Debunking the Federal Reserve Conspiracy Theories

By: Edward Flaherty, Ph.D. Department of Economics College of Charleston, S.C.

Facts: Yes, the Federal Reserve banks are privately owned, but they are controlled by the publically-appointed Board of Governors. The Federal Reserve banks merely execute the monetary policy choices made by the Board. In addition, nearly all the interest the Federal Reserve collects on government bonds is rebated to the Treasury each year, so the government does not pay any net interest to the Fed.

Facts: No foreigners own any part of the Fed. Each Federal Reserve bank is owned exclusively by the participating commercial banks and S&Ls operating within the Federal Reserve bank’s district. Individuals and non-bank firms, be they foreign or domestic, are not permitted by law to own any shares of a Federal Reserve bank. Moreover, monetary policy is controlled by the publically-appointed Board of Governors, not by the Federal Reserve banks.

Fact: Independent accounting firms conduct full financial audits of the Federal Reserve banks and the Board of Governors every year. The Fed is also subject to certain types of audits from the Government Accounting Office.

Facts: The Federal Reserve rebates its net earnings to the Treasury every year. Consequently, the interest the Treasury pays to the Fed is returned, so the money borrowed from the Fed has no net interest obligation for the Treasury. The government could print its own currency independent of the Fed, but there would be no effective safeguards against abuse of this power for political gain.

Facts: The Federal Reserve banks have only a small share of the total national debt (about 7%). Therefore, only a small share of the interest on the debt goes to the Fed. Regardless, the Fed rebates that interest to the Treasury every year, so the debt held by the Fed carries no net interest obligation for the government. In addition, it is Congress, not the Federal Reserve, who is responsible for the federal budget and the national debt.

Facts: Kennedy wrote E.O. 11,110 to phase out silver certificate currency, not to issue more of it. Records show Kennedy and the Federal Reserve were almost always in agreement on policy matters. He even signed legislation to give the Fed more authority to issue currency.

Facts: McFadden was incorrect regarding the Fed costing the government money. However, later economic analysis agrees with him that Federal Reserve policy blunders had a substantial role in causing the Depression. However, his implication that this was done deliberately has no basis in fact. Moreover, for a dozen years prior to his rant, McFadden had been the chairman of the House subcommittee that oversaw the Federal Reserve. Why didn’t he do anything to reform or abolish the Fed while he had the chance?

Facts: The banking system is indeed able to create money with a mere computer keystroke. However, a bank’s ability to create money is tied directly to the amount of reserves customers have deposited there. A bank must pay a competitive interest rate on those deposits to keep them from leaving to other banks. This interest expense alone is a substantial portion of a bank’s operating costs and is de facto proof a bank cannot costlessly create money.

Fact: The term ‘lawful money’ does not refer to gold or silver coin, but to types of money which the government would permit banks to use when tabulating their reserves. These types of money included, but were not limited to, gold and silver coin.

BY: Edward Flaherty, Ph.D. Department of Economics College of Charleston, S.C.

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