The Federal Reserve’s Magic Money

-By Alan Caruba

Historically, the Federal Reserve has had a poor record when it comes to correcting an economic slide into Depression.

In his book, “New Deal or Raw Deal?” historian Burton Folsom, Jr, asked and answered the question “What caused the Great Depression?” Among the factors he cited was the huge debt left over from World War One. In the United States, the national debt had ballooned from $1.3 billion to $24 billion in three short years, half of which consisted of loans made to the allies.

Today the U.S. is feeling the impact of the aftermath of 9/11 when military action was taken first in 2001 and then in 2003. We are still in Afghanistan and Iraq without much to show for it. As opposed to short, preemptive, lightning strikes, we have become involved in “nation building.” Forgotten is the fact that it was the Russian intervention in Afghanistan that ultimately brought down the former Soviet Union.

In the 1930s, in addition to tariffs on imported goods, “The third cause of the Great Depression was the poor performance of the Federal Reserve,” concluded Folsom. “The Federal Reserve was created in 1913 to control the money system by regulating interest rates and lending money to banks.”

In an eerie way, Raymond Moley, a member of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “brain trust” of advisors and an initial advocate of the New Deal, reflects the widespread perception of Barack Obama today. In 1933 Moley broke with FDR and became a conservative. Following a meeting with FDR, Moley recorded his observations.

“I was impressed as never before by the utter lack of logic of the man, the scantiness of his precise knowledge of things that he was talking about, the gross inaccuracies in his statements, by the almost pathological lack of sequence in his statements, by the complete rectitude that he felt as to his own conduct, by the immense and growing egotism that come from his office, by his willingness to continue the excoriation of the press and business in order to get votes for himself, by his indifference to what effort the long continued pursuit of these ends would have upon the civilization in which he was playing a part.”

This description of FDR is, in astonishing ways, a mirror image of Barack Hussein Obama.

The dissatisfaction that Moley expressed has been manifested in the immergence of the Tea Party movement and the rejection of many in Congress who supported Obama’s agenda, including Obamacare, his failed efforts to jump-start the economy with large, temporary stimulus bills, temporary housing rebates and business tax credits, and the one-time cash-for-clunkers program that followed the federal takeover of General Motors and Chrysler.

There are harsh facts being ignored about the present economic crisis. More than 42 million Americans were on food stamps in August, an all-time record and a number that is 17% higher than a year ago. The U.S. is experiencing massive unemployment and the American Bankruptcy Institute predicts there will be an estimated 1.6 million consumer bankruptcies this year.

The U.S. government is completely and totally broke. A Boston University economics professor, Laurence J. Kotlikoff, has concluded that the U.S. government is facing a “fiscal gap” of $202 trillion dollars.

John Allison, who for two decades served as chairman and CEO of BB&T, the nation’s 10th largest bank, told that it is a “mathematical certainty” the United States government “will go bankrupt unless it dramatically changes its fiscal direction immediately.”

Having tried “quantitative easing” once already the Federal Reserve is undertaking a second effort. It consists of printing magical money and using it to purchase U.S. treasury securities. QE-1 cost $1.7 trillion and did not work. QE-2 will fail as well to the tune of $0.9 trillion.

The U.S. dollar has lost 50% of its purchasing power since 1986 and it has dropped 11% in value since June of this year.

Writing in the November 8 edition of The Wall Street Journal, Kevin M. Warsh, a member of the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors, went public to warn against QE-2. “Fiscal authorities should resist the temptation to increase government expenditures to compensate for shortfalls of private consumption and investment,” said Warsh who urged “a strict economic diet of fiscal austerity.”

Whether it is Congress or the Federal Reserve, the failures of the present reflect the failures of the past. Major surgery is needed to pare the entitlement programs of Social Security and Medicare. Instead, Obamacare added millions to the Medicare rolls.

The government sponsored entities, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, need to be privatized to avoid using billions more in public funds to save them and the too-big-to-fail banks that engaged in “liar’s loans”; mortgage loans that ignored prudent lending practices resulting in the housing market collapse.

TARP did work as an emergency measure, but the government has got to stop being the lender of last resort. It’s our money.

The Federal Reserve is contemplating the creation of “magical money” at a time when the U.S. economy is in deep trouble. It is a trouble that can only be cured by retaining the Bush tax cuts and by simplifying the current insane tax code. Why is there such slow growth? American corporations pay the second highest tax rate in the world.

The burden of federal regulation must be reduced. Economists W. Mark and Nicole Crain, noted in a September Wall Street Journal that “The annual cost of federal regulations increased to more than $1.75 trillion in 2008, a 3% real increase over five years, to about 14% of U.S. national income.”

The President’s original economic advisors have departed. They, like Raymond Moley in the 1930s, know that he is either clueless and/or resistant to any pragmatic solutions.

The midterm elections gave power to the Republicans in the House, the branch from which all financial bills must originate. Failing to do the same in the Senate, it may take two years to repeal Obamacare, but efforts must be taken to defund it, to render it inoperable. The courts may offer relief with a decision that it is unconstitutional.

When the new Congress meets in January 2011, every pressure possible must be brought to bear on the Federal Reserve to stop short-term failed “solutions” before the U.S. dollar is utterly debased.
Alan Caruba writes a daily post at An author, business and science writer, he is the founder of The National Anxiety Center.

Copyright Publius Forum 2001