Jeb Bush on the Dollar

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The New York Sun

We were just sitting down at the typewriter to tap out an editorial on the failure of any of the Republican contenders to address the crisis in respect of the dollar when an email hit our screen from the editor of the Future of Capitalism about the remarks over the weekend by Jeb Bush. The former governor of Florida was making an appearance at WMUR television at New Hampshire when he was asked whether, as FoC characterized the question, “foreign currency manipulation had put American manufacturers at a disadvantage.”

Mr. Bush responded that there might be some manipulation by foreigners. But, he added, “you can make a case that in the last few years, given our monetary policy, that we’ve been manipulating our currency. We’ve never had a time where our central bank is just printing money like nobody’s business. And that depreciates our currency. It lowers our interest rates and depreciates our currency.” Mr. Bush acknowledged that there exist some protections against foreign currency manipulation already and noted that an eventual trade pact may yet add more.

One swallow mightn’t make a spring, but it’s terrific to hear a potential presidential candidate — Mr. Bush seems to be moving in that direction, though he’s yet formally to declare — open up this issue. By our lights, monetary policy will be the most important economic question before the voters in 2016. We haven’t had a real donnybrook on the question since 1896, when William Jennings Bryan ran on a campaign of the free coinage of silver — meaning inflation — against William McKinley, who ran on the gold standard and won.

It’s a maddening situation. Republicans have had myriad chances to seize this issue. Our favorite was the election of 1952, when the party hammered together for General Eisenhower a platform calling for a dollar on “a fully-convertible gold basis.” Ike promptly won the election, but on the GOP’s dollar platform, he just flinched. He succumbed to such counsel as that of the financial newspaper Barron’s, which warned that before a return to the gold standard, such as a balancing of the budget and the establishment of Federal Reserve independence.

That malarkey precipitated a rare, direct counter-attack from Barron’s sister newspaper, the Wall Street Journal, which demanded: “When, if ever, will all the world have a stable economy?” Rather than using our influence to bring into existence a stable world economy, the Journal said in an editorial that we quoted three years ago, there is “ample reason to believe that the return of the United States to a gold-convertible currency would exert a more powerful influence on the side of stable world economy than anything else we could do.”

We had hopes that one of the Republican candidates would pick up this unfinished business. The logical person to have done this was Senator Rand Paul, whose father has cut such a heroic furrow on behalf of the constitutional dollar. But Senator Paul has tragically spent his energy chasing the ghost of the general warrant and trying to curtail the powers of our intelligence services in a time of war. We comprehend that war is the friend of the state. But we are at war, nonetheless, and we must win it.

The best that can be said for Senator Paul is that neither has any other Republican picked up the monetary question. Not Senator Cruz, who gets it; nor Senator Rubio, nor Governors Walker, Huckabee, or Jindal, nor Dr. Ben Carson or Carly Fiorina. Fewer than four years ago Republican voters, favoring Congressman Ron Paul, forced the party to adopt a platform calling for the start of monetary reform. Governor Romney refused to stand on the plank, and lost the election. So we were glad to see Governor Bush turn the question around in New Hampshire. Let’s hope he sticks with it.

The New York Sun

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