You might have heard of it. The Federal Reserve has made news recently, namely for bailing out America's largest insurance company, American International Group, and for pumping more than $100 billion into sagging markets to prevent a meltdown. Along with the U.S. Treasury, the Fed has called for a "bailout" of companies holding mortgage-related assets, to the tune of $700 billion. And that's just in the last couple of weeks.
Regardless, America's central bank is worthless, contends Idaho GOP-ers. Man the torpedoes.
A part of the Idaho party platform's first section, titled "Fiscal Responsibility in Government," goes a little something like this: "We recognize the failure of the Federal Reserve System to maintain a sound U.S. dollar and the dangers of private bankers controlling the issuance of our currency. We believe the Federal Reserve Bank should be abolished and the issuing power restored to the people through their representatives in the U.S. Congress with the stipulation that the U.S. dollar be backed by gold and silver."
"Let me begin by saying that the idea of abolishing the Fed is pretty far out there," Mark Gibson, an economist at Washington State University, says by e-mail. "I don't think there is hardly any support for that idea among mainstream economists."
Or any significant support, it turns out, from Idaho Republicans.
"Am I for the abolishment of the Federal Reserve? No," says Brad Corkill, chairman of the Kootenai County Republican Party.
"I did not vote for it. I do not support it," agrees Bob Brook, chairman of the state party's first region, which covers Idaho's five northernmost counties.
"Here's the thing, what we gotta do is, certainly, we have to reform the Federal Reserve," says Wayne Hoffman, spokesman for Idaho's U.S Rep. Bill Sali, a Republican. Sali voted against the bailout bill on Monday, when it failed in the House 228-205. "[But] summarily abolishing the Federal Reserve is impossible."
Well, that's it. Idaho's Republican leaders are against that plank in their platform. They've high-tailed it away from a major section of a document detailing their party's beliefs, a document adopted just three months ago. Let's move on and put this thing behind us, right guys?
"It's in there because the supporters of Ron Paul proposed it and there were enough votes from the Ron Paul contingent to get it passed," continues Brook. Corkill describes the "Ron Paul-ers" as more of an insurgency at the state convention, which took place in Sandpoint last June.
"Ron Paul is a non-entity," Corkill says, not really concealing his contempt. "I think the people in (Paul's) Texas district understand the value of a politician that goes to Washington and does nothing."
But Republican voters may not agree with their state's party leaders. In May, Paul grabbed 24 percent of the vote in Idaho's primary, compared to the 70 percent gathered by the party's eventual nominee, John McCain. Paul won a dramatic victory in Spokane County, where he got 46 percent of the vote to McCain's 15. Even with that victory, Paul loyalists didn't have much of a say in Spokane party politics.
"It was a Ron Paul group of people that were pushing for (the abolition of the Fed), but we didn't adopt it," says Curt Fackler, Spokane County Republican Party chairman. "Do I think the Federal Reserve has too much power now? Yeah, they probably do, but it's kind of like getting rid of the telephone. It's not going to happen, people."
Paul has introduced legislation to abolish the Fed "at least three times," says his spokeswoman, Rachel Mills. The last time, on June 15, 2007, his legislation was referred to the House Committee on Financial Services, where it died.
Mills says abolishing the Fed would do wonders for the broken economy. "It would end their ability to inflate the money supply and water down the currency. It would limit the government's ability to exert power and overspend," Mills says.
Fackler, who has a college degree in finance, thinks the Paul supporters don't understand the implications of their candidate's stance on this issue. "Somebody's got to print our money," he says of the Fed. "We can't go back to how it was 100 years ago, when different states and banks printed their own money. We had wooden nickels then, you know."