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| Building a National Campaign for a Strong Economy: Fed Up

D-FW activists travel to annual Fed summit in Jackson Hole, Wyo., to spread their message

A retired grandmother from Duncanville hopes to make an impact this week on policies that affect prices consumers pay, wages workers earn and, ultimately, how well people live.

Lemlem Berhe is one of a handful of activists from the Dallas-Fort Worth area visiting Jackson Hole, Wyo., in hopes of getting their message heard. That message: Raising interest rates now would stunt wage growth and hurt working families and communities of color.

“Fed officials think the economy has recovered enough to raise interest rates, slowing down job and business growth, but working families like mine in Dallas know otherwise,” Berhe said. “That’s why we’re in Wyoming this week, to ask them to prioritize job growth and higher wages.”

As part of the national FedUp Coalition, local members of the Texas Organizing Project and the Workers Defense Project are in Wyoming for the Federal Reserve’s annual summit, where the world’s most powerful central bankers discuss economic policies that affect people everywhere. The top U.S. banker — Fed chairwoman Janet Yellen — is not attending the event, which began Thursday and ends Sunday.

This is the first time anyone from either group has traveled to the Fed’s annual summit in Jackson Hole.

This year’s Jackson Hole Economic Policy Symposium comes as the Fed faces a difficult decision on when to start raising interest rates, rising debates on income inequality and wages, and worries about slowing Asian economies, most notably in China.

With the U.S. unemployment rate at 5.3 percent in July, some say it’s time to raise interest rates, which have been near zero for nearly seven years. Recently, some economists and one Fed banker have called for a delay given concerns about slower global economies.

On Friday, the organizing groups in Jackson Hole held a public demonstration and teach-ins on topics such as full employment and the selection process for regional bank presidents, with renowned Columbia University economist Joseph Stiglitz. Today, he wrote an op-ed column in the Los Angeles Times about why the Fed should not raise interest rates.

In addition, the Texas Organizing Project also made a second request in a video posted to its Facebook page and in a tweet to meet with Robert Steven Kaplan, the newly named president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, soon after he starts his new job on Sept. 8. Kaplan is attending the summit.

Kaplan will replace Richard Fisher, who retired in March after a decade leading the Dallas Fed. Last week, immediately after the regional bank named Kaplan, the Texas Organizing Project suggested he meet with some of its members in Dallas once he arrives.

Earlier this year, the group and the FedUp Coalition asked to meet with Dallas Fed board members to seek more openness and participation in the search process for Fisher’s replacement. Their request was denied, but a meeting was arranged with two bank officials. I wrote about it.

FedUp claims that full employment is when the nation’s unemployment rate is 4 percent or lower. If that was the case this year, the Dallas economy would be $19.9 billion stronger at $476.8 billion, it would have 204,300 more workers employed, which would mean 162,500 fewer people would live in poverty.

In addition to Berhe, two other Texas Organizing Project representatives in Jackson Hole are from Dallas: member Nayeli Ruiz, 21, and community organizer Kenia Castro.

The Austin-based Workers Defense Project has two D-FW representatives in Jackson Hole: AdanArostegui andElliott Navarro.

“We believe that our members should be involved and learn what the Fed does,” said Diana Ramirez, a community organizer for the Workers Defense Project in Dallas. “No one really knows.”

Source: Dallas Morning News