They only bubble up rarely, these scandals at the Federal Reserve System, but when they do, they’re doozies, involving huge amounts of money, massive conflicts of interest, all-out manipulation, collusion, favoritism, dizzying cronyism…. And yet, over the 100 years that the Fed has existed, it has done an excellent job in one of its other primary functions, maintaining the dollar, which has lost only 96% of its value—instead of 100%.
The latest scandal is the Libor fiasco that is spawning worldwide investigations of the largest banks, going back years. The New York Fed under its President Timothy Geithner knew of the manipulations as early as 2007, and knew it involved banks of which it was one of the regulators. There were some hush-hush contacts with British regulators, and that was it. Nothing changed. Status quo maintained.
Just about then, the financial crisis began to expose the house of cards that financial institutions had become. Bear Stearns was saved. During the ensuing bailout mania of 2007 – 2009, the New York Fed, under the same management, handed trillions of freshly printed dollars to the same banks that it knew were manipulating Libor. It was done in secret, and the public wouldn’t have known who got what, how the decisions were made, why Lehman wasn’t bailed out though Goldman was, had it not been for the audit by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) as authorized by the Dodd-Frank financial reform act.
During the peak of the financial crisis, Bloomberg sued the Fed to gain access to information relating to the trillions being passed out in secret and in all haste. It won! Finally, November 2011, the Fed dumped 29,000 pages of documents that revealed how many trillions its cronies had received.
The audit results and the revelations from the Fed’s data dump came way late. Popular anger had subsided into a low simmer. Other priorities had edged to the top. And once again, nothing changed at the otherwise hermetically sealed fortress of the Fed. Status quo was successfully maintained.
It remains a secretive banking cartel with unchecked powers. Bankers, top industrialists, and some economists get together with total impunity to engage in market manipulation and price fixing with impact across the globe, including interest rates that savers receive when they hand over their money to these banks—which is zero or just about zero (and negative after inflation).
Hence the need for regular audits—assuming that the country even needs a central bank of this type, though not everyone, including Congressman Ron Paul, thinks so. This audit would be different than the bloated “financial” audits done annually by Deloitte (2011 audit). It would be a complete audit by the GAO of the Federal Reserve System, including the FMOC.
Fed Chairman Bed Bernanke called it a “nightmare scenario” that would create “political influence” and have a “chilling effect.” Indeed, a nightmare for the banking cartel, with a chilling effect on the shenanigans being perpetrated.
Now, the Republicans have an opportunity. Ron Paul is retiring from Congress after 24 plus years of going after the Fed. But during his primary campaign, he gained a lot of supporters, and now it appears that there might be critical mass to push a complete Fed audit into the dynamics of the Republican National Convention on August 27—and elevate it to a plank in the platform.
“It’s good economics and it’s good legislation,” Paul said, “but it’s also good politics, because 80% of the American people agree with it.” But it will be an uphill battle against powerful interests:
Congress. It’s dependent on the Fed. The deficit will be around $1.3 trillion this year, a vote-buying scheme without peer. In a few weeks, gross national debt will exceed $16 trillion. This ballooning debt needs to be funded and rolled over at near zero cost, and the Fed has promised to make that happens—regardless of what it may do to the real economy. So Congress can’t afford to upset the status quo. And it doesn’t want a Fed audit.
Then there is the financial industry, including the TBTF banks, their stakeholders, and large corporations. Many of them were direct recipient of the Fed’s largesse. They want QE and status quo. They want to get bailed out next time. None of them want a Fed audit.
Mitt Romney has been dodging the issue, but given his private equity background, he is unlikely to be gung ho about a Fed audit. Resistance is bipartisan, however, and the White House certainly doesn’t want one.
But it brings together interesting bedfellows: the Tea Party, Ron Paul supporters, independents of all stripes, moderate democrats, liberal democrats, all the way out to the left wing. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who calls himself a socialist, is a vocal supporter of Fed audits. It’s a mirror of America. And so, if Republicans want to garner support where it would normally be difficult to find, a strong audit-the-Fed plank in their platform might do wonders.
Enjoy reading WOLF STREET and want to support it? You can donate. I appreciate it immensely. Click on the beer and iced-tea mug to find out how:
Would you like to be notified via email when WOLF STREET publishes a new article? Sign up here.