Ron Paul, Wikileaks, and the Federal Reserve
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
“What we really need,” Congressman Ron Paul said in respect of the Fed when we spoke with him on the phone this morning, “is a Wikileaks episode.” He wasn’t in any way suggesting that literally — or recommending any other kind of illegal raid on the Fed’s books; all his points favor acting only in lawful ways. What he was underlining is that the big document disclosure from the Fed is just the tip of the iceberg of what the public needs, and deserves, to know about what our nation’s central bank is doing.
The documents that have been released were disclosed by the Fed in the face of an array of pressures — from Bloomberg News, among others, and from the Congress, spurred by the socialist senator from Vermont, Bernard Sanders, against the backdrop of Congressman Paul’s years long quest for some sunlight on the Fed. The disclosures show a vast rescue by the Fed of all sorts of institutions. “Santa Clause: Fed Aid Went All Over; Companies, Banks, Offshore” is the headline the Drudge Report put on the story.
It’s quite a spectacle. The Fed disclosed 21,000 transactions in its multi-trillion emergency lending program. It turns out that the then-triple-A-rated General Electric was getting bailed out without any disclosure being made by its broadcasting arms, even while they’re covering the Fed and the debate over the bailout. So vast was the borrowing by foreign banks that Senator Sanders was quoted by the Financial Times as asking: “Has the Federal Reserve of the United States become the central bank of the world?”
One analyst, Karen Shaw Petrou of Federal Financial Advisers, was quoted by the Washington Post as saying the “disclosure shows ‘how really profound the financial crisis was in the fall of 2008 and the firepower the Fed mustered in response.’” But a former aide of the Atlanta Fed, Robert Eisenbeis, now chief monetary economist at Cumberland Advisors, told Bloomberg Television that “it’s not clear that you get a real picture about the severity of the financial crisis from these data.”
He elaborated on the point this way: “When you drop money out of a helicopter on Wall Street, rational people pick it up, and you know there’s a question about how much was needed.” One point Mr. Eisenbeis cited was the disclosure by the Fed that among the companies it bailed out was the motorcycle maker Harley Davidson. “It’s hard to argue,” he noted, “that that’s a systemically important firm — may be to the motor cycle crowd, but certainly not from the broad base of the United States economy.”
Mr. Eisenbeis said there shoud be a “strong forensic team” — an outside group — to go in and look a the vast Fed bailouts and do an analysis the way it was done after, say, the failure of Lehman Brothers. His comments were but an example of the logic of a proper, public, outside audit of the Fed, which has long been sought by Congressman Paul. His quest for a full audit may have gotten lost in the compromise of the Dodd-Frank legislation, but it is asserting itself. It is something that the poor suffering taxpayers, who are looking at all this with a sense of horror, will look to the 111th Congress to require.
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The logic is for such an audit to go way beyond the workings of the alphabet soup of various rescue lines opened up by the Fed. The real issue is the much larger question — how is the Federal Reserve conducting monetary policy and was our system of fiat money, in and of itself, a cause of the Great Recession? Or, to put a more forward spin on it, the question that is really asserting itself is whether monetary reform is the route to getting us out of the current morass and returning us to a path of stable growth. It’s an encouraging thing that Dr. Paul is in line to chair the subcommittee in Congress that has primary oversight of the Fed. If he gets the post he’s in line to get we’d like to think the American people will start to get some answers.