Opinion

The Great Debate

Why conservatives spin fairytales about the gold standard

ILLUSTRATION: Matt Mahurin

The Federal Reserve is celebrating its 100th birthday trapped in a political bunker.

At few points since the Fed’s founding in 1913 has it taken such sustained fire. It’s taking fire from the left, because its policies favor Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and the other financial corporations that are most responsible for the 2008 financial meltdown and the Great Recession. But it is also taking fire from the right.

Conservative or Tea Party Republicans have a different kind of criticism. They reject the notion that the Fed should even have the power to regulate the money supply and “debase” the dollar. They believe in hard money and a return to the gold standard.

These Republicans have taken a page from the book of conservative orthodoxies of the late 19th century. Conservatives are again fervently pushing gold as a means to protect the wealth and power of Wall Street financiers and the corporate elite. Conservatives are demanding hard money as part of the policy mix that enriches the top 1 percent. Now, as in the Gilded Age, the United States is a nation of savage inequality.

Hard money has often been linked to the conservative cause. But it has been more than 100 years since gold fever has so afflicted American politics.

The Fox in the Tea Party

By Theda Skocpol and Vanessa Williamson

The views expressed are their own.


Many observers of the role of U.S. media in politics as of the early twenty­-first century are alarmed that partisanship has crept in. This rarely bothers very conservative pundits, of course, because (even if they constantly com­plain about “liberal media bias”) they know that the elephants in the room are on their side. Liberals and self-styled nonpartisan critics engage in constant tut-tutting about the horrors of partisan media. They forget that American democracy was born and flourished through the nineteenth cen­tury in an environment where major newspapers, the mass media of the day, were all closely aligned with political parties. “Objective news” was not to be found; nineteenth-century editors and reporters alike presented highly se­lective versions of the facts, often in luridly emotional ways.

Only in the twentieth century, as sociologist Michael Schudson explained in his ground-breaking book Discovering the News, did professional journalists gain a degree of autonomy. Journalists developed norms of objectivity and “bal­ance,” which leading newspapers and, later, television networks tried to follow, more or less. Norms of objective journalism led to the convention of looking for quotes from sources on “both sides of the issue”—a practice more reflective of the fact that there were two major parties roaming the U.S. political tundra than of any law that major questions have only two possible answers. Social movements and protest efforts outside the two major parties found it harder to get a hearing in the objective-and-balanced media regime.

Given the impressive scope of conservative media, American democracy is, in an important sense, caught betwixt and between in the new media world. The frank, exuberant, all-around partisanship of the nineteenth century is not quite what we now have. True, there are both liberal and conservative bloggers, and on the tube, the Fox political slant is weakly countered by liberal-slanted shows on MSNBC. But mostly what America has right now is a thousand-pound ­gorilla media juggernaut on the right, operating nineteenth-century style, coex­isting with other news outlets trying to keep up while making fitful efforts, twentieth-century style, to check facts and cover “both sides of the story.”

The lucrative business of Obama-bashing

Bernd Debusmann– Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. –

Four days before Barack Obama was sworn into office, a prominent radio talk show host, Rush Limbaugh, told his conservative listeners that a major American publication had asked him to write 400 words on his hopes for the Obama presidency.

“I…don’t need 400 words,” he said, “I need four: I hope he fails.”

  •