EVERY DAY, the Trump administration seems to find a new way to attack black people, Latino people, Muslims, workers, women - basically any of us who aren't one of President Trump's billionaire friends. Community organizations such as mine, One Pennsylvania, are fighting back, but Trump isn't the only one making it harder for us to survive. This week, Philadelphia Federal Reserve President Patrick Harker and his colleagues at the Fed are planning to raise interest rates to slow down the economy, which will make it harder for all of us to pay our bills and provide for our families.
At a time like this, when communities of color face so many other threats, it might seem strange to be so concerned about an interest rate hike, but Harker's decision will have a big effect on me, the members of my organization, and everyone in Philadelphia.
On Wednesday, Harker basically will decide whether to keep stimulating the economy to create more jobs and higher wages by keeping rates low, or to raise interest rates and slow down the economy because he thinks our economy is where it should be.
Most of us can agree we still have a long way to go to get to a healthy economy - even though Harker has hinted that he will raise rates. Our wages have been flat; most of us haven't gotten a raise in years; and we're not getting paid what we need to survive. People who want full-time work are stuck in part-time jobs, and involuntary part-time unemployment is almost double what it used to be before the recession.
The problem is so common that Philadelphia City Council will consider a bill later this year to curb scheduling abuses. Council also is considering a paid family leave law, because so many of us are forced to choose between caring for a sick child or going to work to earn enough to feed that child.
These proposals are important, but if the economy were actually as healthy as Harker and the rest of the Fed claim it is, we'd be able to find jobs that paid decently and treated us fairly, instead of being forced to take whatever we can get while fighting for better conditions at the ballot box.
Most of us still haven't fully recovered from the 2008 financial crash. One of our members, Tyrone Ferguson, lost the home his parents purchased 40 years ago after the banks foreclosed on it. His parents took out a reverse mortgage when the banks crashed the economy, his father fell ill a short time later and Ferguson's mother eventually died from a heart attack brought on from the stress of the fighting with the bank.
Ferguson was trying to stay on top of the mortgage payments, but he was caught between his father's health and the reverse mortgage contract and he ended up losing his family home. Like so many of us, Ferguson is still dealing with the aftermath of the last financial crash and is not ready to struggle even further in an economy that would slow down if the Fed raises interest rates.
There are countless stories like Ferguson's of people who are not part of the booming economy that the Federal Reserve thinks needs to be slowed down. It's true that the stock market has hit record highs in the last few weeks, in response to Trump's promises to cut taxes for the rich and deregulate the financial sector. But just because Trump and his friends on Wall Street are making more and more money, that doesn't mean a thing for those of us still fighting to survive in the real economy.
When Harker meets with his colleagues, he needs to look at the people who have lost their homes, people still fighting for a higher minimum wage, people still struggling with erratic scheduling, and those of us who can't take a day off to care for our families when they need us. Harker must know that these are not conditions of an economy that needs slowing down. This is not what full employment looks like.
Even as our communities face new, unpredictable threats from the highest levels of government, we still have the basic problems of finding decent work with decent wages, paying our bills and providing for our families. That is why, even amid all the madness since the November presidential election, Harker's decision Wednesday matters to us. If Harker and the Fed vote to raise rates, they essentially are saying the recovery is over. The recovery is not over. For most of our communities, it's barely even begun.