What’s next? A unicorn captured in Tennessee? The world I grew up in has changed. American Universities are handing out Play-Doh to comfort distraught liberals and ‘Never Trump’ students. Protestors defaced a Thomas Jefferson statueat the University of Virginia due to his slave ownership. Race baiters attacked Hobby Lobby for displaying raw cotton in vases. The P. C. Police have continually demonstrated their desire to attack the America many of us love. Now, the snowflake class is writing articles stating Ron Paul – the former Texas congressman that made a career out of criticizing bloated defense budgets and hawkish foreign policy decisions – is shilling for the defense industry. Their ‘evidence’ is that he received five-year-old campaign contributions from some employees of Boeing and Lockheed Martin, which they falsely credited with coming directly from the companies themselves. Dr. Paul’s alleged wrongdoing was writing an op-ed mildly critical of Elon Musk, a government subsidy-eating machine and poster boy for left-wing environmental causes. In the article, Paul, an Air Force veteran, expressed his opposition to Section 1615 of the National Defense Authorization Agreement (NDAA), which many speculate was written with the congressional intent of quietly extinguishing all serious competition to Musk’s SpaceX.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Sep 18, 2017.
On Wednesday, Janet Yellen testified before the House Financial Services Committee. Though the hearings lost much of their appeal when Dr. Ron Paul retired from Congress, the House Republicans have maintained a reputation for being far more hostile to the Federal Reserve than their colleagues in the Senate – managing to generate some worthwhile moments. While little news was made, with Yellen maintaining her support for generally low interest rates, there were some points made today worth noting. 1) Republicans Continue to Push on the Fed’s Subsidy to Wall Street Starting in 2008, the Federal Reserve has paid interest on excess reserves parked at the Fed. While this had never been done prior to the financial crisis, this policy has now become a vital tool for the Fed in setting short-term interest rates. As the Fed has increased the Federal funds rate, so too has it increased its ‘Interest On Excess Reserves’ (IOER), now paying 1.25% on the over 2 trillion banks hold at the Fed. This policy has drawn increasing criticism from House Republicans, and Yellen faced criticism from both Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling and Rep. Andy Barr, who hold Dr. Paul’s old position as chairman of the monetary subcommittee. Accurately, both men highlight that this policy means the Federal Reserve – and by extension the US Treasury that would otherwise receive these interest payments – are directly subsidizing large Wall Street and foreign banks. Considering these IOER payments are projected to be $27 billion this year, it’s good to more attention be brought to this obvious example of Wall Street cronyism.
This week the 115th Congress was sworn in, and there are some indications that Fed reform may be on the agenda. The combination of populist anger fueled by Ron Paul’s Presidential campaigns and the 2008 financial crisis coupled with the repeated failings of the Federal Reserve to meet their projections has created a rare window for monetary policy to be both politically advantageous, as well as so obviously needed that even politicians can see it. The question now is what sort of reform is on the table. Congressional Reforms Last Congressional session saw proposals from both the House and the Senate. From the House we have the FORM Act, which would require the Fed to adopt a monetary policy rule and explain to Congress whenever they deviate from that rule. The FORM Act also calls for an annual GAO audit of the Federal Reserve, doubles the number of times the Fed Chairman testifies before Congress, and makes some other tweaks to the makeup and protocol of the Federal Reserve Board. Since the FORM Act passed the House in 2015, there is a good chance we will see it resurrected in 2017. On the Senate side, Banking Committee Chairman Richard Shelby has pushed for the Financial Regulatory Improvement Act. Not only does it lack a catchy acronym, but its reforms to the Fed are far more modest than the FORM Act. The meat of the bill focuses on changes to the Fed board. The head of the New York Fed would no longer be appointed the banks board of the directors, but would instead be nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate – just like the Federal Reserve Chairman. It would also grant powers to the Fed’s regional presidents that currently only reside with the board of directors. Though early drafts of the Senate bill called for the Fed to adopt rules-based monetary policy, this ended up being stripped from the final proposal due to Democratic opposition – largely because much of the Hill focus has been on the Taylor rule, which many Fed advocates fear is too restricting.
Former Reagan Budget Director David Stockman joins today’s Liberty Report to talk about his upcoming book, ‘Trumped: A Nation on the Brink of Ruin… And How to Bring it Back.’ What are Stockman’s suggestions on foreign and monetary policy and would they help?
For all the hand-wringing about the threat to liberty and constitutional government posed by the major party presidential candidates, there is little discussion of how this threat is due to the political class’s long history of supporting expanded presidential power. There is also little talk of how the imperial presidency is just as much a creation of Congress as it is of power-hungry presidents. Since war is the health of the state, it is not surprising that presidential power expanded in tandem with the expansion of the warfare state. Perhaps the best, and most terrifying, example of how ‘national security’ has been used to justify giving the president dictatorial powers is the Defense Production Act. This law, which is regularly renewed with large bipartisan congressional majorities, grants the president broad powers over the economy. For example, it explicitly authorizes the president to tell manufacturers what products to make, impose wage and price controls, ‘manage’ labor relations, control the use of natural resources, and even allocate credit. All the president need do to exercise these powers is declare a national emergency.
Last week America was rocked by the cold-blooded murder of 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Unlike the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Orlando shooter appears to be a lone gunman who, while claiming allegiance to ISIS, was not actually working with a terrorist group. About the only thing Orlando has in common with 9/11 is the way power-hungry politicians and federal officials wasted no time using it to justify expanding government and restricting liberty. Immediately following the shooting, we began to hear renewed calls for increased government surveillance of Muslims, including spying on Muslim religious services. Although the Orlando shooter was born in the US, some are using the shooting to renew the debate over Muslim immigration. While the government certainly should prevent terrorists from entering the country, singling out individuals for government surveillance and other violations of their rights because of religious faith violates the First Amendment and establishes a dangerous precedent that will be used against other groups. In addition, scapegoating all Muslims because of the act of one deranged individual strengthens groups like ISIS by making it appear that the US government is at war with Islam. The Orlando shooting is being used to justify mass surveillance and warrantless wiretapping. For the past three years, the House of Representatives passed an amendment to the Defense Department appropriations bill limiting mass surveillance. But, last week, the same amendment was voted down. The only difference between this year’s debate and previous debates was that this year defenders of the surveillance state were able to claim that the Orlando shooting justifies shredding the Fourth Amendment. The fact that the Orlando shooter had twice been investigated by the FBI shows that increased surveillance and wiretapping would not have prevented the shooting. Mass surveillance also creates a ‘needle in a haystack’ problem that can make it difficult, or impossible, for law enforcement to identify real threats. Unfortunately, evidence that giving up liberty does not increase security has never deterred those who spread fear to gain support for increased government power.
From The Federalist For the first time in decades, the Federal Reserve has been playing a non-negligible role in the presidential race. Candidates in both parties took turns criticizing the Fed for either not doing enough to fix the economy, or for going far past its scope and putting the economy at risk. But moving beyond political stump speeches – and, for that matter, conventional thinking among economists – the question should still be asked: Does the Federal Reserve even matter? Here author John Tamny explains the thinking behind the title of his provocative new book, ‘Who Needs the Fed?’ (Encounter Books, May 24). Jared Meyer: I want to start with your conclusion. You write, ‘End the Fed? With great haste,’ (emphasis in original), but then you go on to explain why ending the Fed will not ‘get us out of the woods.’ Why did you build up Ron Paul’s ‘End the Fed’ supporters, only to tear down their hopes that the Fed is the source of all our economic ills? John Tamny: I had to build up Ron Paul’s supporters only to douse their hopes a bit simply because I think all the focus on the Fed misses much greater governmental threats to growth. About the Fed, end it with great haste simply because it serves no useful purpose on its best day. Think about it. It was formed over 100 years ago as a ‘lender of last resort’ for solvent banks, but the act of solvent banks approaching the Fed for loans is unheard of. It is because banks with good balance sheets don’t need the Fed. Only the insolvent approach the Fed for funds, and those institutions should be allowed to go under so that they can be acquired by better owners.
For many of us concerned with liberty, the letters ‘NDAA’ have come to symbolize Washington’s ongoing effort to undermine the US Constitution in the pursuit of constant war overseas. It was the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2012 that introduced into law the idea that American citizens could be indefinitely detained without warrant or charge if a government bureaucrat decides they had assisted al-Qaeda or ‘associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States.’ No charges, no trial, just disappeared Americans. The National Defense Authorization bill should be a Congressional mechanism to bind the president to spend national defense money in the way Congress wishes. It is the nuts and bolts of the defense budget and as such is an important oversight tool preventing the imperial executive from treating the military as his own private army. Unfortunately that is no longer the case these days. Why am I revisiting the NDAA today? Unfortunately since 2012 these bills have passed the House with less and less scrutiny, and this week the House is going to vote on final passage of yet another Defense Authorization, this time for fiscal year 2017. Once again it is a terrible piece of legislation that does great harm to the United States under the guise of protecting the United States.
Yesterday Donald Trump offered his foreign policy vision. It was the sort of mishmash one might expect, given what he’s said on the stump. He seemed to be starting the traditional march toward the center for November, but he is no Neoconservative and broke with pro-war Republican orthodoxy in important ways. Trump’s views suggest the good, the bad and the ugly. Thankfully not as ugly as the positions taken by most of the Republican Party presidential contenders and congressional leaders as well as Democrat Hillary Clinton. Nor as bad as policies implemented by President Barack Obama over the last seven years. But not as good as the provocative thinking of Rand and especially Ron Paul. The speech, delivered in Washington, D. C., was standard campaign fare, intended to demonstrate that the candidate was serious, or at least knew the names of a couple foreign nations. For Republicans these addresses almost always mean flaunting hawkish views: decrying the exceedingly dangerous state of the world, denouncing the irresponsible Obama administration for withdrawing from that world, demanding a massive increase in military outlays, and promising to bomb at least one and perhaps several dangerous nations or organizations bent on global murder and mayhem. Unsurprisingly, Trump offered some of the usual bland generalities. For instance, he explained, he would ‘always put the interest of the American people and American security above all else.’ Moreover, he sought ‘to develop a new foreign policy direction for our country, one that replaces randomness with purpose, ideology with strategy, and chaos with peace.’ Who in U. S. politics advocates placing American interests last and following a policy of chaos? Still, there was considerable good in the talk.
As a committed and unapologetic neocon, Michael Rubin loves the idea of the old purges once common practice under his ideological forebears in the Soviet Union. The details of the infraction were unimportant – and to even consider the need for details once the Party has spoken was to court suspicion. So Comrade Rubin is demanding a thorough denunciation of Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief-of-staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell (and academic advisor to the Ron Paul Institute). Rubin took to the website of his luxurious neocon Beltway sinecure, the American Enterprise Institute, to call for Wilkerson’s deportation to the gulag for severe ideological deviationism. What was Wilkerson’s crime? Rubin first loosens up the crowd with some guilt-by-association accusations, the stock-in-trade of the neocons. Rubin begins by bringing up what he views as Donald Trump’s too-slow disassociation of himself from the KKK. ‘Unfortunately, wavering and silence in the face of hate isn’t new,’ he continues. But Trump’s crimes pale in comparison to those of Wilkerson, the think tank keyboard warrior explains. Lawrence Wilkerson ‘has increasingly descended into a fevered swamp of conspiracy and hate,’ writes Rubin. Has Wilkerson joined the KKK? Has Wilkerson joined the skinheads? Has Wilkerson joined the US-backed Ukrainian neo-Nazi government?
The FBI tells us that its demand for a back door into the iPhone is all about fighting terrorism, and that it is essential to break in just this one time to find out more about the San Bernardino attack last December. But the truth is they had long sought a way to break Apple’s iPhone encryption and, like 9/11 and the PATRIOT Act, a mass murder provided just the pretext needed. After all, they say, if we are going to be protected from terrorism we have to give up a little of our privacy and liberty. Never mind that government spying on us has not prevented one terrorist attack. Apple has so far stood up to a federal government’s demand that it force its employees to write a computer program to break into its own product. No doubt Apple CEO Tim Cook understands the damage it would do to his company for the world to know that the US government has a key to supposedly secure iPhones. But the principles at stake are even higher. We have a fundamental right to privacy. We have a fundamental right to go about our daily life without the threat of government surveillance of our activities. We are not East Germany. Let’s not forget that this new, more secure iPhone was developed partly in response to Ed Snowden’s revelations that the federal government was illegally spying on us. The federal government was caught breaking the law but instead of ending its illegal spying is demanding that private companies make it easier for it to continue.
These days I’m often reminded of this paragraph from what I think is Glenn Greenwald’s best book: ‘Those with political and financial clout are routinely allowed to break the law with no legal repercussions whatsoever. Often they need not even exploit their access to superior lawyers because they don’t see the inside of a courtroom in the first place – not even when they get caught in the most egregious criminality. The criminal justice system is now reserved almost exclusively for ordinary Americans, who are routinely subjected to harsh punishments even for the pettiest of offenses.’ I couldn’t help but think of the above as I read the news that Jesse Benton, Ron Paul’s former campaign manager and a top aide to Sen. Rand Paul, and John Tate, a former official of the Paul-affiliated Campaign for Liberty, have had bogus charges of bribery, ‘conspiracy,’ falsifying campaign records, and other trumped up charges – all serious felonies – thrown out of court. In dismissing the charges, US District Judge John A. Garvery cited prosecutorial misconduct: the government was clearly out to get Benton and Tate any way they could – and, of course, smear the libertarian movement. This was always clearly a political case, in which a dissident group with little political influence in the corridors of power was being targeted by the Big Boys, who were out to discredit them and shut them up. Although the investigation had been going on for quite some time, it’s no coincidence that the indictment was announced days before the first presidential GOP presidential debate was to begin. Undeterred by this judicial rebuke, the government is still pursuing the remaining charge of lying to investigators: once they have you in their clutches, there’s no way they’re letting go – that is, if you aren’t, say, former CIA chief David Petraeus.
Ron Paul changed American politics in a way that no single individual can claim: it was Paul, a congressman from a rural district in Texas, who put libertarianism on the political map. It was the movement he inspired – a movement driven largely by young people – that has challenged the War Party like no other. Not even the antiwar movement of the 1960s has done so much to change the American consciousness when it comes to our interventionist foreign policy – and Paul’s new book, Swords Into Plowshares: A Life in Wartime and a Future of Peace and Prosperity, encapsulates the spirit of the man and the seed he has planted. Written in the form of a memoir, Swords Into Plowshares tells the story of how Paul’s philosophical and political development made him into one of the foremost champions of peace in the history of this country. Born in a small farming community in Pennsylvania, young Ron grew up during the early years of World War II and he relates that experience – the rationing, the war propaganda, the deaths that impacted his friends and family – from the perspective that only wisdom and distance can grant. No, he wasn’t born a libertarian – that came later – but he instinctively recoiled at the tragedy and regimentation that wartime America engendered. Through the Korean ‘police action’ and then into the Vietnam era – when Paul, by then a medical doctor, served in the Air Force – the author recalls his growing alienation from the rah-rah ‘patriotism’ and unthinking belligerence expected of all ‘good’ Americans during that era. By the time Paul was elected to Congress as a Republican, in 1976, he had become convinced that the foreign policy of the Founders – friendly relations with all, entangling alliances with none – was the best prescription for peace and prosperity. Unfortunately, not many of his colleagues agreed with him.
Last week, Retired General Wesley Clark, who was NATO commander during the US bombing of Serbia, proposed that ‘disloyal Americans’ be sent to internment camps for the ‘duration of the conflict.’ Discussing the recent military base shootings in Chattanooga, TN, in which five US service members were killed, Clark recalled the internment of American citizens during World War II who were merely suspected of having Nazi sympathies. He said: ‘back then we didn’t say ‘that was freedom of speech,’ we put him in a camp.’ He called for the government to identify people most likely to be radicalized so we can ‘cut this off at the beginning.’ That sounds like ‘pre-crime’! Gen. Clark ran for president in 2004 and it’s probably a good thing he didn’t win considering what seems to be his disregard for the Constitution. Unfortunately in the current presidential race Donald Trump even one-upped Clark, stating recently that NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden is a traitor and should be treated like one, implying that the government should kill him. These statements and others like them most likely reflect the frustration felt in Washington over a 15 year war on terror where there has been no victory and where we actually seem worse off than when we started. The real problem is they will argue and bicker over changing tactics but their interventionist strategy remains the same.
Ron Paul, as usual, was prescient when he warned – in 2007 – of a Gulf of Tonkin type incident in the Persian Gulf that could bring us to the brink of war with Iran. The seizure by the Iranians of a commercial vessel flying under the Marshall Islands flag in the Gulf in order to collect a debt – the result of a legal judgment in a complaint which had wound its way through courts for 14 years – is being blown up out of all proportion by Washington, which has sent warships to the area in order to ‘guard’ shipping and ensure ‘freedom of the seas.’ Here’s a Washington Post piece claiming the Iranians violated international law when they seized the vessel, but apparently the same rules don’t apply to the Americans. No one raised much of a fuss, back in 1991, when the US seized a Panamanian-flagged ship accused of defrauding the US military: there was no court case, and yet the US claimed its civil forfeiture rules gave it the right to ‘arrest’ the ship. And then there’s this 1987 case where the US seized a Liberian-flagged ship because the crew hadn’t been paid. This is the typical pattern where Washington is concerned: the rules, such as they are, can be bent according to the US government’s convenience. The US State Department is claiming that they have a treaty obligation to defend Marshall Islands shipping ‘under the terms of an amended compact entered into force in 2004,’ i.e., because the islands are, in effect, a US protectorate. However, initially, the Pentagon was singing a far different tune, saying no such obligation existed. In fact, the US only has an obligation to defend its own flagged shipping, and US-flagged vessels can only qualify for that designation if they are US-owned and the crew is 75 percent American. The sudden radical extension of this principle to include parts of the far-flung American Empire, such as the Marshall Islands, and unspecified ‘other countries’ vessels,’ is yet another attempt to provide a ‘legal’ rationale for America’s self-appointed role as the guardian of global shipping.
Ron Paul published a scathing article attacking the Federal Reserve’s anti-audit propaganda. Responding to vocal Fed apologists, Paul writes that the American people have a right to decide if the Fed’s monetary system is harmful and current auditing laws are not comprehensive enough. Paul’s main arguments for a Fed audit include: Contrary to what Fed apologists claim, the bill does not have a provision that will allow Congress to infringe on the Fed’s independence. The Fed has always been under some form of political influence. Current auditing laws only record assets on the Fed’s balance sheet, not what was purchased and why. A one-time audit of the Fed’s response to the financial crisis found that it committed over $16 trillion to foreign central banks and private companies between 2007 and 2010. A full audit would address the Fed’s long-standing favoritism of political and financial elites.
This post was published at Schiffgold on MARCH 9, 2015.
Last week President Obama sent Congress legislation to authorize him to use force against ISIS ‘and associated persons and forces’ anywhere in the world for the next three years. This is a blank check for the president to start as many new wars as he wishes, and it appears Congress will go along with this dangerous and costly scheme. Already the military budget for next year is equal to all but the very peak spending levels during the Vietnam war and the Reagan military buildup, according to the Project on Defense Alternatives. Does anyone want to guess how much will be added to military spending as a result of this new war authorization? The US has already spent nearly two billion dollars fighting ISIS since this summer, and there hasn’t been much to show for it. A new worldwide war on ISIS will likely just serve as a recruiting tool for jihadists. We learned last week that our bombing has led to 20,000 new foreign fighters signing up to join ISIS. How many more will decide to join each time a new US bomb falls on a village or a wedding party? The media makes a big deal about the so-called limitations on the president’s ability to use combat troops in this legislation, but in reality there is nothing that would add specific limits. The prohibition on troops for ‘enduring’ or ‘offensive’ ground combat operations is vague enough to be meaningless. Who gets to determine what ‘enduring’ means? And how difficult is it to claim that any ground operation is ‘defensive’ by saying it is meant to ‘defend’ the US? Even the three year limit is just propaganda: who believes a renewal would not be all but automatic if the president comes back to Congress with the US embroiled in numerous new wars?