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Kansas And Missouri Activists Gather On Troost To Stand For 'Moral Economy'

Cody Newill

Community activists and faith leaders from Kansas and Missouri rallied at the intersection of 63rd Street and Troost Avenue Thursday, calling for a "moral economy."

One issue that several speakers focused on was a recent comment by Federal Reserve Bank  of Kansas City president Esther George suggesting that interest rates may be increased to combat inflation. 

Rev. Stan Runnels of St. Paul's Episcopal Church believes that raising interest rates now would hurt low-wage earners and undo economic progress that has been slowly mounting in the last several years.

"Right now, there is some opportunity for us to move in the direction of an improved economy," Runnels said. "We're concerned that if we begin dabbling with these other metrics, like worrying about inflation, we could scramble that up." 

The rally was held outside a fast-food restaurant and payday loan lender, which organizer Andrew Kling with the group Communities Creating Opportunity says is symbolic of the economic troubles that face minorities. 

"These are two of the greatest challenges that working people face in this economy: low wages and predatory industries that thrive on taking away the wealth and earnings of working people struggling to get through," Kling said. "We should not accept double-digit unemployment in the black community as normal."

The activists also called for an end to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' use of averaged unemployment rates, which they say ignores racial disparities. For example, Kansas City's unemployment rate as a whole sits around 5 percent, but the rate of black citizens without jobs is 12.6 percent. 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released its February employment statistics Friday, which showed the U.S. economy as a whole at 5.5 percent unemployment.

Cody Newill is part of KCUR's audience development team. Follow him on Twitter @CodyNewill or email him at cody@kcur.org.
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