today in black history

June 20, 2024

Piano prodigy Andre Watts, the first artist to appear on "Live from Lincoln Center," was born in Nuremberg, Germany in 1946.

To Be Equal

POSTED: February 09, 2022, 3:00 pm

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“The Federal Reserve is our country’s most powerful economic policy institution. Twelve Fed leaders meet every six weeks to make decisions that include how many people should be unemployed and whether wages should be going up. Most of those leaders are white men who come from Wall Street … we want the leadership of the Fed at all levels to be more diverse so it looks and thinks like the working people it is supposed to represent, not Wall Street.” – The Fed Up Campaign

The Federal Reserve Board is one of the most powerful yet least-understood institutions in the American economy. It sets monetary policy to promote maximum employment and stable prices, monitors the safety and soundness of financial institutions and their impact on the financial system, and helps ensure a healthy economy for U.S. households, communities, and businesses.

Given its enormous influence on every aspect of the economy, representation should look like the nation because the impact of its work touches every American. President Biden’s three nominees, which include two women and two people of color, represent an enormous step forward in achieving this goal

Michigan State University economist Lisa Cook, who would be the first Black women to serve on the Board, is an internationally-renowned expert in economic growth and development, innovation, financial institutions and markets, and economic history. Her groundbreaking research on economic disparities related to gender and race brings a sorely-needed new perspective to the Fed’s efforts to curb inflation and support full employment.

Sarah Bloom Raskin, a former Deputy Treasury Secretary and Governor of the Federal Reserve Board, was instrumental in pursuing innovative solutions to enhance American’s shared prosperity, the resilience of our country’s critical financial infrastructure, the defense of consumer safeguards in the financial marketplace.

Philip N. Jefferson, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty and the Paul B. Freeland Professor of Economics at Davidson College, would be the fourth Black man to serve on the Board of Governors. He previously served as chair of the Economics Department at Swarthmore College, where he was the Centennial Professor of Economics. He was also an economist at the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.

A diverse perspective on the Fed’s Board of Governors is critical to reducing racial gaps in wealth and income. Consider the fact that the Board’s decisions are based on maintaining a certain level of unemployment — generally around 5%.—but until recently it only ever considered the overall unemployment rate, ignoring the racial disparities that widen during recessions.

“Through the entire financial crisis and recovery from the Great Recession, we never put a chart in front of the Board of Governors with the Black-white unemployment rate — never,” economics Claudia Sahm, who worked at the Federal Reserve from 2007 to 2019, told Next City. “You kinda know certain groups are always hit harder in a recession, but it’s different when you stare at a line. We didn’t do that, they never saw that, they only ever saw the national employment rate.”

Last week, the Senate Banking Committee held its first hearing to consider these As expected, all three candidates illustrated what we’ve long known – that their impressive credentials, experience, keen intellect, and deep understanding of macroeconomic policy would be an asset to our nation’s central bank should they be confirmed by the United States Senate.

Unfortunately, President Biden’s efforts to elevate highly-qualified nominees who reflect the nation’s diversity have sparked an ugly, racially-tinged backlash.

Renowned for her research on the ways racial inequality and violence have stifled economic growth, Cook represents a dire threat to the conservative crusade to stifle all debate about systemic and historic racism.

The American Accountability Foundation, organized last year to dig up dirt on President Biden’s nominees and scuttle his agenda, tried to link Cook with the perceived (but largely fictional) violence of racial justice protests. The group even suggested that merely acknowledging systemic racism is a disqualification for serving on the Fed. Former Donald Trump advisor Peter Navarro sunk even lower, calling Cook “more qualified to coach an NFL team” than to set economic policy.

These conservatives don’t oppose these diverse nominations because they think they’re not qualified to shape economic policies that create opportunity for all Americans, but because they know they are.

A Federal Reserve Board of Governors that reflects the nation’s diversity is a positive step not just for marginalized communities, but for the nation as a whole. It’s also long-overdue.

Marc Morial is the president and CEO of the National Urban League

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