Rep. Ayanna Pressley Learns The Fed Chair Some Black History, How To Mic-Drop
It's Black History Month and not just because all the black Democratic primary candidates are now history. No, this is the one month out of the year where we remind people that black people exist. That's why the South Carolina primary is at the end of February. We all just come out and say, "Hello there!"
Jerome Powell is chairman of the Federal Reserve. He's in charge of our monetary policy. He has a degree in politics from Princeton and a law degree from Georgetown. However, Tuesday, Ayanna Pressley, our badass representative from Massachusetts, gave Powell a remedial black history course for free.
Powell had stopped by the House to recommend that now was a good time to reduce that pesky budget deficit, which has increased by about $3 trillion (with a "t") since Donald Trump gave massive tax cuts to all his golf buddies and the dumber members of his Cabinet. There's probably no connection. Besides, Bernie Sanders might wind up president next year so we need to start using our money responsibly, like on a Space Force.
During the congressional hearing, Trump heckled Powell via Twitter. The president complained that the interest rates were too damn high. It wasn't until the very end that things got interesting. Pressley asked Powell about a "jobs guarantee," a progressive economic proposal that aims to create full employment: Everyone who is "ready and willing" should be able to work. Before Powell could dismiss the "jobs guarantee" as something Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez cooked up after falling asleep listening to Noam Chomsky's podcast, Pressley dropped some knowledge on him.
PRESSLEY: The decisions [the Fed chair makes] do impact everyday working people. Your decisions impact how many jobs we have, who has what jobs, how much they're being paid, and who is most harmed when unemployment is high. However, the Fed's approach has never successfully ensured enough well-paying jobs are available to everyone who wants to work, even for a small time.
In a 1944 address, FDR called for a second Bill of Rights which included the right to a useful and financially rewarding job. Justice Thurgood Marshall argued that the Right to a Job is secured by the 14th Amendment. And Dr. Martin Luther King called on the government to guarantee a job to all people who want to work, and are able to work.
Dr. King's legacy is often reduced to just one speech, and the March on Washington often mischaracterized. The March on Washington was actually the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. It was a March for Economic Justice.
And I take special claim to the fact that Dr. King and Coretta actually met in Boston. I represent Boston, and I don't think she gets enough oxygen for the role that she played in the movement.
No, Coretta Scott King doesn't receive nearly enough credit for her work, with her husband and independent of him. Let's take a quick break and watch a video of King speaking at Harvard in 1968. This is how we roll in Black History Month.
PRESSLEY: And so, after Dr. King's assassination, Coretta Scott King picked up the mantle, pushing the Fed to adopt a full employment mandate, and was actually standing behind President Carter as he signed the Humphrey-Hawkins Act into law. And that's the reason you are here today.
After all Pressley's logic and her theory, Powell was momentarily stunned. He found his footing long enough to sink further into the mud.
POWELL: First, thank you for that history, I didn't know that.
How does Powell economy for a living but he's only just now hearing what Pressley told him? I know most people treat black history like that badminton class you (OK, just me) took in college to boost your GPA, but not everything we've done is an elective. Pressley even started off with Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who's white and everything. Powell did agree that full employment was a solid goal and we've made some progress despite the buffoon in the White House.
Pressley knows her stuff. She doesn't just grandstand. She threads the needle in her arguments masterfully. And she gave Coretta Scott King a well-deserved shout out in the House.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle. Tickets are on sale now for his latest Nordo collaboration, "Curiouser and Curiouser," an adaptation of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass." It promises to feel like an actual evening with SER (for good or for ill).