'Audit the Fed' movement finally gaining steam?

In early January, Senator Rand Paul reintroduced the Federal Reserve Transparency Act, and Representative Thomas Massie introduced companion legislation in the United States House of Representatives, thereby continuing the "Audit the Fed" movement started by then Congressman Ron Paul.

The Paul-Massie bills are part of a push to impose greater accountability upon the political class responsible for the value of the American dollar through their monetary policies.  Their argument is, essentially, that human beings are fallible, and the more eyes watching over momentous decisions, the better.

If the Republican Party truly value small government and fiscal responsibility, then now is the time to use their majority in Congress to audit the Federal Reserve System.  The Audit the Fed movement offers an alternative to the prevailing regime of secrecy.  The Paul and Massie bills, which are identical in wording, would expose the Fed's international transactions, especially  those undertaken with foreign governments or central banks.  They would also look into monetary policy deliberations by the Fed's Board of Governors and the Federal Open Market Committee's transactions.  Specifically, the proposed legislation directs the Government Accountability Office to complete, within 12 months, an audit of the Federal Reserve Board and Federal Reserve banks.

The Fed is a creature of Congress, which alone holds constitutional authority to coin money and regulate its value, and democratic accountability demands oversight.  A Bloomberg national poll taken in 2010 suggests that 39 percent of Americans want to hold the Fed more accountable, while 16 percent would abolish it altogether.  And a 2013 Rasmussen poll found that 74 percent favor greater transparency by the Fed.

Moreover, at any moment, the Federal Reserve system can introduce an exogenous shock into the economy.  Actions in the monetary policy realm can ruin the livelihoods of millions and deserve scrutiny.  Many believe, for instance, that the recession beginning in 2007 was the fault of the Fed, under its chairman, Alan Greenspan, holding interest rates too low for too long.

Previous attempts to audit the Federal Reserve have already proved illuminating.  When a diluted version of Congressman Paul's preferred audit was passed in 2010, it revealed contradictory elements of monetary policy.  The one-time audit showed that during the Great Recession of 2007, the Fed lent nearly $5 trillion to foreign governments and central banks, even though some of those were declared enemies.  It was found that in 2008, the Fed had helped prop up the Libyan government through loans to a bank substantially owned by the Central Bank of Libya, even though President Barack Obama would in 2011 start a war aimed at toppling Moammar Gaddafi's regime.  Expect more such revelations if the Paul-Massie bill is passed.

The main lobby group opposed to an audit is, unsurprisingly, the Fed itself.  It has been suggested by officials at the Fed that an audit of the sort proposed by Paul and Massie would compromise its independence from the executive branch and Congress.  Yet this objection would be easily overcome by putting in place safeguards, such as time lags between an audit and release of the information to the public.  Even if the public has delayed access, members of Congress and the executive, being elected representatives entrusted with constitutional responsibility for oversight, should obtain the information immediately.

Paul and Massie may have an ally in President Donald Trump, who has demonstrated support for auditing the Federal Reserve, writing on Twitter that "[i]t is so important to audit The Federal Reserve[.]"  While it is an achievement that politicians now feel they must pay lip service to checks and balances, it is doubtful that the president meant what he said, since his choice for treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, has been ambiguous on the issue.

If arguments based on logic do not persuade, then the politics of the situation might.  Republicans should pass an audit so they are not remembered as the party that favored the bankers at the expense of the average American, and so that when the next financial crisis hits, they are not blamed.  President Trump's promise of achieving three- to four-percent annual economic growth is a worthy ideal, and auditing the Fed is a crucial step toward that objective since it would provide a better understanding of America's real assets and liabilities.

Sukrit Sabhlok is a Young Voices Advocate and a masters candidate at Monash University.

In early January, Senator Rand Paul reintroduced the Federal Reserve Transparency Act, and Representative Thomas Massie introduced companion legislation in the United States House of Representatives, thereby continuing the "Audit the Fed" movement started by then Congressman Ron Paul.

The Paul-Massie bills are part of a push to impose greater accountability upon the political class responsible for the value of the American dollar through their monetary policies.  Their argument is, essentially, that human beings are fallible, and the more eyes watching over momentous decisions, the better.

If the Republican Party truly value small government and fiscal responsibility, then now is the time to use their majority in Congress to audit the Federal Reserve System.  The Audit the Fed movement offers an alternative to the prevailing regime of secrecy.  The Paul and Massie bills, which are identical in wording, would expose the Fed's international transactions, especially  those undertaken with foreign governments or central banks.  They would also look into monetary policy deliberations by the Fed's Board of Governors and the Federal Open Market Committee's transactions.  Specifically, the proposed legislation directs the Government Accountability Office to complete, within 12 months, an audit of the Federal Reserve Board and Federal Reserve banks.

The Fed is a creature of Congress, which alone holds constitutional authority to coin money and regulate its value, and democratic accountability demands oversight.  A Bloomberg national poll taken in 2010 suggests that 39 percent of Americans want to hold the Fed more accountable, while 16 percent would abolish it altogether.  And a 2013 Rasmussen poll found that 74 percent favor greater transparency by the Fed.

Moreover, at any moment, the Federal Reserve system can introduce an exogenous shock into the economy.  Actions in the monetary policy realm can ruin the livelihoods of millions and deserve scrutiny.  Many believe, for instance, that the recession beginning in 2007 was the fault of the Fed, under its chairman, Alan Greenspan, holding interest rates too low for too long.

Previous attempts to audit the Federal Reserve have already proved illuminating.  When a diluted version of Congressman Paul's preferred audit was passed in 2010, it revealed contradictory elements of monetary policy.  The one-time audit showed that during the Great Recession of 2007, the Fed lent nearly $5 trillion to foreign governments and central banks, even though some of those were declared enemies.  It was found that in 2008, the Fed had helped prop up the Libyan government through loans to a bank substantially owned by the Central Bank of Libya, even though President Barack Obama would in 2011 start a war aimed at toppling Moammar Gaddafi's regime.  Expect more such revelations if the Paul-Massie bill is passed.

The main lobby group opposed to an audit is, unsurprisingly, the Fed itself.  It has been suggested by officials at the Fed that an audit of the sort proposed by Paul and Massie would compromise its independence from the executive branch and Congress.  Yet this objection would be easily overcome by putting in place safeguards, such as time lags between an audit and release of the information to the public.  Even if the public has delayed access, members of Congress and the executive, being elected representatives entrusted with constitutional responsibility for oversight, should obtain the information immediately.

Paul and Massie may have an ally in President Donald Trump, who has demonstrated support for auditing the Federal Reserve, writing on Twitter that "[i]t is so important to audit The Federal Reserve[.]"  While it is an achievement that politicians now feel they must pay lip service to checks and balances, it is doubtful that the president meant what he said, since his choice for treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, has been ambiguous on the issue.

If arguments based on logic do not persuade, then the politics of the situation might.  Republicans should pass an audit so they are not remembered as the party that favored the bankers at the expense of the average American, and so that when the next financial crisis hits, they are not blamed.  President Trump's promise of achieving three- to four-percent annual economic growth is a worthy ideal, and auditing the Fed is a crucial step toward that objective since it would provide a better understanding of America's real assets and liabilities.

Sukrit Sabhlok is a Young Voices Advocate and a masters candidate at Monash University.