I recently chatted with Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) about the gigantic financial bailout that the government is preparing to undertake.
Some excerpts from the interview:
What's your take on this huge financial bailout?
"It's more of the same. More debt and more inflation and more pressure on the dollar. Ultimately, although the markets are responding very favorably at the moment, I think it is going to be devastating to the dollar and to our financial situation in this country."
But don't we need to get these toxic assets off banks' balance sheets?
"Sure, they need to be removed. Somebody needs to suffer the consequences [but] not the taxpayer. Everybody knows that they have to be removed. They are priced too high. The assets don't have real value—some have zero and some have 10 cents on the dollar.
The people who had been making profits for all these years and dealing in all of this debt creation and derivatives—that now is becoming unwound—are claiming that it would be so painful if somebody went bankrupt and therefore we have to put so much burden on the taxpayer and on the dollar because the alternative is worse. But quite frankly, if they destroy the dollar and the dollar system, then they have a much bigger problem that they are going to have to deal with and it would be the collapse of the whole international monetary system—which is conceivable."
So instead of having taxpayers buy the bad debt, the market should take care of it by itself?
"Sure, prices need to go down. Bad debt needs to be eliminated. The taxpayer ought to be protected. Taxes ought to be lowered...We are following the same routine that we did in the Depression, and that is artificially try to keep prices up. People were starving in the Depression and the only thing they did was try to keep wages artificially high and keep food prices high. We are doing the same thing now—we are trying to keep housing prices high. Low prices for houses mean poor people could buy a house. This is the most important part of a free market economy and that is free market pricing. Without free market pricing, the market can't work. And this is in a way a major effort to price fix."
So you think the government should not have bailed out any companies during this crisis?
"That would have been the best thing. It would have been painful, but housing prices would have come down sharper and faster, and it would have been over by now. But this whole idea of price fixing—that's what they are doing—has been trying to keep housing prices up and trying to stimulate home building. Well, if you have 100 percent more homes than the market really wants, you can't keep prices up and you can't stimulate home building. If the prices go down, then people will go out and buy homes again. So they should allow the liquidation of debt.
Before the Depression, [the government] generally allowed these kinds of problems to unwind. They were very severe. They would last six months or a year—a lot of liquidation of debt would be wiped off the books. And then it would go back to work again. What we've been doing now—especially since 1971—is preventing the real liquidation of the malinvestment and the excess of debt... If this process continues, we're going to own General Motors and Ford, then we will have to own the airlines. We are socializing our country without even a vote by the Congress. It's a horrible situation."
Will this bailout stabilize the crisis?
"I personally don't think so. It might be temporary, but no, there is much more involved. I mean, we are talking about trying to unwind trillions of dollars of derivatives . . . You have to get rid of all that stuff."
Will this bailout be the last?
"No, no. This won't be the last one. There will be something else later on. But that doesn't mean you might not have a few months of a reprieve. But it will continue."
Will we have to bail out the auto makers?
"Oh I think so. We are not going to let them fail. Our policy is such that everybody gets bailed out. It's like a drug addict, they've got to take their fix. It's too tough getting off these drugs. And the drug here is easy credit.