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The Federal Reserve’s Last Stand

Monday, November 15th, 2010

Texas Straight Talk
Rep. Ron Paul (R) – TX 14

The remarkable confluence of recent events has brought unprecedented but very welcome attention to both U.S. monetary policy and the global political economy in general. First, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke recently announced that the Fed would embark upon another round of monetary easing by purchasing $600 billion worth of U.S. treasury debt. This amounts to admission that markets have run out of patience with our profligacy and therefore our own central bank literally must serve as the buyer of last resort for treasury debt.

Second, World Bank President Robert Zoellick openly suggested that gold could play a helpful role in the global monetary system by serving as reference against more volatile fiat currencies. This is almost heresy coming from a neoconservative globalist like Mr. Zoellick. It hints at an obvious but unspoken truth that is anathema to politicians and central bankers alike, namely, that gold could be viewed as money.

Finally, Mr. Obama attended the G20 summit in South Korea last week and found a very chilly reception for his vision of American economic policy. Mr. Obama argued for continued worldwide stimulus via continued debasing of the U.S. dollar to bolster American exports. Several powerful European and Asian finance ministers however rejected this approach out of hand as nothing short of a currency war. They are committed to austerity measures at home and don’t want to let the U.S. simply monetize its past sins at their expense.

All these events culminated in a tremendous amount of political and media scrutiny aimed at the Fed. Ordinary Americans are demanding answers and accountability and they are putting heat on their political representatives in Washington to end the cozy independence from congressional oversight the Fed has enjoyed for so long.

In the 35 years I have been studying, speaking and writing about monetary policy I have never before seen Congress or the financial press pay much attention to the Fed. Monetary policy has always been considered boring on Capitol Hill, something left to remote policy wonks far away from the den of presidential or congressional politics. Congress always has been eager to leave Fed governors well alone with no oversight or accountability as long as they played along and papered over the growing budget deficits.

But it’s amazing what a global economic meltdown will do to the political and media landscape. In just two short years the Fed has become the hot topic and a lightning rod for criticism. While it is gratifying to see so many formerly uninterested politicians, economists, talk show hosts and pundits suddenly rally to attack the Fed, one can only wonder whether they truly understand that central banking is inherently incompatible with our Constitution and a free market economy.

In other words, it’s not enough to show outrage at the latest Fed action or argue about the relative merits of Mr. Bernanke compared to his predecessors. To reclaim our dollar and our economy Americans must oppose central banking per se. Fiat currencies cannot be reformed or managed. They are fundamentally subject to ruinous debasement courtesy of the political and ruling class. History shows that this is true in all nations, at all times.

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Fed Independence or Fed Secrecy?

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

Texas Straight Talk – A weekly column

Rep. Ron Paul (R) – TX 14

Last week I was very pleased that hearings were held on the independence of the Federal Reserve system. My bill HR 1207, known as the Federal Reserve Transparency Act, was discussed at length, as well as the general question of whether or not the Federal Reserve should continue to operate independently.

The public is demanding transparency in government like never before. A majority of the House has cosponsored HR 1207. Yet, Senator Jim DeMint’s heroic efforts to attach it to another piece of legislation elicited intense opposition by the Senate leadership.

The hearings on Capitol Hill provided us with a great deal of information about the types of arguments that will be levied against meaningful transparency and how the secretive central bankers will defend the status quo that is so beneficial to them.

Claims are made that auditing the Fed would compromise its independence. However, by independence, they really mean secrecy. The Fed clearly cherishes its vast power to create and spend trillions of dollars, diluting the value of every other dollar in circulation, making deals with other central banks, and bailing out cronies, all to the detriment of the taxpayer, and to the enrichment of themselves. I am happy to challenge this type of “independence”.

They claim the Fed is endowed with special intellectual abilities with which to control the market and that central bankers magically know what the market needs. We should just trust them. This is patently ridiculous. The market is a complex and intricate thing. No one knows what the market needs other than the market itself. It sends signals, such as prices, that should be reacted to and respected, not thwarted and controlled. Bankers are not all-knowing and cannot ignore the rules of supply and demand. They might act as if they are, but their manipulation of the market just ends up throwing it wildly off balance, which gives us the boom and bust cycles.

They claim the Fed must remain apolitical. No organization is apolitical that relies on the President to appoint the Chairman. In fact, it is subject to the worst sort of politics – power to create trillions of dollars and affect the value of every dollar in the country without the accountability of direct elections or meaningful oversight! The Fed typically enacts monetary policy that is favorable to particular administrations close to elections, to the detriment of long term considerations. They do this partly because of the political appointee process for the Chairmanship.

The only accountability the Federal Reserve has is ultimately to Congress, which granted its charter and can revoke it at any time. It is Congress’s constitutional duty to protect the value of the money, and they have abdicated this responsibility for far too long. This was the issue that got me involved in politics 35 years ago. It is very encouraging to finally see the issue getting some needed exposure and traction. It is regrettable that it took a crisis of this magnitude to get a serious debate on this issue.

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Fed Intends to Hire Lobbyist in Campaign to Buttress Its Image

Friday, June 5th, 2009

By Robert Schmidt

June 5 (Bloomberg) — The Federal Reserve intends to hire a veteran lobbyist as it seeks to counter skepticism in Congress about the central bank’s growing power over the U.S. financial system, people familiar with the matter said.

Linda Robertson currently handles government, community and public affairs at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and headed the Washington lobbying office of Enron Corp., the energy trading company that collapsed in 2002 after an accounting scandal. She was also an adviser to all three of the Clinton administration’s Treasury secretaries.

Robertson would help the Fed manage relations with lawmakers seeking greater oversight of a central bank that has used emergency powers to prevent Wall Street’s demise. While she wasn’t tied to Enron’s fraud, her association with the firm may raise questions, analysts said.

“Some members of Congress think there are votes in attacking the Fed” after it “unnecessarily and unwisely entangled monetary policy with fiscal policy,” said former St. Louis Fed President William Poole. “The Fed is going to have a tricky time of unwinding what has been done” and will need to “keep in touch with members of Congress more thoroughly,” said Poole, now senior fellow with the Cato Institute in Washington.

Robertson served under Treasury Secretaries Lawrence Summers, Robert Rubin and Lloyd Bentsen. She didn’t return calls seeking comment.

Summers Tie

Summers now heads the White House National Economic Council. Along with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, he is leading Obama administration efforts to broaden the economic rescue and overhaul financial regulation. He has been mentioned as a possible successor to Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke should Bernanke not be renominated when his term ends in January.

Robertson is likely to start at the Fed in July and have the title of senior adviser to the Board of Governors, the people familiar with the situation said.

She was considered for a senior post under Geithner at the Treasury but ran up against the Obama administration’s restrictions on hiring lobbyists, the people said.

“People have been asking whether the Fed is capable of getting its job done right,” said Lynn Turner, a former chief accountant at the Securities and Exchange Commission. “Hiring a former lobbyist from Enron will surely make one wonder.”

Lawmaker Pressure

Robertson would confront a range of issues in the newly created position. Congress is looking to subject the Fed to more scrutiny, and some lawmakers have suggested that district bank presidents should be confirmed by the Senate.

Some legislators have also expressed opposition to the Obama administration’s attempt to make the Fed the regulator in charge of financial companies deemed too-big-to-fail.

In addition, the central bank has been become a target to some members of Congress who’ve posted online videos of their interrogations of Fed officials during public hearings.

One YouTube clip, of Florida Democratic Representative Alan Grayson’s grilling of Inspector General Elizabeth Coleman, has garnered almost 500,000 views in about a month.

Robertson is expected to advise the Fed on communications strategy, the people said. In recent months, Bernanke has pushed to make the traditionally secretive institution more open. He’s done a television interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” program and taken questions from reporters at a National Press Club function in Washington.

According to her biography on the Johns Hopkins Web site, Robertson has spent more than 25 years working on federal legislative issues.

While Robertson’s Hopkins biography makes no mention of her work at Enron, federal disclosure documents show she joined the company in 2000 after working at the Treasury. Robertson, who signed some of the forms, said she lobbied on energy and tax issues.

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