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This article was published 11/2/2011 (2476 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
WASHINGTON — The lunatics took over the asylum at three minutes after 10. There were so many citizens outside the Congressional hearing room that they had to bring in the Capitol Police to keep us in line. But we weren't the inmates; we were only here to watch.
"Keep this doorway clear!" the officer advised the rabble. "Trust me, you don't want to go to jail."
The Domestic Monetary Policy and Technology Subcommittee of the Financial Services Committee of the House of Representatives didn't usually attract so much attention. But that was before last November's election installed the Tea Party and its Republican running dogs as the majority in the House and left the Democratic welfare hounds to whimper in the corner.
Not all of the Tea Partiers were new to the marble halls. One of them, a 75-year-old medical doctor from Texas named Ron Paul, had been in Congress off and on since 1976, perennially pledging to amputate entire federal departments and liposuck the government out of everyone's lives. In 2008, he had been a contender for president as the small-g god of limited government.
Just last week, Paul had been on CBC Radio's Day 6 program, telling Brent Bambury that "I believe we should cut off ALL our foreign aid. We send a lot of money overseas and we don't get a whole lot for it.
"We sent Egypt $60 billion," Paul went on, "and we're not even sure if they're our friend or we're trying to get rid of 'em and put a new regime in place. I don't like our foreign policy and the foreign aid is representative of our foreign policy. We're too much involved around the world."
Closer to home, every two years, Paul had introduced the same piece of legislation, namely The Federal Reserve Board Abolition Act:
Madame Speaker, I rise to introduce legislation to restore financial stability to America's economy by abolishing the Federal Reserve... I urge my colleagues to stand up for working Americans by putting an end to the manipulation of the money supply which erodes Americans' standard of living, enlarges big government, and enriches well-connected elites.
Just as regularly, the majority Democrats smacked the baby down. But now the left was in shambles and — in a delicious bit of political turnabout — the Federal Reserve's sworn and constant enemy, Dr. Ron Paul, had been installed as chairman of the panel that oversees the Federal Reserve.
This very morning, Paul would convene his first hearing, bringing in a trio of academic economists to validate his postulate (albeit a little too late) that America's central bank not only failed to prevent The Great Recession and the loss of millions of American jobs, it was the CAUSE.
Hence the crowds in the corridors, and the smell of fresh meat in the hearing room. With 20 million unemployed or under-employed down here, there is no shortage of folks with nothing better to do on a weekday morning than watch the wheels of government grind.
"We probably have pumped in four trillion dollars, and if you look at the new jobs we created, they're very, very expensive jobs," Paul told us in his opening statement. "We could have just given everybody sixty, seventy, a hundred thousand dollars. Just give 'em the money, at least those people would have had the money."
Instead, of course, President Barack Obama and his Spend-O-Crats had sprinkled hundreds of thousands of millions of dollars' worth of pixie dust over Wall Street, while the Federal Reserve — an organization whose workings are about as comprehensible to the average American voter as ancient Sanskrit prayer scrolls — was dropping interest rates so low that, in the unlikely event that a working man had $100,000 to deposit into his savings account, it would increase by the useful sum of ten cents a year.
At the rostrum now, Ron Paul unloaded on Ben Bernanke, the small-town South Carolinian who rose to become the big boss of the Fed, just in time for the Crash.
"He had no idea that it was coming," Paul said. "He misled so many people. I'd hate to think they were the first ones to warn us, because they were the LAST ones to realize what was going on."
(At the same instant, Bernanke was telling a different House committee that the latest jobless numbers "provide some grounds for optimism on the employment front.")
"This is the worst recovery since the Great Depression," agreed one of the economists, a distinguished professor named Richard Vedder from Ohio University. "Not because we've tried too little, but because we've tried too much."
Give them power of the purse, Vedder said, and "politicians behave like unsupervised alcoholics in liquor stores."
While this was going on, slumped at the far end of the rostrum was Barney Frank, the Massachusetts hyper-liberal and former chairman of the Financial Services Committee before the Tea Party revolution swept into power not only Ron Paul, but his son Rand, an ophthalmologist and the newest United States senator from Kentucky.
The discussion was turning from job creation to the Fed's monetary policy, which somehow has failed to find favour with the mandarins in Beijing.
"Being accused of currency manipulation by the People's Republic of China," Barney Frank observed, "is like getting a lesson on family planning from the Octomom."
Paul called another witness, an economist from Baltimore named Thomas DiLorenzo, who began to rail against "the artificial boom and bust created by the Fed's monetary policies" and whose prescription for struggling banks and manufacturers was simple: "Let 'em go bankrupt."
A Democrat from Missouri pointed out that DiLorenzo, in addition to his economic work, was an adherent of a group called the League of the South whose website calls for Dixie to secede again and that, in the Democrat's words, "classifies the United States Government as a criminal enterprise."
I looked up to see if Ron Paul was smiling, but the big crowd blocked my view.
Allen Abel is a Brooklyn-born Canadian journalist based in Washington, D.C.