Dec 13

Anyone needing proof that at least one U.S. Senator exists who truly “gets it” with regard to the government’s role in creating our recent financial debacle should devote 10 minutes to watching this video.     This was South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint’s allocated time in questioning Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke during the latter’s December 3rd renomination hearings in the Senate Finance Committee.  It’s great theater, Bernanke’s I’d-rather-be-having-a-root-canal demeanor notwithstanding.

It’s hard provide better verbiage on what DeMint describes, both in the setup of the importance of the issue and the implications of not getting our hands around the true causes of our recent crisis.   Any informed voter needs to be aware of this perspective, and of the presence of elected officials who are willing to buck the populism that keeps it from getting the attention it warrants.   So with that disclaimer, I’m quoting large portions of DeMint’s comments:


Sen. Jim DeMint

“When Congress created the Federal Reserve, they created arguably the most powerful institution in the whole world.  Our whole economy, all our prosperity, wealth, rests on the soundness of the dollar, as does much of the economic systems all around the world.  So as we consider your renomination it’s important that we ask some difficult questions, not just of you, but to ourselves, because no one can say that there haven’t been major failures and I think a lot of us have to admit that the Federal Government, the Federal Reserve let down the American people and a lot, a lot of people have been hurt.

I will take exception to one of the arguments that I’ve heard today and I’ve heard often about what we heard last October and what actually happened.    We were told that if we did not appropriate nearly a trillion dollars to buy toxic assets that the whole worldwide economy or economic system was likely to collapse.  We appropriated nearly a trillion dollars and we never bought one toxic asset and the world economic system did not collapse.   Now we can make a case and debate about all we want about whether or not twisting banks’ arms and forcing more money into the banking system actually helped us.  We could talk about that all day.   But the premise that we used, to create this TARP program, was never followed through on, and it’s difficult for me to find credibility in the arguments that we saved our economy.”

The bait-and-switch performed last fall under the financial doomsday scenario scare tactics described above is nothing short of criminal.   Recent reports of TARP’s supposed effectiveness miss DeMint’s crucial point:   The unprecedented program was passed using scare tactics for an implementation plan that was quickly  abandoned following its passage. Yet in “fool-’em-once-fool-’em-again” fashion, President Obama has the audacity to now want to take $200 billion of these TARP funds and throw it at other sectors and politically expedient portions of our economy.   But we won’t call it a “stimulus”…

DeMint continued:

“For me perhaps the biggest failure, in the Federal Reserve, in the political side here in Washington, is that, amid all these failures, the politicians, the folks in the Administration and Federal Reserve, have claimed credit for saving the system, while blaming capitalism and unrestrained free markets for our problems.   That has justified the positions that are now being taken here in the Congress in many ways, to come back and even extend the control, the intrusion of the Federal Government further into the private sector.  I think you’ve been a big part of orchestrating that, and shifting the blame onto the private sector.


Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke

No one’s arguing that there’s not blame to go around everywhere.   But the biggest failure I’ve seen, is the failure for us to recognize the role that we played and the lack of our oversight of Fannie Mae, who created a lot of these toxic assets and sold them around the world, the loose monetary policy that created chronically low unemployment rates and high leverage across the economy.   By not taking some of the blame, and making the public is aware of that, we’ve undermined the system that made this country prosperous, and I think that is an egregious error.”

Although I’ve written about this before, it warrants repeating that the attempts by many to move our economy away from free markets, to any extent, truly risk killing the golden goose.  And with the government’s nearly perfect track record of never repealing any major program or initiative, the stakes for preventing such major legislative endeavors that might permanently weaken our preeminently free-market orientation have never been higher.

More from the Senator:

“To a large degree the oversight that we’re responsible for here in this Congress we did not accomplish because of assurances that we’ve  gotten over the years, from your predecessor and from yourself and by doing that I think we have egregiously failed the American system.

I would again, as you and I have talked personally, ask you to consider the need to make the Federal Reserve more transparent.   There’s no need that independence needs to mean secrecy.  The confidence in the Federal Reserve, the mistrust around this country, has reached new heights, and we need to do something to restore faith that the American people have in their monetary system, their financial system, and that responsibility is at the Federal Reserve as well as in the Congress.   I would encourage you again to consider what type of openness, or “audit” as you and I have talked about, would be appropriate in order to reassure the American people that we’re not looking at another Fannie Mae situation, that over years we were told “not to worry, not to worry”, that everything is OK, and now we saw what it did.   We can’t allow that to happen with the Federal Reserve.”

DeMint here is referring to S604, the Senate counterpart the Ron Paul/Alan Grayson Amendment (HR 1207), which recently passed 43-26 in the House Financial Services Committee, much to the fear of Federal Reserve itself.   DeMint’s intentions here call the bluff of many who would call upon even more regulation and oversight of all aspects of our economy:   Evidently there are still plenty of elected officials who are not comfortable with this oversight extending to certain government agencies.

Lastly, it is well worth noting that voters who agree with DeMint’s worldview can thank The Club For Growth for helping him and other liked-minded individuals get to Washington.    The Club’s legal ability to advertise itself is outrageously limited (perhaps this is Washington’s notion of limiting government).   Anyone wanting to see DeMint’s perspective advanced in Washington should encourage and support similar candidates,  and the Club’s track record in getting that done is impressive.   In the never-more-important war of ideas, having candidates who will reliably legislate from the limited-government side is correspondingly crucial.

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