A Run on the Fed?

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The New York Sun

It would be way overstating things to suggest that there could be a run on the cache of gold that is kept in the basement of the Federal Reserve Bank in New York. But in the wake of reports that Germany is undertaking a program to remove its gold from the Fed and return it to Germany, a bill has been introduced in the legislature of Texas to move the state’s gold bars held at a private bank in New York and transfer them to a depository in the Lone Star State.

The bill has been introduced at Austin by Representative Giovanni Capriglione. It would establish a depository in Texas itself for the state’s specie. It has been endorsed by Governor Perry. And Texas most famous former congressman, Ron Paul, has just sent us a cheerful telegram saying that if the bill passes, he’ll volunteer to go with Mr. Perry to “pick up our gold” — so long as the “governor brought along his body guards and the Texas Rangers.”

The measure introduced by Mr. Capriglione, a Republican of Southlake, is designed to bring back to Texas gold bars that the Texas Tribune reckons would fetch $1 billion. The Tribune reports they are owned by the University of Texas Investment Management Company, or UTIMCO. A report in the Washington Post and of the Gold Anti-Trust Action Committee says the gold Texas wants to bring home is on deposit in New York with a facility of HSBC.

The report in the Texas Tribune says a move to reclaim custody of Texas’ gold started in the legislature last year. “If you think gold is a hedge, or a protection, you always want it as close to the individual and the entity as possible,” the Tribune quoted Dr. Paul as saying last week. “Texas is better served if it knows exactly where the gold is rather than depending on the security of the Federal Reserve.” Governor Perry spoke about the issue on the Glenn Beck radio show.

It happens that the news out of Texas follows reports in recent months that Germany is moving to transfer its gold out of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. It has unveiled a plan to move its gold back to German soil over seven years. The best coverage of this has been in the German daily Handelsblatt and on the Web site Zero Hedge.

Germany’s plan to move its hard reserves “could,” in the view of the writer for Zero Hedge, “be a watershed moment for the price, provenance, and future of physical gold.” It certainly comes at a moment worth remarking. The value of a United States dollar issued by the Federal Reserve has collapsed to below a 1,600th of an ounce of gold, less than a sixth of what such dollars were worth at, say the start of President George W. Bush’s first term.

The Federal Reserve itself is fighting against a plan of the House of Representatives to require an audit of the central bank. After a decade of resistance, an audit bill passed the House last year by an overwhelming, bi-partisan vote — only to get stalled in the Senate. Now Europe itself is, in respect of the crisis in Cyprus, establishing the principle that when a bank gets into extremis, the government can come in and just take a slice of depositors’ money.

All we can say is that it’s no wonder places like Texas and Germany are starting to think about keeping their own gold in their own depositories. It may not be a run on the Fed — not by a long shot — but it comes as we’re starting to see the fraying of the concept of trust that undergirds any system of money and credit. Grant’s Interest Rate Observer wrote about it this month in an issue that we editorialized on but yesterday. Grant’s called it the “riddle of our times” that central banks “cry out to be mistrusted.” It expressed the hope that its readers would not turn a deaf ear. Could it be that some have already taken the advice?

The New York Sun

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