Pat Buchanan

For the financial crisis that has wiped out trillions in wealth, many have felt the lash of public outrage.

Fannie and Freddie. The idiot-bankers. The AIG bonus babies. The Bush Republicans and Barney Frank Democrats who bullied banks into making mortgages to minorities who could not afford the houses they were moving into.

But the Big Kahuna has escaped.

The Federal Reserve.

"(T)he very people who devised the policies that produced the mess are now posing as the wise public servants who will show us the way out," writes Thomas Woods in "Meltdown."

Already in its sixth week on the New York Times best-seller list, this eminently readable book traces the Fed's role in every financial crisis since this creature was spawned on Jekyl Island in 1913.

The "forgotten depression" of 1920-21 was caused by a huge increase in the money supply for President Wilson's war. When the Fed started to tighten at war's end, production fell 20 percent from mid-1920 to mid-1921, far more than today.

Why did we not read about that depression?

Because the much-maligned Warren Harding refused to intervene. He let businesses and banks fail and prices fall. Hence, the fever quickly broke, and we were off into "the Roaring Twenties."

But, the Fed reverted, expanding the money supply by 55 percent, an average of 7.3 percent a year, not through an expansion of the currency, but through loans to businesses.

Thus, when the Fed tightened in the overheated economy, the Crash came, as the stock market bubble the Fed had created burst.

Herbert Hoover, contrary to the myth that he was a small-government conservative, renounced laissez-faire, raised taxes, launched public works projects, extended emergency loans to failing businesses and lent money to the states for relief programs.

Hoover did what Obama is doing.

Indeed, in 1932, FDR lacerated Hoover for having presided over the "greatest spending administration in peacetime in all of history." His running mate, John Nance Garner, accused Hoover of "leading the country down the path to socialism." And "Cactus Jack" was right.

Terrified of the bogeyman that causes Ben Bernanke sleepless nights -- deflation, falling prices -- FDR ordered crops destroyed, pigs slaughtered, and business cartels to cut production and fix prices.

FDR mistook the consequences of the Depression -- falling prices -- for the cause of the depression. But prices were simply returning to where they belonged in a free market, the first step in any cure.


Pat Buchanan

Pat Buchanan is a founding editor of The American Conservative magazine, and the author of many books including State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America .
 
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