The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Jeremy Funk,

Watchdog: Even Smaller Interest Rate Hikes Invite Economic Calamity for Main Street and Wall Street Alike

Today, the Federal Reserve made the counterproductive and ill-advised decision to raise interest rates by 25 basis points despite the Fed's own projections that higher rates will drive up the unemployment rate to 4.6 percent – costing at least 2 million Americans their jobs. Government watchdog Accountable.US released a new analysis showing that further rate hikes not only invites a recession but a disaster for the largest banks holding billions of dollars in unrealized Treasury securities losses amid a worsening banking crisis.

The recent failure of Silicon Valley Bank was due partly to a " plunge" in bond value and $1.8 billion in "paper losses" amid the Fed's rate hikes. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) has warned that U.S. banks were "sitting on $620 billion in unrealized losses" that may make their balance sheets appear healthier than they really are.

An Accountable.US review found that at the end of 2022, the five-biggest U.S.banks — JPMorgan Chase, Bank Of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, and U.S. Bank — reported a total of $233 billion in unrealized losses on held-to-maturity securities, including $54 billion in unrealized losses on Treasury securities. These same banks reported a combined $39.4 billion in unrealized losses on available-for-sale securities, including $12.7 billion in losses on available-for-sale U.S. Treasuries.

Liz Zelnick, Accountable.US' Director of Economic Security and Corporate Power, said:
Hiking interest rates, even if more slowly, will devastate Main Street and Wall Street alike by wiping out millions of jobs while sending Treasury securities into a downward spiral. A recession and broken financial system are not worth the price of higher interest rates that have failed miserably to curb the corporate greed epidemic helping to drive up costs.

To date, the Federal Reserve and Chairman Jerome Powell have been more than willing to let average American families bear the brunt of their job-killing strategy -- but are they also willing to let their banker friends on Wall Street go down with the ship?
Doing More Harm Than Good: Higher rates have already slowed wage growth and caused a decline in demand in the U.S. manufacturing sector. While millions of Americans losing their jobs appears to be an acceptable outcome for Chairman Powell, numerous poorly managed banks that made risky decisions after Republicans in Congress gutted Dodd-Frank safeguards now find themselves in serious trouble under higher rates. Meanwhile, corporations across industries continue to profiteer unabated despite sky-high interest rates.

Accountable.US is a nonpartisan watchdog that exposes corruption in public life and holds government officials and corporate special interests accountable by bringing their influence and misconduct to light. In doing so, we make way for policies that advance the interests of all Americans, not just the rich and powerful.