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Chris Hayes on Audit the Fed: “The Single Greatest Act of Bipartisanship Since Obama Took Office”

Subbing for Rachel Maddow Tuesday night, Chris Hayes on the passage of Audit the Fed:

CHRIS HAYES:  Something truly remarkable happened in Washington today.  The United States Senate passed something, by the way of a 96 to 0 vote — 96 in favor, 0 against.  Which means Democrats and Republicans voted together, for the same thing.

And this incredible unanimous vote was not for one of those things that always passes, no matter what.  Things like renaming a post office, or declaring Grandmothers’ Appreciation Day, or a bill with the word “Patriot” in the title —  although that last one did get one dissenting vote, props to Russ Feingold.

No, the Senate voted today to audit the Federal Reserve. So what exactly is an audit of the Federal Reserve, and how did it become the impetus for perhaps the single greatest act of bipartisanship since President Obama took office?

Well, let’s start with the Federal Reserve itself. The Fed is the nation’s bank.  Its job is to lend money to other banks.  That’s what it does, and that’s what it’s always done.

But  beginning in 2007 you might recall that the economy went into an apocalyptic death spiral, and the system went haywire.  And suddenly the Fed wasn’t just loaning money to commercial banks, it was loaning money to all sorts of parties it had never before lent money to, and doing it in all kinds of ways it had never done before.

Most troubling of all, the Fed wouldn’t say who those borrowers were, and how much they got.  And if the idea of the Fed just handing out cash and refusing to tell anyone who they were handing it to sounds crazy, that’s because it is crazy.

Here’s what happened in March of last year when Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont huffed and puffed and tried to get Fed chairman Ben Bernanke to tell him who was on the receiving end of the $2.2 trillion with a “t” dollars in emergency federal reserve loans:

Sanders:  Will you tell us who got that money and what the terms are of those agreements?

Bernanke:  We explain each of our programs.  In terms of the terms, we explain the terms exactly, we explain what the collateral requirements are, we explain that….

Sanders:  To whom did you explain that?

Bernanke:  It’s on our website.

Sanders:  Yeah.  Okay.

Bernanke:  So all that information is available, and our commercial paper program …

Sanders:  And who got the money?

Bernanke:  Hundreds and hundreds of banks.  Any bank that has access to the U.S. Federal Reserve system …

Sanders:  Can you tell us who they are?

Bernanke:  No.

“Nope.”  Did you just catch that? He just plain wouldn’t tell who the Fed is giving money to.

Now, the effort to combat that secrecy, and to account for the basic facts of who is getting how much money from the Fed, on what terms, has given rise to the ultimate strange bedfollows political coalition.  The Audit the Fed alliance includes lefty bloggers like Jane Hamsher, and the uber conservative right wing anti-tax cursader Grover Norquist.

It includes Congressman Alan Grayson, one of the most liberal members of the House, and Congressman Ron Paul, one of the most conservative.

And now, remarkably, the Audit the Fed movement includes all of the 96 Senators who were present today.

Update: John Nichols at the Nation has more.

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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