Thursday, May 21, 2009


Fed Doing Excellent Job Of Covering Its Ass

benbernankescruff_tbi.jpgIs the Fed bullish or bearish about the economy? Let's go to the Minutes:

The staff's projections for economic activity in the second half of 2009 and in 2010 were revised up, with real GDP expected to edge higher in the second half and then increase moderately next year. The key factors expected to drive the acceleration in activity were the boost to spending from fiscal stimulus, the bottoming out of the housing market, a turn in the inventory cycle from liquidation to modest accumulation, and ongoing gradual recovery of financial markets... Looking out to 2011, the staff anticipated that financial markets and institutions would continue to recuperate, monetary policy would remain stimulative, fiscal stimulus would be fading, and inflation expectations would be relatively well anchored. Under such conditions, the staff projected that real GDP would expand at a rate well above that of its potential, that the unemployment rate would decline significantly, and that overall and core PCE inflation would stay in a low range.

Sounds like the Fed's bullish! 

But wait...

Although the near-term economic outlook had improved modestly since March, participants emphasized the tentative nature of the incoming data, which are volatile and subject to revision. The experience of previous recessions underscored the challenges of identifying the onset of economic recovery using real-time indicators. Also, empirical analysis of past episodes in the United States and abroad in which economic downturns had been triggered by financial crises generally concluded that such contractions tended to be more severe and protracted than other recessions.

Moreover, participants continued to see significant downside risks to the economic outlook. In particular, while financial strains and risk spreads had lessened somewhat over the intermeeting period, participants agreed that the global financial system remained vulnerable to further shocks... Some participants also referred to mounting losses in commercial real estate, which could have substantial adverse consequences for regional banks and other financial institutions with significant concentrations of such assets.

Looking further ahead, participants considered a number of factors that would be likely to restrain the pace of economic recovery over the medium term. Strains in credit markets were expected to recede only gradually as financial institutions continued to rebuild their capital and remained cautious in their approach to asset-liability management, especially given that the outlook for credit performance was likely to improve slowly.

Some sectors--such as financial services and residential construction--might well account for a smaller share of the economy in coming years, and the resulting reallocation of labor across sectors could weigh on labor markets for some time. Households would likely remain cautious, and their desired saving rates would be relatively high over the extended period that would be required to bring their stock of wealth back up to more normal levels relative to income. The stimulus from fiscal policy was expected to diminish over time as the government budget moved to a sustainable path. Demand for U.S. exports would also take time to revive, reflecting the gradual recovery of major trading partners.

Most participants expected inflation to remain subdued over the next few years, and they saw some risk that elevated unemployment and low capacity utilization could cause inflation to remain persistently below the rates that they judged as most consistent with sustainable economic growth and price stability. Nonetheless, recent monthly readings on consumer price inflation had been above the low rates observed late last year, and survey measures of longer-run inflation expectations had remained reasonably stable, leading many participants to judge that the risk of a protracted period of deflation had diminished. Some participants highlighted the potential pitfalls of making inflation projections based on contemporaneously available measures of resource slack, especially during periods when the economy was facing large supply shocks and significant sectoral reallocation. Several participants referred to contacts who had expressed concerns that the expansion of the Federal Reserve's balance sheet might not be reversed in a sufficiently timely manner and hence that inflation could rise above rates consistent with price stability.

Glad we got that clear.

Momentum Builds For Ron Paul's "Fed Transparency" Act

ronpaul_tbi.jpgFor years, Ron Paul has been a lone voice in Congress, questioning the wisdom of the Federal Reserve -- both its various chairmans and the institution itself. His dogged questioning of Alan Greenspan, and then Ben Bernanke, make for great TV (otherwise, those hearings are total snoozefests).

But now, as America wakes up to its dire financial situation and average people talk about things like "fractional reserve lending", the gold standard, and Zimbabwe-like inflation, he's finally getting some momentum.

It's baby steps, of course. Paul is the sponsor of the Federal Reserve Transparency act of 2009, which demands a GAO audit of the Fed, and a full report to Congress sometime next year. And it's gaining steam. It already has 175 co-sponsors in the House, and now a major Democrat, Rep. Alan Grayson (ironically, the same one who's proposing that stupid France vacation bill we mentioned this morning has joined on, and is urging his party colleagues to join them.

Zero Hedge has a copy of the letter he's sent out, and if you're so moved (which you should be), you can sign the petition here:

Read the rest or go directly and take Action below!

The Federal Reserve System operates as the central bank for the United States, managing the economy’s money supply and overseeing the banking system. Until recently, the Fed has not picked winners and losers when distributing money, nor has it brought credit risk onto its balance sheet. It has slowed or stimulated the economy by raising or lowering interest rates. Since March 2008, the Fed has resorted to using its emergency powers to pick winners and losers, and to take massive credit risk onto its books. Since last September, the Fed’s balance sheet has expanded from around $800 billion to over $2 trillion, not including off-balance sheet liabilities it has guaranteed for Citigroup, AIG, and Bank of America, among others. The bank is also ‘monetizing’ the debt of the United States Government by purchasing massive amounts of agency and Treasury bonds. An audit is the first step in bringing this unaccountable system under the control of the public, whose money it prints and disseminates at will.

The Federal Reserve is an odd entity, a public-private chimera that controls the US monetary system and supervises the banking system. The system is governed by a Board of Governors, with twelve regional reserve banks that serve a supporting role. While the Governors are appointed by the President with confirmation by the Senate, the regional Reserve Banks have boards of directors chosen primarily by private banking institutions. Right now, for instance, the CEO of JP Morgan, Jamie Dimon, serves on the Board of Directors of the New York Federal Reserve Bank, as did Goldman Sachs Director Stephen Friedman.

This creates striking conflicts of interest and unseemly appearances in the management of what is ultimately the public’s money. 


  • JP Morgan’s CEO was a board member of the New York Fed even as he negotiated on behalf of JP Morgan with the New York Fed for a $29 billion bridge loan to allow his company to take over Bear Stearns.
  • New York Fed and Goldman Sachs board member Stephen Friedman purchased 37,300 shares of Goldman Sachs stock in December at the same time as Goldman received permission to convert to a bank holding company regulated by the Federal Reserve. Friedman at the time was also overseeing the selection of a New York Federal Reserve President to replace Tim Geithner, and the New York Fed ended up hiring another alumni from Goldman Sachs.
  • According to the bank’s website, the two “class B” directorships of the New York Fed that are supposed to represent the public are vacant.
  • Enron’s Jeff Skilling was on the board of the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank.

Criticism of banker influence and control of our monetary system is not new. However, the urgency of the financial crisis and the actions of the Fed picking investment bank winners and losers have changed the nature of the criticism. The Senate just passed a non-binding resolution requiring more transparency at the Federal Reserve in its Budget Resolution.

Still, neither the GAO nor the Federal Reserve Inspector General has audited the books of the Federal Reserve or its regional banks. The Federal Reserve has refused multiple inquiries from both the House and the Senate to disclose who is receiving trillions of dollars from the central banking system. The Federal Reserve has redacted the central terms of the no-bid contracts it has issued to Wall Street firms like Blackrock and PIMCO, without disclosure required of the Treasury, and is participating in new and exotic programs like the trillion-dollar TALF to leverage the Treasury’s balance sheet. With discussions of allocating even more power to the Federal Reserve as the ‘systemic risk regulator’ of the credit markets, more oversight over the central bank’s operations is clearly necessary.

The net effect of recent actions has been to isolate financial policy-making entirely from democratic input, and allow the Treasury Department to leverage the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet to spend money it cannot get appropriated from Congress. The public does not know where trillions of its dollars are going, and so has no meaningful control over the currency or this unappropriated “budget”. The extraordinary size of these lending facilities combined, the extreme secrecy, and the private influence is a dangerous seizure of Congress’s constitutional prerogative to appropriate public monies and control the currency.

An audit of the Federal Reserve may not be sufficient to control this sprawling system or bring it back into balance, but it is a start. The public has a right to know to whom the US government is lending trillions of dollars. Dancing around this issue with technocratic terms like ‘increasing liquidity’ and ‘private financial intermediation’ is preventing a full and long overdue public debate on the role of the Federal Reserve and the influence of private banking interests in the governing of our economy.

The Federal Reserve is Out of Control 
Select Below to Urge Nancy Pelosi to schedule a vote on 'Audit the Fed' bill: 

ALERT: The Federal Reserve is out of control. In just the past several months, the Fed and the U.S. Treasury have put $12.8 TRILLION on the line in stimulus packages, bailouts, TARP programs and the rest of theirtaxpayer-crushing schemes

That amount nearly equals the Gross Domestic Product for the ENTIRE U.S. economy. 

And the fact is, our "leaders" will have the Federal Reserve pay for it all with "fiat money" -- money printed right out of thin air…. until the dollar completely collapses. 

We need to STOP that from happening -- NOW, before it's too late! 

Thankfully, H.R. 1207, the "Federal Reserve Transparency Act," has been introduced in the House of Representatives -- and EVERY AMERICAN needs to DEMAND that the Speaker of the House schedule a vote on it! 

As Rep. Ron Paul stated on the floor of the U.S. House when introducing this bill, "Throughout its nearly 100-year history, the Federal Reserve has presided over the near-complete destruction of the United States dollar. Since 1913 the dollar has lost over 95% of its purchasing power, aided and abetted by the Federal Reserve's loose monetary policy. How long will we as a Congress stand idly by while hard-working Americans see their savings eaten away by inflation? Only big-spending politicians and politically favored bankers benefit from inflation." 

Since its inception, the Federal Reserve has always operated in the shadows, without sufficient scrutiny or oversight of its operations. While the conventional excuse is that this is intended to reduce the Fed's susceptibility to political pressures, the reality is that the Fed acts as a foil for the government. Whenever you question the Fed about the strength of the dollar, they will refer you to the Treasury, and vice versa. The Federal Reserve has, on the one hand, many of the privileges of government agencies, while retaining benefits of private organizations, such as being insulated from Freedom of Information Act requests. 

The Federal Reserve can enter into agreements with foreign central banks and foreign governments, and the GAO is prohibited from auditing or even seeing these agreements. Why should a government-established agency, whose police force has federal law enforcement powers, and whose notes have legal tender status in this country, be allowed to enter into agreements with foreign powers and foreign banking institutions with no oversight? Particularly when hundreds of billions of dollars of currency swaps have been announced and implemented, the Fed's negotiations with the European Central Bank, the Bank of International Settlements, and other institutions should face increased scrutiny, most especially because of their significant effect on foreign policy. If the State Department were able to do this, it would be characterized as a rogue agency and brought to heel, and if a private individual did this he might face prosecution under the Logan Act, yet the Fed avoids both fates. 

More importantly, the Fed's funding facilities and its agreements with the Treasury should be reviewed. The Treasury's supplementary financing accounts that fund Fed facilities allow the Treasury to funnel money to Wall Street without GAO or Congressional oversight. Additional funding facilities, such as the Primary Dealer Credit Facility and the Term Securities Lending Facility, allow the Fed to keep financial asset prices artificially inflated and subsidize poorly performing financial firms. 

As Rep. Paul noted, "The Federal Reserve Transparency Act would eliminate restrictions on GAO audits of the Federal Reserve and open Fed operations to enhanced scrutiny. We hear officials constantly lauding the benefits of transparency and especially bemoaning the opacity of the Fed, its monetary policy, and its funding facilities. By opening all Fed operations to a GAO audit and calling for such an audit to be completed by the end of 2010, the Federal Reserve Transparency Act would achieve much-needed transparency of the Federal Reserve." 


TAKE ACTION: As it stands right now, there are already over 
150 cosponsors of Ron Paul's AUDIT THE FED Bill -- and a companion Senate Bill (S. 604) has also been introduced. 

In fact, hearings in the House could take place 
any day, as Chairman Frank of the Financial Services Committee has publicly promised to move the bill that far! 

But to make sure this bill is heard AND VOTED ON, it is be up to US to TURN UP THE HEAT on Capitol Hill as our battle moves forward! 

Politicians of both parties need to be put on notice NOW -- either take action to rein in an out of control FED, or face the wrath of angry patriotic Americans next year. But they won't 
believe that if they don't hear from us

So please, send a FREE message right away, urging House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to schedule debate and a roll call vote on H.R. 1207, the "Federal Reserve Transparency Act": 

Let Congress hear our cry: 

Federal Reserve

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