Ron Paul: Yesterday a report came out that said that the Consumer Confidence Index was down to 25. Sometimes I think that might be overly optimistic, but nevertheless I think that vote of confidence really is a reflection on our financial system, our monetary policy, our spending policies here in Congress, and then they see it in the economy. But it is fundamental for us to understand this, because if we think we can patch a system up that failed, it’s not going to work.
We have to come to the realization that there is a sea change in what’s happening. This is an end of an era and that we can’t re-inflate the bubble, just as we devised a new system of Bretton Woods in ’44 which was doomed to fail. It failed in ’71 and then we came up with the dollar reserve standard which was a paper standard; it was doomed to fail and we have to recognize that it has failed. And if we think we can re-inflate the bubble by artificially creating credit out of thin air and calling it capital; believe me, we don’t have a prayer of solving these problems. We have a total misunderstanding of what credit is vs. capital. Capital can’t come from the thin air creation by the Federal Reserve System; capital has to come from savings. We have to work hard, produce, live within our means and what is left over is called capital. This whole idea that we can re-capitalize markets by merely turning on the printing presses and increasing credit is a total fallacy; so the sooner we wake up to realize that a new system has to be devised, the better.
Right now I think the Central Bankers of the world realize exactly what I’m talking about and they’re planning, but they’re planning another system that goes one step further to internationalize regulations, internationalize the printing press. Give up on the dollar standard, but we have to be very much aware that that system will be no more viable. We have to have a system which encourages people to work and to save. What do we do now? We’re telling consumers to spend and continue the old process; it won’t work.
On Capital and Inflation, and Questioning Bernanke:
Barney Frank: Mr. Paul for five minutes, I misread my chart there. Mr. Paul.
Ron Paul: Thank you. I have two quick points I want to make. I want to restate the point I made earlier about credit not really being capital, and I think that’s an important point to make because we work on the illusion that if we can create credit units at the Federal Reserve System, inject them into the banking system, we have capital. And I maintain that capital can only come from hard work and savings, and I think that’s an important distinction.
Barney Frank: Will the gentlemen suspend, if members are leaving the booth please do it quietly out of consideration for the members who are asking questions. Let me repeat to my colleagues leaving the room, please hold your conversations until you leave. The gentleman may continue.
Ron Paul: Also I wanted to make a point about a definition of inflation. You talked about inflation being under a control, but to me and the free market economists believe inflation is increase in the supply of money and credit, and sometimes it leads to higher prices in an unpredictable fashion. And therefore, if we concentrate only on the prices then we don’t look at the real culprit and the culprit is the increase in the supply of money and credit, and obviously that is sky-high right now when you think about what’s happened in the past year.
If increasing the supply of money and credit and low interest rates was a panacea we should have seen some results, but in the past year we have done a lot to stimulate the economy, not much has happened. In the last 12 months the national debt has gone up 1.5 trillion dollars and if you add up what we have spent in the Congress plus what you have injected and guaranteed, it’s over 9 trillion dollars and nothing seems to be helping.
But I think our problems started a lot sooner than just last year. I believe they really started in the year 2000 and we were able to, with the help of the Federal Reserve and some housing programs, to re-inject and to once again inflate the bubble. But the market really never recovered. True job growth never existed in the past 8 or 9 years and now we’re suffering the consequences because it’s a failed policy and it’s not working at all. And we don’t change anything. If we got into this trouble because we had low interest rates, getting businessmen and savers to do the wrong thing, just doing more of the wrong thing continuously; I can’t see how this is going to be helpful.
My question to you Mr. Chairman is this, what will it take for you to say to yourself “Could I be wrong? What if I’m mistaken?” You know, how long is this going to go on? 9 trillion dollars? What if say 5 years from now we’re in a deep, deep slump with your definition of inflation? What if we have high prices going and the economy is very, very weak and the unemployment is high, would you say to yourself then, “Boy maybe I really messed up. Maybe I was on the wrong track. Maybe the free market people are right. Maybe Keynes was wrong.” Would you ever consider that or are you absolutely locked in into your beliefs?
Ben Bernanke: I’m always open to changing my mind when the facts change, absolutely. I mean, first of all I agree with you about credit and liquidity; the Federal Reserve has the capacity to provide liquidity, short-term lending against collateral. We cannot provide capital; we understand the distinction that’s why the TARP and these other programs have been important. Obviously the best kind of capital is private capital and that’s the objective, is to get the financial system in a condition that private capital will come back in.
I would view one very important mark of success would be that private capital was coming off the sidelines, as Congressman Bachus mentioned, and back into the financial system. In terms of the overall approach, I think I do have some historical evidence on my side. There have been many, many examples in the past of financial crises having very substantial negative effects on the economy. The economy has not recovered in many of those cases until the financial situation was stabilized.
We know broadly speaking what’s needed. We need clarity about the asset positions of the banks, we need sufficient capital, we need sufficient liquidity, we need to take other steps to ensure regulatory oversight as appropriate. We’re not completely in the dark. We’re working along a program that has been applied in various contexts, obviously not in identical contexts, in other countries at other times.
So we’re not making it up. We know broadly speaking what needs to be done. Now of course, if it doesn’t work, we’ll have to ask ourselves why not, and to address it with other approaches, but we do have a plan here, and I think it’s going to work if it’s applied consistently.
Ron Paul: But you don’t think there’s any point where you might say, maybe we went the wrong direction? I mean, what would have to happen, is there anything?
Ben Bernanke: I’m telling you, Congressman, I don’t believe we’ll have an inflation problem in terms of consumer prices. If that turns out to be wrong, then I will concede that.
Ron Paul: Some people think that the Depression ended when World War 2 started, and of course others believe it never ended until the end of World War 2 and all the bad debt and the malinvestment was liquidated and consumer demands returned. Do you adhere to the fact that the Depression ended…
Barney Frank: The gentleman’s time has expired…
Ron Paul: You used up some of my time, remember?
Barney Frank: Who did?
Ron Paul: Never mind.
Show: Live from Capitol Hill