Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Almost treasonous

Ed Morrissey blogged
Rick Perry had the commentariat hyperventilating yesterday, and not without reason, after an appearance in Iowa. Perry told a Cedar Rapids crowd that any attempt by the Federal Reserve to implement an extraordinary stimulus — ie, a QE3 or “printing money” — before the election would be “almost treasonous.” Perry warned that Texas would treat Fed chair Ben Bernanke “pretty ugly” if he visited the Lone Star State after such a move:
According to a video appearing on the left-leading website Think Progress, a reporter asked Perry what he would do about the Federal Reserve. Standing next to a “Perry President” sign, the governor replied, “If this guy prints more money between now and the election, I don’t know what y’all would do to him in Iowa, but we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas. I mean, printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history, is almost treacherous, or treasonous, in my opinion,” he added.
This wasn’t a good moment for Perry, but it will be a useful one.
Which in a political campaign may make it a good one.
He’s campaigning nationally now, not just in Texas, and that takes a different tone. The “pretty ugly” part of the comment is being hyped as a threat of violence, but that’s stretching the argument to the breaking point. “Pretty ugly” can mean a lot of things; it’s entirely ambiguous except that it expresses negativity.
Which is exactly the point.
Invoking treason is another matter. People toss that word around irresponsibly, but it has specific legal definitions, none of which has to do with changes in Fed monetary policy whether or not it helps an incumbent American President.
In this I disagree with Ed. If we look at the the Federal Reserves own document (PDF)
The Federal Reserve sets the nation’s monetary policy to promote the objectives of maximum employment, stable prices, and moderate long-term interest rates.
and the dictionary definition of treasonous
deserting your allegiance or duty to leader or cause or principle
the Federal Reserve allegiance is not to the President currently in office, and his reelection chances, but to promote ... stable prices, and devaluing the currency increases inflation and increases prices. The Keynesian idea of using QE1 and QE2 to increase employment were certainly a disaster so far in the Obama presidency, because the increases in regulations and central control imposed by Obama had such a negative pressure on job growth as to completely overwhelm any possible Keynesian effect to increase employment. And long-term interest rates certainly are not being moderated.
A QE3 would be bad for the US, but politicians and bureaucrats implement bad policy without committing treason all the time (a lot more frequently these days, unfortunately).
True, but this time it is being done to excess. Water is necessary for life, but too much water and you can drown.
Those competing for the opportunity to lead the nation should demonstrate that leadership by eschewing cheap demagoguery in favor of better arguments. For instance, in this case it might be better to warn the Fed that any attempt to interfere with the political process through monetary policy will mean even closer political scrutiny of the Fed after the election, which is not just a legitimate point but also perhaps not a bad idea.
And it is one that I hope Perry will use if challenged on his statement.

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