By Pam Martens: January 2, 2014
Each business day, the President of the United States makes his daily schedule available to the press. The President is the Commander in Chief of the military, the man who signs or vetoes legislation, the individual with the power to initiate military action against another nation. To most Americans, he is viewed as the most powerful individual in the country.
If such a powerful individual involved with so many delicate negotiations can share his daily appointment calendar with the American people, why can’t the Washington money men whose mandate is also to serve the country’s interest.
The U.S. Treasury Secretary’s daily appointment calendar is posted on the Treasury’s web site. The web site tells us that the calendars “are generally posted every quarter.” However, the last six months of Jack Lew’s schedule are missing from this archive.
What we do know from Jack Lew’s appointment book that is on the web site is that on his first full day in office, February 28, 2013, the second call he made as U.S. Treasury Secretary was to Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs; the third call he made was to Larry Fink, CEO of another powerful multinational investment company, BlackRock.
Senator Max Baucus, Chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, who delicately dealt with Lew during his scandal-plagued confirmation hearing and failed to require Lew to testify under oath, was the very first person Lew called from his new perch as Treasury Secretary.
We’d like to tell you whom Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke called on his first full day in office in February 2006 but to do that, the press and any other interested American must first file a written request for the records under the Freedom of Information Act – and wait, and wait, and wait.
Even then, one may not be successful. According to the tenacious Greg Ip, writing for the Wall Street Journal in 2006 (now U.S. Economics Editor at The Economist), the Federal Reserve refused to provide the calendar of former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan’s last seven months in office on the basis that “his personal calendar wasn’t an agency record and, therefore, according to court interpretations, not subject to the FOIA.”
The Chairman of the Federal Reserve is appointed by the President of the United States. This institution oversees the monetary policy of the United States and regulates the serially corrupt financial institutions on Wall Street which brought the country to its knees in 2008. Should the American people tolerate secret and clandestine meetings and phone calls by the Federal Reserve Chairman?
On November 19 of last year, Chairman Ben Bernanke made grandiose remarks about transparency in a speech to the National Economists Club in Washington, D.C. Bernanke had this to say:
“Nearly eight years ago, when I began my time as Chairman, one of my priorities was to make the Federal Reserve more transparent – and, in particular, to make monetary policy as transparent and open as reasonably possible. I believed then, as I do today, that transparency in monetary policy enhances public understanding and confidence, promotes informed discussion of policy options, increases the accountability of monetary policymakers for reaching their mandated objectives, and ultimately makes policy more effective by tightening the linkage between monetary policy, financial conditions, and the real economy. Of course, responding to the financial crisis and its aftermath soon became the Federal Reserve’s main focus. As it has turned out, however, following the stabilization of the financial system, supporting our economy’s recovery from the deepest recession since the Great Depression has required a more prominent role for communication and transparency in monetary policy than ever before.
“In my remarks, I will discuss how the Federal Reserve’s communications have evolved in recent years and how enhanced transparency is increasing the effectiveness of monetary policy. Despite the challenges inherent in communicating in an unprecedented economic and policy environment about a future that can be only imperfectly foreseen, I will explain why I believe that policy transparency remains an essential element of the Federal Reserve’s strategy for meeting its economic objectives…”
It should be noted that it was Bernanke’s Fed which stonewalled Bloomberg News in court for two years, refusing to turn over documents showing the trillions it had funneled to domestic and foreign banks in low cost loans in exchange for some seriously dubious collateral. Only after a final court victory by Bloomberg News did the public get access to this shocking material.
Earlier this week, I asked the communications office of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors in Washington, D.C. for Chairman Bernanke’s 2007 appointment calendar. It had previously been released in 2008 to Bloomberg News and the Wall Street Journal following Freedom of Information Act requests and multiple screenings by lawyers at the Federal Reserve who decided what appointments would be redacted.
Even though this material had already been heavily reviewed before release to the media, I was told I would have to submit my request to the official FOIA office at the Federal Reserve – and wait.
When a free press tolerates this type of preposterous stonewalling from a Federal agency mandated to serve the interests of the American people, it becomes an enabler to abuse of power. As John F. Kennedy observed: “For in a democracy, every citizen, regardless of his interest in politics, ‘hold office’; everyone of us is in a position of responsibility; and, in the final analysis, the kind of government we get depends upon how we fulfill those responsibilities. We, the people, are the boss, and we will get the kind of political leadership, be it good or bad, that we demand and deserve.”