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The fringe can help save us?

Ron Paul, R-TX

Ron Paul, R-TX

Alan Grayson, D-FL

Alan Grayson, D-FL

Rather than beat around the bush this time, I’ll come right out and say what I think: our government is corrupt to the core.

I know — shocking.

More than any time that I can remember, it seems like the federal government is catering to well-connected elite interests at the expense of what is clearly in the best interest of the country as a whole.  The banking industry is treated with kid gloves only a year after they fucked everything up.  Health care reform has boiled down to a choice between barely better (if we get a public option) and horribly worse (if the government mandates that we buy private insurance without allowing us to choose a public option).  The black hole of the Afghanistan war continues, and the Obama administration endorses almost all of the worst Bush administration positions on torture and unchecked executive power.

In times like this, when run-of-the-mill government behavior has become routinely loathsome and reprehensible, some fringe elements become, unavoidably, better than the status-quo.

Not every fringe element, of course.  The birther movement and Sarah Palin don’t get any more attractive no matter what deals Tim Geithner and Larry Summers are cutting with Goldman Sachs.  But Ron Paul?  Oh, yes — he can sometimes be much, much better.

Paul, the “fringe” libertarian from Texas, and Democratic firebrand Alan Grayson cosponsored an amendment that would mandate something that’s never been done before — an audit of the Federal Reserve.  Glenn Greenwald and Ryan Grim report that, amazingly, the Paul/Grayson amendment was actually passed by the House Finance Committee.  This is HUGE.

Ron Paul has been trying to get the fed audited since 1983, without success.  In normal times, the fed would never be audited, because conventional thinking holds that the central bank needs to be insulated from political interference.  But these times are not normal.  The fed hasn’t simply been handling monetary policy and tweaking interest rates.  It has, presumably, been cutting deals with individual private firms and working with the Treasury to decide which bankrupt firms are allowed to live and which firms should die.  It’s been propping up specific private firms (Goldman Sachs!) with bailouts and access to zero-interest financing.  Presumably.

Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs

Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs

I say “presumably” because, without an audit, we don’t know exactly what the fed’s been up to.  But we need to know.  After the unprecedented bailouts of the banking industry with taxpayer dollars, the Washington beltway elite is telling us that we can’t have health insurance reform because we don’t have the money.  But we have the money to bail out Goldman Sachs?  For you right wingers out there who might not like spending money on health care, try this: there’s a war going on in Afghanistan right now, but after our Goldman Sachs bailout they’re telling us we may not have the money for the war?  It’s infuriating regardless of whether you’re on the right or the left.

As Greenwald put it, the audit vote is “bipartisan and even trans-ideological,” and it’s a very good idea.  Yes, it’s probably wise to insulate the fed from political pressure.  But as Ryan Grim has pointed out, “The Fed, in other words, is not presently independent of political pressure, but that pressure comes from Wall Street banks rather than from the American people through their elected representatives.”

Remember that this great idea came to you courtesy of people like Ron Paul, a longtime inhabitant of the political fringe.  I’m not signing on to Orly Taitz’s circus-act anytime soon, but we will have to start taking other fringe ideas seriously or we’ll never get out of this mess.


  1. Peter wrote:

    Someone somewhere suggested that, at least in part, JFK was taken out because he was making noises about ending the Vietnam war. Reason being that there were too many folks making too much money from the war and they were not very happy to think of it ending. Now if Obama were to suggest ending our involvment in the middle east, there would certainly be a change in who made the money that is now being made. Obama is certainly not a stupid man and I would bet that his time on the streets of south side Chicago taught him to peel away several layers underlying a situation before moving cautiously toward solving problems. After all, he hasn’t been anybody’s target yet. Maybe he’s been deliberately and wisely avoiding grassy knolls

    Saturday, November 21, 2009 at 11:56 am | Permalink
  2. Carey wrote:

    Taking serious measures to end our imperial involvement overseas would probably be the best way to set yourself up for some payback by the military-industrial complex.

    Of course, implementing any serious changes in the status-quo is bound to alter the money/power streams in some significant way, and therefore is certain to get some wingnuts thinking about pulling the trigger if they think that they’ll be able to get away with it.

    I don’t entertain any illusions that the human beings at the top levels of government and industry are any more saintly than the human beings who run drug-dealing operations on my local street corner.

    Saturday, November 21, 2009 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

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