Congress Must Stabilize the Dollar

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On July 31, I introduced H.R. 6690, the “Sound Dollar and Economic Stimulus Act of 2008”. It is vital that this bill become law.

The U.S. dollar affects every American citizen and every American business. Our economy is totally dependent upon the dollar. To have a stable economy, we must have a stable dollar.

Unfortunately, for many years we have not had a stable dollar. Today, people are angry and afraid. The crumbling, gyrating dollar has created an economic crisis.

I was a judge for 25 years. I believe in law and order. The U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of the land. Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution provides that: “The Congress shall have Power…To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures…”

So, what has Congress been doing about the dollar? Nothing. Since 2001, Congress has stood idly by while the dollar has lost almost 70% of its value, whether measured against gold or retail gasoline.

When a currency begins to lose value, the effects show up first in the price of gold, followed quickly by other commodities, such as oil. However, eventually the inflation works its way through the entire economy, raising prices across the board. In the process, the hard-earned savings of Americans are devalued—or, the way I look at it, stolen.

Inflation creates turbulence in financial markets and provokes conflict between economic groups. People become angry because they feel that they are being robbed. They become afraid because they know that unchecked inflation can lead to economic collapse.

In 1913, Congress delegated its power over money to the Federal Reserve. Unfortunately, the Fed has been preoccupied with manipulating interest rates. Since 2001, the Fed has lowered its Fed Funds rate from 5.00% to 1.00%, raised it to 5.25% and then lowered it to 2.00%. Meanwhile, the value of the dollar has declined by nearly 70%.

Trying to regulate the value of the dollar by manipulating the Fed Funds rate makes no sense. The Fed Funds rate is the price of one type of capital. Because the Fed cannot supply capital (real resources) to the economy, it is not clear why it should be in the business of setting interest rates. Logically, interest rates should be set by the market—by the supply and demand for capital.

Unlike capital, the amount of money in the economy should not be limited by anything physical. It should be determined by the demand for money, which depends upon the transactions people want to do and how much money they want to hold.

What matters about money is not its quantity but its value. In this, dollars are no different than foot rulers. No one cares how many foot rulers there are in the world. What matters is that each one is the length prescribed by the U.S. Bureau of Standards.

My bill directs the Federal Reserve to bring the price of gold down to $500/oz and then to keep it there. The Fed would do this by announcing that its Open Market Desk was prepared to sell government bonds and contract the monetary base until the price of gold falls to $500/oz.

At last measure, the monetary base was about $872 billion. In December, 2005, which is the last time the price of gold was at $500, it was $827 billion. So, it is possible that the Fed might have to sell as much as $45 billion worth of bonds to implement the new policy. Because this is only about 0.8% of the total amount of bonds currently outstanding, this should not be a problem. However, I believe that the demand for the newly-stable dollar will be so great that the Fed will actually have to expand the monetary base to keep the gold price from falling below $500/oz.

Once the Fed implements its new directive from Congress, every dollar in the world will have the same market value as one five-hundredth of an ounce of gold. From then on, the monetary base will expand and contract automatically in response to market demand.

Why gold? My bill defines the value of the dollar in terms of gold because the financial markets want, and the American people deserve, a dollar that is “as good as gold”.

Why $500/oz? At $804/oz, the current market price of gold reflects the expectation (and fear) of future inflation. I believe that fixing the value of the dollar now in terms of gold at $500/oz will stop the current inflation without causing deflation. However, my bill also provides a powerful supply-side stimulus, in the form of first-year expensing of all capital investment, to ensure that economic growth accelerates at the same time that inflation is being stopped.

Bringing the dollar price of gold down to $500 will bring the price of gasoline down from its current $3.50/gallon to less than $2.50/gallon. It will strengthen the dollar against foreign currencies. Most important, it will prevent Americans’ incomes and savings from being stolen by inflation.

My bill will not put America on the gold standard, like we had in the early part of the 20th Century. Under the old gold standard, gold was money. Limiting the supply of money to the supply of gold was a huge mistake. It was the basic error that caused the Great Depression.

Under my bill, our money will be the same “legal tender” currency that we have now. There will be no limit on the number of dollars except market demand. The big difference will be that every dollar will always be worth the same as one five-hundredth of an ounce of gold.

When I became a Congressman, I took an oath to uphold the Constitution. The Constitution commands Congress to regulate the value of our money. My bill will do this. This is why it is essential that it become law.

Representative Poe, a former judge, is a member of Congress serving the 2nd district of Texas.
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