By Rick Saunders
A: They are both terrified of transparency and sunlight, also known as “the truth.”
Last Friday, Chief Judge Loretta Preska of the U.S. District Court in Manhattan granted a stay order suspending the operation of her prior, August 24, 2009 ruling granting a motion by Bloomberg News attorneys in Bloomberg LP v. Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, 08-CV-9595, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan). In that case, Bloomberg demands the disclosure of the names of the banks that have participated in the Fed’s emergency lending programs and the sums they received.
Given that the Fed has loaned something on the order of two trillion taxpayer dollars to unnamed banks for unnamed purposes, and Bloomberg News being of the mind that maybe, just maybe, the public and the taxpayers had a right to know who was getting money and how much, the news organization filed a Freedom of Information Act demand for the names of the banks and the sums they had received.
The Fed, naturally, resisted this audacious request. Who does Bloomberg News think it is, anyway? Did it not get the memo from the mainstream press: impede no action by the Fed or the Guy form Chicago? No, the disclosure of this information, claimed the Fed, would cause irreparable harm to the recipient banks and thus the nation’s economy. And besides, the information was properly withheld as sensitive and confidential, so Bloomberg should be ordered to just go pound sand.
A week ago, Judge Preska issued a 47-page ruling rejecting the Fed’s arguments. However, adhering to the rule of law by recognizing the Fed’s right of appeal, last Friday she gave the Fed’s lawyers until September 30, 2009 to file an appeal of her order to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Hopefully, the judges there – now missing Judge Sonia Sotomayor, who espoused that the courts of appeal were where “policy” was made – will also adhere to the rule of law and uphold Judge Preska’s ruling.
Please. What possible rational defense can exist for the legitimacy of an argument that says there should be zero accountability for the commitment of two trillion dollars – i.e., $2,000,000,000,000.00 – a sum ultimately to be borne on the backs of taxpayers both existing and yet to be born for generations to come? The Fed is saying, in essence: “We know what’s best for you, so shut yer pie hole and stop asking questions.”
Even some congressional Democrats – and the Senate’s lone announced Independent Democratic Socialist, Bernie Sanders – are calling for disclosure. U.S. Representative Alan Grayson, a Florida Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, said after Preska’s ruling: “The Federal Reserve has to be accountable for the decisions that it makes. It’s one thing to say that the Federal Reserve is an independent institution. It’s another thing to say that it can keep us all in the dark.” Senator Sanders was more direct: “What has the Fed got to hide? The time has come for the Fed to stop stonewalling and hand this information over to the public.”
Stonewalling? What’s to hide? Keep us all in the dark?
Those very same observations could actually have disturbingly similar application to President Barack Obama and his apparent allergic reaction to transparency. Whether it be the details of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act or some other enormous piece of legislation, or whether it be the continued absence of details regarding his personal history, the same question could be asked — what has Barack Obama got to hide?
That was the central theme within a very interesting National Review piece by Andrew McCarthy published in late July, in which the conservative commentator underscored the importance, albeit tangential, of the so-called “Birther” controversy. Regardless of what anyone thinks of the merits of the continued questions into the president’s background, his own conduct with regard to disclosure of personal records–including college and medical records as well–is a microcosm of this administration’s attitude toward sunshine, full disclosure and truthfulness. That attitude has been seen time and time again as the president backtracks on promises made during his campaign to make the text of legislation available to the public for five days before a vote, and for ending the culture of closed-door meetins in Washington.
It seems that the Federal Reserve thinks the same way. And the continuing failure by both the Fed and by the president to “come clean” on legitimate questions and valid concerns only serves to perpetuate the sullied and “unclean” appearance of their secrets and thus further undermine the public’s confidence in both.
Rick Saunders is a freelance writer who splits his time between endeavors in southern California and the American southwest. He began writing for America’s Right in December 2008.