Why the Fed wants to crush workers

Fall of Rome speedrun.

Cory Doctorow
9 min readJan 19, 2023


A vintage postcard illustration of the Federal Reserve building in Washington, DC. The building is spattered with blood. In the foreground is a medieval woodcut of a physician bleeding a woman into a bowl while another woman holds a bowl to catch the blood. The physician’s head has been replaced with that of Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell.

The US Federal Reserve has two imperatives: keeping employment high and inflation low. But when these come into conflict — when unemployment falls to near-zero — the Fed forgets all about full employment and cranks up interest rates to “cool the economy” (that is, “to destroy jobs and increase unemployment”).

An economy “cools down” when workers have less money, which means that the prices offered for goods and services go down, as fewer workers have less money to spend. As with every macroeconomic policy, raising interest rates has “distributional effects,” which is economist-speak for “winners and losers.”

Predicting who wins and who loses when interest rates go up requires that we understand the economic relations between different kinds of rich people, as well as relations between rich people and working people. Writing today for The American Prospect’s superb Great Inflation Myths series, Gerald Epstein and Aaron Medlin break it down:


Recall that the Fed has two priorities: full employment and low interest rates. But when it weighs these priorities, it does so through “finance colored” glasses: as an institution, the Fed requires help from banks to carry…