It may have taken 34 years, but Ron Paul has arrived, and he doesn't plan to squander the moment. His agenda includes landing the chairmanship of the House Financial Services Committee panel that oversees monetary policy—a job that will give him the power to push legislation reining in the central bank and to haul Fed governors up to Capitol Hill for hearings.
The prospect has Wall Street, Fed officials, and even Republican House leaders worried that Paul's agenda could roil the markets and make a mockery of the U.S. financial system. This is a man, after all, who entered politics because President Richard Nixon bucked the gold standard in 1971, and now wants to make gold and silver legal tender. He is pressing for an audit of the Fort Knox bullion depository and, earlier this year, grilled Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke about the central bank's alleged funding of Watergate and Saddam Hussein's nuclear program. Bernanke called the charges "absolutely bizarre."
Although his book ploy was couched in humor, Gregg laid plain a new Washington reality: Moderate, probusiness lawmakers like him, who consistently protected the central bank's independence and ability to set monetary policy, are mostly gone. In their place are politicians who view the Fed with suspicion, or worse. Their unofficial leader is Paul, the 75-year-old Texan whose quixotic 2008 Presidential run on the twin themes of ending the federal income tax and abolishing the Fed vaulted him to prominence with the nascent Tea Party. Some of those admirers are among the 75-plus new Republicans about to join Congress. For the first time since he was elected to the House in 1976, Paul's followers are formidable.
Officials at several major banks have privately raised concerns with Republican leaders that, by allowing Paul to become a chairman, his radical views would gain legitimacy, according to three bank lobbyists. Others are watching with great interest. "Congressman Paul has his own very strong views on things, and you've got to respect that," says Steve Verdier, a lobbyist for the Independent Community Bankers of America, which represents smaller lenders and has fought efforts to weaken the central bank. "I think there is a strong consensus in the country to maintain the independence of the Fed," he adds.
If he gets the subcommittee gavel, Paul says he plans a thorough review of Fed policy. Fear of inflation is what motivates him the most. Next to the doorway in his Washington office are six framed German bank notes dating from the 1920s hyperinflation era. The notes are sequentially dated "to show how quickly the zeroes were added onto the bills" as inflation skyrocketed, Paul says. The notes are arranged around a quote by one of Paul's favorite Austrian School economists, the late Hans F. Sennholz, who Paul once met and calls "a tremendous influence on me." Paul is a devotee of the Austrian School, which teaches that manipulating money supply and interest rates are responsible for history's boom-and-bust cycles. "The Fed creates all of the bubbles and they create the inevitable bursting of all of the bubbles," says Paul.
He believes his oversight role is long overdue. "There has been a politically cozy relationship between Congress and the Federal Reserve," he says. That includes past efforts to keep him from heading the subcommittee. "Republican leadership, with the Fed's influence, has been working to keep me away from this for a long time. That's not going to happen this time."
Don't be surprised if something happens and Ron Paul does NOT get the chairmanship of the House Financial Services Committee.
Because anything that scares Wall Street scares corporate Repubs and Dems both.
And when corporate Repubs and Dems want to take care of their corporate masters, they do it.
I'm hoping Ron Paul gets this chairmanship.
The Bernanke testimony visits and the audit of the Federal Reserve Paul wants to conduct will be priceless pieces of theater, but also important pushback against the pre-eminince of the banksters.