Posted by Brad @ 12:55 pm on May 25th 2011

Ron Paul Gone Respectable

By the way, since we’re talking about Rand Paul’s (perhaps surprising) competence as a legislator, a note on Ron Paul’s performance as well. Paul has, of course, spent many many years as the House’s resident crank, but with his political capital as large as just about any other congressman’s following his 2008 run, Republican leadership finally wilted and allowed him to take over a committee leadership position – something they had denied him for decades.

A lot of people feared that, as chair of the Subcommittee on Domestic Monetary Policy and Technology, which oversees the Fed and is the relevant committee to the gold standard (or would be, if we had one), that Ron Paul would wind up turning it into a circus sideshow or, at best, a pointless exercise in frothing at the mouth soap boxing.

Turns out, in his first leadership post in nearly 30 years in Congress, Paul has proven himself to actually conduct himself with quite a bit of professionalism and, frankly, efficacy.

A press releasish post from Lew Rockwell:

WASHINGTON–Domestic Monetary Policy and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Ron Paul announced today the Subcommittee will hold a hearing entitled, “Federal Reserve Lending Disclosure: FOIA, Dodd-Frank, and the Data Dump.”

The hearing will explore the information disclosed by the Federal Reserve in compliance with the Dodd-Frank Act and the Freedom of Information Act regarding its emergency lending facilities, open market operations, and discount window lending that took place during the recent financial crisis. The information, made available to the public in spreadsheets and PDFs on December 1, 2010 and March 31, 2011, provides data on thousands of transactions and trillions of dollars in lending supplied by the Federal Reserve. The hearing also will explore how the Fed plans to disclose such information in the future to comply with the mandatory disclosure provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act.

The hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, June 1st at 2:00 p.m., in room 2128 of the Rayburn House office building.

“I am very pleased to hold this important hearing on Federal Reserve transparency, data publication, and the conduct of the Fed’s monetary policy during the most critical periods of the financial crisis. While we are still far away from an acceptable level of transparency, it is still true that an unprecedented amount of information on the Fed’s actions has been disclosed to the public, and I am glad we are examining it in Congress. As our first hearing with witnesses from the Fed, I hope that we will gain a better understanding of the Fed’s credit facilities, the working relationship between the New York Fed and the Board of Governors, and a roadmap for future Fed data disclosures,” said Subcommittee Chairman Paul.

Financial Services Committee Chairman Spencer Bachus said, “Many of the actions taken by the government in response to the financial crisis took place behind closed doors with little, if any, information provided to the public. These actions demonstrated to many of us that the Federal Reserve was in need of transparency and accountability. Now that the Fed has released information on its actions during the financial crisis, it is important for the Committee to examine the disclosures by the Federal Reserve and ensure taxpayers are protected. This Subcommittee hearing is a step towards ensuring transparency and accountability at the Federal Reserve.”

Scheduled to testify:

Scott G. Alvarez, General Counsel, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
Thomas C. Baxter, General Counsel, Federal Reserve Bank of New York

A few things jump out at me from that.

First of all, the quote from Ron Paul. It’s striking because it’s so tempered – not usually something you expect from his communications operation. No mad talk of abolishing the Fed, no discursive flailing about unrelated issues. Rather, he’s really setting a tone – this is not a witch hunt per se, or just a vanity exercise, but rather a step in the path towards reasonable transparency. Again, I guess you have to have had followed Paul’s congressional career for awhile to be surprised by the uncharacteristic normalcy of it.

Second of all, I think it’s worth noting that, since its creation in 1913, this really is an unprecedented level of accountability for the Fed. Meaning, these data dumps, and having Ron Paul regularly on their ass, has spurred one of the biggest 180s on transparency for a federal agency we’ve seen in quite awhile. Regardless of my avowed Paul fandom, the way he’s managed the Fed in his new position, were it done by anybody, would be pretty laudable and worth acknowledging. Taking a step back, his almost single-handling steering of the Fed towards transparency has been a practical, and significant, accomplishment.

Finally, the Baucus quote. One thing that’s been said of Rand in profiles is, for a guy who came into the Senate with the “fringe lunatic” label on his back, a lot of insiders have been surprised at how effective he’s been at coalition-building. I think on this matter, Ron has been pretty good as well. There is actually a congressional constituency in Congress now for keeping the Fed in check and transparent. That is almost single-handedly the accomplishment of Ron. What’s more – and here I am going out on a limb, but the thought struck me earlier – I think this may have repercussions beyond just Fed issues. One thing that struck me in looking at the list of the very few in Congress right now who are agitating against Patriot Act renewal is that a lot of them are compatriots with the Paul’s on this issue as well. I’m thinking specifically of guys like Jeff Merkley and Max Baucus, both guys who have signed on, on some level, to Paul’s Fed crusade, and both guys who also happened to sign on to Rand’s Patriot Act crusade. I mention them specifically because they don’t fall into the Bernie Sanders / Jon Tester side of dissenters – libertarian leaners you might expect to align on those two issues anyway. Anyway, just a thought, but I think both Pauls are, surprisingly (because it is the opposite of their reputations), making their positions on the two issues more mainstream in Congress, and more able to be taken up by otherwise “mainstream” politicians.

Again, that’s probably a stretch, but still, a lot of thoughts from that little press release.

3 Comments »

  1. Nitpick, that’s Bachus, Republican from Alabama and general all around tool of Wall Street, not Max Baucus, the Senator from Montana . . . and all around tool of Wall Street.

    Well, to be fair, Baucus does push for Democratic-leaning legislation from time to time, but he’s still seen as being favorable to corporate interests. Bachus, on the other hand . . . well really will do anything Wall Street wants.

    He’s also a surprisingly low-profile member for being the Chairman of the Financial Services Committee and Ranking Member in the 111th Congress.

    Comment by FreedomDemocrat — 5/25/2011 @ 1:06 pm

  2. Yes, just so used to writing Max Baucus my fingers auto-filled that one in. :) As you say, getting either one to move towards anything less than rubber stamping high finance is an accomplishment.

    Comment by Brad — 5/25/2011 @ 1:39 pm

  3. It’s a bit bad because between Bachus and Baucus you’d hope one could throw a good party.

    Comment by FreedomDemocrat — 5/25/2011 @ 7:33 pm

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