America is angry about the economy, and the biggest winners could just be Congress’s odd couple: Reps. Ron Paul (R) of Texas and Alan Grayson (D) of Florida.
Mr. Paul, the far right former presidential candidate, and Mr. Grayson, the far left rabble-rouser who said the Republicans’ health-care plan was for ill people to “die quickly,” are Congress’s two biggest critics of the Federal Reserve.
On Friday, Paul leveraged public frustration at Washington’s management of an apparent “jobless recovery” – and the mounting pressure on Capitol Hill to do something – to push through a controversial amendment to rein in the Federal Reserve.
The amendment is just one of several indicators suggesting that, even as the Senate enters intense negotiations about healthcare reform, the economy – and specifically unemployment numbers – is once again percolating toward the top of the agenda.
“Both the president and Congress want to shift from this critically important issue [health-care reform] … to the economy and jobs,” Sen. Richard Durbin (D) of Illinois said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “We need to refocus our attention – all of our attention – on getting people back to work.”
Geithner as ‘bad guy’
On Friday, Rep. Kevin Brady (R) of Texas asked Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to resign point blank during a congressional hearing. Pollster John Zogby told Bloomberg that the request could be a preview of next year’s midterm election politics.
“Conservatives need a bad guy,” he said.
But earlier in the week, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D) of Oregon also called for Mr. Geithner to step down. “It is pretty embarrassing for a Democratic administration and a Democratic Congress to be identified with total attention to Wall Street and nothing for Main Street and jobs,” he told the Huffington Post.
A lot of Democrats are “upset and nervous” with the administration’s handling of the economy. That was further borne out Friday, when the Congressional Black Caucus – one of President Obama’s staunchest allies – pulled out of a vote on a key bill that aims to remedy the regulatory mistakes that led to the financial meltdown.
The reason: They felt that the concerns of black Americans weren’t being met by the administration’s economic policies. By delaying the bill, “They want to continue to have some bargaining power with the administration,” said Rep. Barney Frank (D) of Massachusetts, chairman of the Financial Services Committee.
In the meantime, Paul succeeded in getting his amendment attached to the bill. The amendment would allow the Government Accountability Office to conduct audits of the Federal Reserve.
The Fed, America’s central bank, is designed to be free of political interference, and critics say such oversight could lead it to shy away from politically controversial decisions. Paul and Grayson complain that the Fed holds enormous influence over American economic policy without any meaningful check on its authority.
More broadly, however, the success of the amendment points to the rise of a new wave of frustration about how Washington has managed the recession.