THE FEDERAL RESERVE just made the most important economic decision since the financial crash. And it's a huge mistake.
Wednesday's rate increase means higher mortgages, more expensive loans, fewer jobs and lower wages.
The Fed wants to stop the economy, because it thinks we've recovered from the financial crash, but for people like me, there hasn't been a recovery.
I was working at Temple University as an administrative assistant for three years. Once the economy got bad, I was laid off and had to try to re-enter the workforce. Since then, I've held multiple temp jobs, but I'm looking for long term, full-time employment that pays decent wages, and it's nowhere to be found. I want to get a degree in nutrition, so I can spread my knowledge to the community, but can't, because I can't find steady employment. Even though the labor numbers might look good to certain people, for me and thousands like me, the recovery is just a fantasy.
My story is just one of many in Philadelphia.
Unemployment in Philadelphia is two points higher than the national average at 7.4 percent, and these are only the numbers that are visible to the government. Thousands of Philadelphia residents have fallen out of the system and are no longer reported, meaning the actual unemployment rate is much higher. Beyond that, Philadelphia suffers from the highest deep-poverty rate in any major U.S. city. The deep-poverty rate is 12.2 percent, or nearly 185,000 people, including about 60,000 children. That's almost twice the U.S. average.
When the Fed raises interest rates, the economy slows, so employment and wages freeze or start to fall again. When the Fed says it wants to raise interest rates, it is telling us to get used to the economy as it is: twice as many people as before the recession working part time or temporary work because they can't find full-time employment. There's double-digit unemployment in black communities, and decades of flat wages. If the Fed raises interest rates, it will stop the economy before giving us a chance to get back on our feet. That's a terrible idea.
The Fed has a dual mandate: to maximize employment and to maintain stable prices. The only reason to raise interest rates would be to stop inflation. But there isn't any inflation in the economy - we are still below all the Fed's target rate. The Fed is sacrificing all the jobs that we could be getting and all the wage gains we could win if we kept interest rates low, all for the sake of an inflation threat that doesn't even exist. Most of those unnecessary sacrifices of jobs and wages will be losses borne by black communities and communities of color.
The work of the Fed isn't done - we need a recovery that works for everyone, including communities of color. We need to keep interest rates low, so working families like mine have a chance for better jobs and better wages.
Chinara Bilaal is a Philadelphia taxpayer and member of the ACTION United.