The ‘Have You No Shame’ Moment of the Financial Crisis
Friday, January 16, 2009 at 6:53 am
It was a huge week for confirmation hearings, with Secretary of State-nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton and Attorney General-designate Eric Holder taking center stage, and all the drama that entailed. But an enduring image from the week may end up being a small moment that few people even caught initially: The grilling of a Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Donald Kohn by freshman Florida Congressman Alan Grayson.
Grayson, a Democrat from Central Florida who defeated a four-term Republican incumbent and is entirely new to the ways of Washington, faced off at a House Financial Services Committee hearing with the mighty and impenetrable Federal Reserve.
Grayson simply did what every American has a right to do, which is to ask the Federal Reserve exactly what’s going on with that $1.2 trillion it has lent or spent since September. Kohn looked shocked that anyone had the gall to even bring it up. I guess he’s not used to being called to account for the Fed’s actions.
The drama began making its way around the Internet earlier this week, the most unlikely of viral videos.
Grayson begins by letting Kohn hang himself a little when Kohn talks about how he can’t reveal the names of the institutions receiving Fed loans or money.
“Mr. Kohn,” Grayson says, “You just said the that $1.2 trillion dollars has been lent or spent as the case may be. That’s $4,000 for every man, woman and child in this country. Don’t Americans have a right to know how you spent that money?”
Grayson goes on to press Kohn about how much Fed money institutions like Credit Suisse and Citigroup received, and what they did with it. Kohn says the Fed won’t reveal the names because the banks could be hurt if people knew they were participating in the lending program. Grayson follows up with the kind of obvious questions other lawmakers haven’t been asking. Do any of those banks really say they won’t take your $100 billion if you use their names? And shouldn’t the decision for secrecy surrounding the spending be up to Congress, and not the Fed?
Watch for yourself as Grayson channels the spirit of U.S. Army Attorney Joseph Welch’s famed rebuke of Sen. Joseph McCarthy: “Have you no decency sir, at long last?”
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