by Max Brantley
By Paul Barton
WASHINGTON – It’s not often that you see Rep. Vic Snyder of Arkansas sponsoring the same legislation as Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, the past GOP presidential candidate and now one of Congress’s most outspoken member on the alleged evils of the Federal Reserve Board, the nation’s central bank.
But Snyder, known as a thoughtful Democrat, along with the other three Arkansas members in the House have signed on to Paul’s HR 1207, a bill to audit the Federal Reserve.
Paul now has a majority of House members signed on – about 270 and climbing - and the bill is beginning to get hearings.
“The public is demanding transparency in government like never before,” Paul says on his website devoted to the issue, RonPaul.com.
Here is another sampling from his site:
“For almost a century, the secretive and unaccountable Federal Reserve has silently manipulated the economy and the value of the dollar, and they are understandably upset about the increased scrutiny and criticism their abnormal and undemocratic activities have started to attract. In his latest column, Ron Paul explains why this arcane institution is doing everything in its power to preserve its ability to quietly create and spend trillions of dollars, make deals with other central banks, engage in backdoor negotiations with foreign governments, and bail out its cronies as it sees fit.”
A lot of the sentiment for the bill apparently comes from continued suspicions about how the Troubled Asset Relief Program was rushed together for banks last fall. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, many felt, scared Congress into passing it, warning that the financial system would otherwise implode. On the other hand, the bill has defenders in many scholars who have said the legislation did exactly that, prevent a monetary catastrophe.
Snyder, in a statement released Tuesday said: “I have supported much of the work the Federal Reserve has done to deal with the financial disruptions experienced by both the U.S. and the world economies. But I am also supportive of efforts to make the process more transparent to American taxpayers who support these activities.”
Ralph C. Bryant, one of the chief economists at the liberal Brookings Institution, a think tank, said, “I too have been surprised by the amount of support it has attracted.”
Bryant thinks some are looking for a scapegoat and that the overall idea is a bad one – a nose under the tint that could lead to more tampering with the Federal Reserve’s needed independence.
The Brookings scholar also said he just doesn’t think much of Paul and his ideas on monetary policy in general.
The country, he said, will soon once again appreciate the independence of the Fed. Auditing the institution, the economist said, “is not a very pressing issue” compared with other matters facing Congress.
In the Senate, similar legislation has been introduced by Republican Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, but has attracted only about a half dozen cosponsors. Sens. Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor of Arkansas are not among them.
The Federal Reserve says on its own website it already receives periodic audits from the Comptroller General of the United States, the Government Accountability Office and its own Office of Inspector General.