monetary policy

Washington's Idea of Fiscal Restraint

It has been months now since the new healthcare reform bill was passed into law. As is so typical, this massive piece of legislation was passed with a sense of urgency so acute that leadership declared America could not afford to wait until legislators, their staff and the general public had time to thoroughly read the bill.

The truth comes out eventually, however. Much like the recently discovered exemption from Freedom of Information Act requirements for the SEC that was slipped into the equally massive and “urgent” financial reform bill, we are finally seeing what other insidiousness has been hiding in the fine print of the healthcare reform bill. It seems that all provisions in this poorly written and poorly conceived monstrosity need to be repealed as soon as possible.

Why Governments Hate Gold

This past week several emerging and ongoing crises took attention away from the ongoing sovereign debt problems in Greece. The bailouts are merely kicking the can down the road and making things worse for taxpaying citizens, here and abroad. Greece is unfortunately not unique in its irresponsible spending habits. Greek-style debt explosions are quickly spreading to other nations one by one, and yes, the United States is one of the dominoes on down the line.

Are US Taxpayers Bailing Out Greece?

Last week we were reminded that ours is not the only country suffering from severe economic turmoil. The Greek government is the latest to come close to default on their massive public debt. Greece has insufficient funds in their treasury to make even the minimum payments that are now coming due. Their debt level is about 120 percent of their gross domestic product and their public sector absorbs what amounts to 40 percent of GDP. Any talk of cutting costs and spending is met with violent protests from the many Greeks heavily dependent on government payments. Mounting fears of default have sent shockwaves through their creditors and all of the eurozone countries.

More Spending is Always the Answer

Last week, the House approved another increase in the national debt ceiling. This means the government can borrow $1.9 trillion more to stay afloat and avoid default. It has been little more than a year since the last debt limit increase, and graphs showing the debt limit over time show a steep, almost vertical trend. It is not likely to be very long before this new ceiling is met and the government is back on the brink between default and borrowing us further into oblivion. Congressional leaders and the administration acknowledge that the debt limit will need to be increased again next year. They are crossing their fingers that the forecasts are correct and they will not need another increase sooner, even before the 2010 midterm elections.

Spending Freeze Not Likely

Last week politicians in Washington made a few things clear about how they really feel about the state of the union. First, they are beginning to hear the growing discontent with the size and scope of government and the broken promises that keep piling up. Certain events in Massachusetts recently made that statement loud, clear and unavoidable. In the face of those events, the powers that be made the determination that some populist rhetoric was in order, and the idea of a spending freeze in Washington was proposed, albeit with several caveats. These caveats to the proposed spending freeze ensure that we are not at any real risk of actually doing anything about spending.

Legalize Competing Currencies

The truth is that Americans are still losing jobs, the Fed is still inflating, and more regulations are in the works that will prevent jobs and productivity from coming back. We are on this trajectory for the long haul. The claim has been made many times that this administration has only had a year to clean up the mess of the last administration. I wish they would at least get started! Instead of reversing course, they are maintaining Bush's policies full speed ahead. They are even keeping the Bush-appointee in charge of the Federal Reserve! They are not even making token efforts at change in economic policy. And for all the talk of transparency, we hear that some powerful senators will do all they can to block a simple audit of the powerful and secretive Federal Reserve.

Government is Too Big to Succeed

Last week, the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission kicked off their first round of hearings on the causes of the economic meltdown on Wall Street. The commission is being compared to the the Pecora Commission launched in 1932 to investigate the causes of the Great Depression. The Pecora commission is beloved by those who believe the solution to every problem is more laws because it was used to justify a number of new laws, including Glass-Steagall. Of course, none of those laws addressed the real causes of the Great Depression. It was the introduction of unsound monetary policy and central economic planning pursued by the Federal Reserve that really threw everything off balance. The Fed was founded in 1913 to stabilize the economy and prevent a recurrence of the short-lived Panic of 1907, but instead it promptly produced the Great Depression which lasted more than 15 years.

Why the Fed Likes Independence

Last week it was revealed that when Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner was Chairman of the New York Federal Reserve, he urged AIG officials not to disclose to the Securities Exchange Commission relevant details of agreements with banks to bail out Goldman Sachs. Apparently he felt at the time that regulators and the public would be angry that taxpayer money was used to fully compensate bankers who made some horrifically bad investment decisions. These banks should have suffered the consequences of the huge risks they were taking. After all, they kept plenty of rewards when times were good. Instead, the Fed found a way to socialize these major losses so these banks could survive and continue making more bad decisions, at the expense of the American people and the value of the dollar.

Keynesianism Delivers a Decade of Zero

This past week we celebrated the end of what most people agree was a decade best forgotten. New York Times columnist and leading Keynesian economist Paul Krugman called it the Big Zero in a recent column. He wrote that "there was a whole lot of nothing going on in measures of economic progress or success" which is true. However, Krugman continues to misleadingly blame the free market and supposed lack of regulation for the economic chaos.

The Fed's Money Monopoly

Last week, in the name of protecting the little guy from Wall Street, the House passed HR 4173 to increase the little guy’s false sense of security in the financial system. This mammoth piece of legislation would massively increase government regulation and oversight in the banking industry under the misguided reasoning that more government could have stopped faulty lending practices, when in actuality it caused them. This bill would also greatly increase the powers of the Federal Reserve, which too many in Congress still see as savior rather than perpetrator in this mess.

Audit the Fed Attached as an Amendment, by US Rep. Ron Paul

I was pleased last week when we won a vote in the Financial Services Committee to include language from the Audit the Fed bill HR1207 in the upcoming financial regulatory reform bill. As it stands now, if HR 3996 passes, because of this action, the Federal Reserve’s entire balance sheet will be opened up to a GAO audit. We will at last have a chance to find out what happened to the trillions of dollars the Fed has been giving out.

Finally, the blanket restrictions on GAO audits of the Fed that have existed since 1978 will be removed. All items on the Fed’s balance sheet will be auditable, including all credit facilities, all securities purchase programs, and all agreements with foreign central banks. To calm fears that we might be trying to substitute congressional action for Fed mischief in tinkering with monetary policy, we agreed to a 180 day lag time before details of the Fed’s market actions are released and included language to state explicitly that nothing in the amendment should be construed as interference in or dictation of monetary policy by Congress or the GAO. This left no reasonable objections standing and the amendment passed with a vote of 43 to 26.

Healthcare Reform is Economic Malpractice, by US Rep. Ron Paul

As Washington continues debating healthcare reform the rest of the country is primarily concerned about jobs and the economy. It is still uncertain what policies will be implemented, but I am certain about one thing: It will only further devastate our economy and our dollar.

The leadership has come up with a proposal they are confident will be what they consider fiscally responsible, only to have it scored as nearly twice as expensive by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Estimates of past healthcare spending programs have been off by as much as 100 percent so there is no telling what the actual cost will be.

Government Statistics and Lies, by US Rep. Ron Paul

There has been a lot of talk in Washington recently about senior citizens, mostly about how various healthcare reform models would help or hurt them. But there is another critical issue that has quietly devastated seniors financially over the last few decades. It concerns how the cost of living is calculated. How does the administration justify not giving a cost of living increase to Social Security recipients this year?

According to the official Consumer Price Index calculation, life has gotten cheaper for the first time in decades. If the government can show statistically that the cost of living has gone down, not up, then they can make the case for not giving a cost of living increase to social security recipients. But does this match reality? Using older calculations of CPI, the cost of living has actually increased – by roughly 5 percent!

Anything Less Than Full Disclosure is Unacceptable, by US Rep. Ron Paul

Last week a new bill was introduced in the Senate to audit the Federal Reserve. Some backers of my bill HR1207 and the existing Senate companion bill S.604 were a little miffed at this, but depending on how you think about it, this new legislation poses no great threat to our efforts.

With the economy in shambles, people are looking for answers - not just because of lost savings on Wall Street, but because of lost houses on Main Street. Because of the many problems we face, the Federal Reserve and its powers over the economy have come under scrutiny. This translates into a lot of political pressure on Congress. With all the House Republicans signed on as co-sponsors and over half of the Democrats, HR 1207 has enormous bipartisan support. It would be disingenuous for Washington not to embrace the principles behind this bill after all the promises for transparency. How can one credibly argue for more transparency in government in one breath and defend the secrecy of the Federal Reserve in the next?

The Real Reasons Behind Fed Secrecy, by US Rep. Ron Paul

Last week I was very pleased that the Financial Services Committee held a hearing on the Federal Reserve Transparency Act, HR 1207. The bill has 295 cosponsors and there is also strong support for the companion bill in the Senate. This hearing was a major step forward in getting the bill passed.

I was pleased that the hearing was well-attended, especially considering that it was held on a Friday at nine o’clock in the morning! I have been talking about the immense, unchecked power of the Federal Reserve for many years, while the attention of Congress was always on other things. It was gratifying to see my colleagues asking probing questions and demonstrating genuine concern about this important issue as well.