Fed Up group plans counter Jackson Hole conference

AP News
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Posted: Aug 24, 2015 5:26 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen may be skipping this year's annual gathering of central bank policymakers in Wyoming, but a group of demonstrators will be making their second appearance at the elite gathering. And this year they will be conducting their own teach-in aimed at convincing the Fed that it should not be raising interest rates at its September meeting.

The Fed Up coalition, made up of community activist groups, has rented a conference room in the same hotel where the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank will be holding its annual Jackson Hole conference starting Thursday.

The group said Monday it will bring in low-wage workers from around the country who are struggling to make ends meet to emphasize the need for the Fed to do more to attack income inequality.

"Our life is a constant struggle. We know we have to pay the rent, buy food and pay the utilities on a very limited budget," Dawn O'Neal, a teaching assistant at a day care center in Atlanta, told reporters on a conference call Monday.

The mother of four said she made $8.50 an hour at her job and her husband, who is currently unemployed, has been trying to earn money by lining up early in the morning to compete for part-time construction jobs.

Ady Barkan with the Center for Popular Democracy and campaign director for Fed Up said that before Fed officials "can have a real discussion of raising interest rates and slowing the economy, they should understand firsthand who it would effect."

Barkan joked that while the Kansas City Fed charges $1,000 per person for its conference, participation in the teach-in will be free. In addition to arguing that raising rates now would be premature, the group will hold discussions on ways to reform the Fed's current selection process for the presidents of the Fed's 12 regional banks.

The group has protested the recent selection of Robert Kaplan, a former top executive at Goldman Sachs and currently associate dean at the Harvard Business School, as the new president of the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank, saying the selection process shut out input from community groups.

While the Fed announced in May that Yellen would not be attending this year's conference, Fed Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer is scheduled to deliver comments on inflation during a panel discussion at Jackson Hole on Saturday.

Financial markets will be closely examining those comments for any hints about whether the Fed is still likely to boost interest rates at its Sept. 16-17 meeting despite a huge sell-off in recent days in stocks that saw the Dow Jones industrial average fall another 588.47 points or 3.6 percent on Monday.