that the economy hasn't recovered enough to adopt such a policy.

"The economy remains far too weak to slow it down. We shouldn't mince words — when the Fed raises interest rates, it's doing that to slow the economy down," said Ady Barkan, Fed Up campaign director, on a conference call with reporters.

He called the prospect of the Fed raising interest rates "an insane perspective to take and an insane policy to take at the moment."

The group is sending about 50 activists to the annual Economic Policy Symposium, which includes members of the Federal Reserve, global bankers and top economists. The activists will hold "Teach Ins" that coincide with the annual summit.

Among the planned events is one titled, "Do Black Lives Matter to the Fed?" — a nod to the national movement to highlight policies that disproportionately hurt the African-American community.

Some progressives criticized Yellen’s testimony in the House last month, when she was asked what Fed officials could do to lower the African-American unemployment rate.

At 9.5 percent, the African-American unemployment rate remains significantly above the 5.3 percent national unemployment rate.

"There really isn’t anything directly that the Federal Reserve can do to affect the structure of unemployment across groups," Yellen answered at last month's hearing. "There’s nothing we can do about any particular group.”

Barkan said that Yellen "was wrong to say there's nothing the Fed can do to help African-Americans."

He argued that Fed officials could help African-Americans and minorities by adopting an agenda that focuses less on pricing bubbles in the markets and more on lowering unemployment, a tactic that would mean keeping interest rates low.

Activists associated with the Black Lives Matter movement have grabbed headlines in recent months for its aggressive questioning tactics to Democratic presidential candidates.

"We hope very much to engage with Federal Reserve officials into these conversations," Barkan said.