Senate Gives “Audit the Fed” a Unanimous Victory

May 13, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By John Nichols

“The Fed can no longer operate in virtual secrecy,” declared Vermont independent Bernie Sanders Tuesday after the Senate voted 96-0 to add his “Audit the Fed” amendment to the financial regulatory reform bill.

The Senate amendment is not as muscular as the bipartisan legislation backed by the House, which was sponsored by Florida Congressman Alan Grayson, an aggressive progressive, and Texas Congressman Ron Paul, an equally aggressive conservative with libertarian leanings. The Grayson-Paul bill authorizes audits by the Government Accountability Office of every item on the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet, including all credit facilities and all securities purchase programs; there would be exemption only for unreleased transcripts, minutes of closed-door meetings and the most recent decisions of the central bank. The Senate measure is narrower in its focus, but it would require the GAO to scrutinize some several trillion dollars in emergency lending that the Fed provided to big banks after the September 2008 economic meltdown.

The actual amount of public money that has been set aside for private banks is not known. That’s one reason why this audit is so important. But there can be no doubt that the figure is astronomical. The Center for Media and Democracy’s Wall Street Bailout Tally shows that since 2008, the U.S. government has flooded Wall Street banks and financial institutions with $4.7 trillion dollars in taxpayer money, mostly in the form of loans from the Fed reserve. The Fed has never told us which firms got these loans and what type of collateral American taxpayers got in return. This will now be revealed. We will also get an accounting of the Fed’s “stealth” bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac.

Sanders tried to pass a broader amendment, but when he faced roadblocks — and the prospect that audit language might be excluded entirely from the final bill — he agreed to propose an amendment outlining the one-time audit of post-meltdown Fed activity.  That did not sit well with all senators. Even as Republicans such as New Hampshire’s Judd Gregg tried to prevent any demand for transparency, Louisiana Republican David Vitter proposed tougher language along the lines what Grayson and Paul pushed through the House. While most Democrats and a number of Republicans opposed the tougher language, Sanders joined the most serious reformers in the Democratic caucus — Wisconsin’s Russ Feingold, Washington’s Maria Cantwell, North Dakota’s Byron Dorgan, Arkansas’s Blanche Lincoln, Virginia’s Jim Webb and Oregon’s Ron Wyden — in voting “yes.”

The Vitter amendment failed on a 62-37 vote and Feingold was especially disappointed.  “Unfortunately,” the Wisconsin progressive declared, “the defeat of the Vitter amendment means American taxpayers will still not have a complete picture of how one of the most powerful government agencies makes policy and spends their tax dollars.”

Still, Feingold acknowledged that, “Senator Sanders’ amendment will mean more transparency for the Federal Reserve, so the public will have a better idea of how it is spending taxpayer dollars.”

That transparency is consequential, noted Sanders. “Let’s be clear,” he explained, “when trillions of dollars of taxpayer money are being lent out to the largest financial institutions in this country, the American people have a right to know who received that money and what they did with it.  We also need to know what possible conflicts of interest exist involving the heads of large financial institutions who sat in the room helping to make those decisions.”

The “Audit the Fed” language that is included in the final legislation remains to be seen, as the differences between the House and Senate proposals will have to be reconciled by a conference committee. That will provide an opening for Grayson, Paul, Sanders and their allies to push for the broadest possible transparency. But, make no mistake, there will be pushback.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has repeatedly refused to respond to demands from Sanders and others for information about the banks that have been bailed out by the taxpayers — and that continue to pad their accounts with public dollars. President Obama, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and their aides are critics of the “Audit the Fed” push, as well.

So why, with so much official opposition, did the “Audit the Fed” movement win a 96-0 vote in the Senate? Campaigners on the left and right made the issue a high priority. A good deal of credit must go to Sanders and Paul — long-time critics of the Fed who opposed the 2008 Wall Street bailouts and then steered anger at those bailouts toward the “Audit the Fed” movement — which was boosted on the left by websites such as Jane Hamsher’s Firedoglake and on the right by the Paul-linked Campaign for Liberty, as well as by outspoken economists such a Dean Baker and watchdog operations such as CMD’s BanksterUSA project.

Ultimately, however, much of the credit must go to Grayson, who embraced Paul’s proposal — which had languished in the House — and led the campaign to get Democrats to sign on to the bill. As Hamsher says, “Tremendous credit goes to Alan Grayson. It was Grayson who decided to take up Ron Paul’s bill and bring Democratic support for it.

Sanders, who took some hits for compromising, also deserves credit at this point for making sure, even when he was forced to trim back on his amendment, that critical elements of the initial proposal by Paul — especially the defined role for the GAO — were retained. That will make it harder for the Obama White House and their allies in the congressional leadership to gut the audit language in the conference committee.

There will, as well, be additional fights:

“While passage of Senator Sanders’ amendment will provide some long overdue accountability and transparency for the Federal Reserve, the overall bill still needs a lot of work,” said Feingold. In particular, Feingold and other real reformers have focused on the need for the bill to restore the firewall between Main Street banks and Wall Street securities firms and insurance companies, which contributed to financial institutions growing “too big to fail.”

While the bipartisan support for auditing the Fed represents a step in the right direction, Feingold is right when he says it is only one step on a long road toward addressing the way in which bad decisions by Congress “led to deregulation and the increased concentration of economic power and economic decision-making.”

John Nichols is Washington DC correspondent for The Nation magazine.

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Conservative Christians Pray for God to Kill President Obama

November 25, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

By The Cleveland Leader (adapted by TMO)

prayforobabma t shirt That’s not very Christian-like, now is it? Nevertheless, a few religious zealots have taken their dislike of U.S. President Barack Obama to a new level – bumper stickers and t-shirts which command viewers to pray for the president’s death. Of course they don’t come right out and print “Pray for our President to die”. Instead, the perpetrators take a far more cowardly approach, utilizing the slogan “Pray for Obama – Psalm 109:8”.

If you take the time to look up Psalm 109:8, you’ll notice right off that it is not a happy and cheerful passage. Psalm 109 is better known as “A Cry for Vengeance”. Psalm 109:8 specifically reads:

“Let his days be few; and let another take his office.”

While that verse does not specifically mention death or harm to the leader in question, read on and you will see that Psalm 109 has a far more sinister message.

6 Appoint [a] an evil man [b] to oppose him; let an accuser [c] stand at his right hand.

7 When he is tried, let him be found guilty, and may his prayers condemn him.

8 May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership.

9 May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow.

10 May his children be wandering beggars; may they be driven [d] from their ruined homes.

11 May a creditor seize all he has; may strangers plunder the fruits of his labor.

12 May no one extend kindness to him or take pity on his fatherless children.

13 May his descendants be cut off, their names blotted out from the next generation.

14 May the iniquity of his fathers be remembered before the LORD; may the sin of his mother never be blotted out.

In other words, referencing this passage when speaking about President Obama is secret Christian code for “Kill the President.” As sad or as crazy as it may be, this veiled death wish is not the first to have arisen since Barack Obama took office in January. Other examples include the classified ad that was placed in a Pennsylvania newspaper hoping that Obama follows in “the footsteps of Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley and Kennedy” – all of whom were assassinated. Then there’s also the gun totating teabagger from New Hampshire who waved a sign saying that it is time to “water the tree of liberty”, making reference to Thomas Jefferson’s reminder that the tree of liberty must from time to time be watered with the “blood of tyrants and patriots.”

If you too would like to be added to the Secret Service’s watchlist, have your phone calls tapped and emails read, by all means, buy one of the Psalm t-shirts or bumper stickers. It’s still a free country afterall. But don’t say we didn’t warn you.

11-49

TMO Editor’s note:  This psalm is not directed at cruel leaders, but rather at cruel men who oppress pious men, and against people who curse others more than they bless them.  Therefore perhaps this psalm is more a friend to Obama than it is a friend to the extremists who attack him despite his overtures towards them.  Following are some later verses to illustrate this:

17 He loved to pronounce a curse—
       may it [e] come on him;
       he found no pleasure in blessing—
       may it be [f] far from him.

18 He wore cursing as his garment;
       it entered into his body like water,
       into his bones like oil.

19 May it be like a cloak wrapped about him,
       like a belt tied forever around him.

20 May this be the LORD’s payment to my accusers,
       to those who speak evil of me.