The Young Turks Interviews Matt Stoller on the Audit of the Federal Reserve

In this interview, Cenk Uygur of the Young Turks and Matt Stoller discuss how Congress worked in 2009-2010, and why an audit of the Federal Reserve was able to get through a dysfunctional political system. It’s a long interview, with some echoing at the beginning, but it’s the most comprehensive discussion of how the fight actually happened on the House side.

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About Matt Stoller

From 2011-2012, Matt was a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. He contributed to Politico, Alternet, Salon, The Nation and Reuters, focusing on the intersection of foreclosures, the financial system, and political corruption. In 2012, he starred in “Brand X with Russell Brand” on the FX network, and was a writer and consultant for the show. He has also produced for MSNBC’s The Dylan Ratigan Show. From 2009-2010, he worked as Senior Policy Advisor for Congressman Alan Grayson. You can follow him on Twitter at @matthewstoller.


  1. kxmoore

    Obama is the perfect “progressive” front man for the corrupt Federal Reserve wealth-to-bankers transfer racket. The liberal press is reluctant to scrutinize a black man and americans can feel good about voting in an afro-american. It amazes me the reluctance of so called progressive media to attack the corrupt financial system. Thank you Susan for bucking the trend.

    1. Nathanael

      Yes, Obama is the perfect front man. But that doesn’t matter as long as the “alternative”, the Republican Party, is a bunch of psychotic liars who yearn for the return of monarchism.

      We have a problem to fix: the problem that our political system frequently offers no reasonable alternatives at all.

      Hint: one litmus test for a reasonable alternative is that it will involve dealing realistically with global warming: radical restructuring of the economy to eliminate fossil fuels *and* adaptation to the already-baked-in warming. See a politician or party like that? Hmm.

      1. different clue

        Well . . . there are several wannabe third parties with ballot presence in some or many states. What do they have to say about all that?

        1. joebhed

          Among those third-party players is Dr. Jill Stein who’s financial reform platform consists of the following:

          1. Relieve the debt overhang holding back the economy by reducing homeowner and student debt burdens.

          2. Democratize monetary policy to bring about public control of the money supply and credit creation. This means we’ll nationalize the private bank-dominated Federal Reserve Banks and place them under a Monetary Authority within the Treasury Department.

          3. Break up the oversized banks that are “too big to fail.”

          4. End taxpayer-funded bailouts for banks, insurers, and other financial companies. We’ll use the FDIC resolution process for failed banks to reopen them as public banks where possible after failed loans and underlying assets are auctioned off.

          5. Regulate all financial derivatives and require them to be traded on open exchanges.

          6. Restore the Glass-Steagall separation of depository commercial banks from speculative investment banks.

          7. Establish a 90% tax on bonuses for bailed out bankers.

          8. Support the formation of federal, state, and municipal public-owned banks that function as non-profit utilities.

          Under the Green New Deal we will start building a financial system that is open, honest, stable, and serves the real economy rather than the phony economy of high finance.

          I’m sorry.
          Did she actually say that part under No. 2?
          Public money administration?
          I mean – that’s what the Kucinich Bill is all about.
          So, where are Stoller and Grayson on that?’

  2. Chauncey Gardiner

    Thank you for a very insightful interview. Matt’s comments and observations raised a number of questions in my mind. One was his aside that the powers behind the Fed desire to return to the gold standard and are actually opposed to central banking. This initially seemed counter-intuitive to me, and I would like to see Matt expound on this observation.

    If that is so, it is possible that the Wall Street-corporate-wealthy few have successfully completed the initial phases of their looting of the American and European middle class, and are now seeking re-adoption of the gold standard, as well as resisting increases to marginal tax rates and transferring their wealth offshore, in order to preserve their wealth and political power.

    In support of this view, I noted that GOP Senator Corker in an Op-Ed in the Financial Times this week used well founded public criticisms of the Fed’s and Wall Street’s engineered monetary policies, specifically QE, to propose that as a requirement prior to the appointment of the next FED chairman, the candidate be required to answer questions regarding his or her position on limits to monetary policies. Such a requirement could be used to preemptively constrain and effectively neuter the possibility that the next Fed Chairman would be able to use MMT as a policy option, and thereby effectively require the imposition of Austerity as the default economic policy.

    Based upon what has occurred and is occurring in Ireland, Greece, Spain and to a lesser degree in the U.S., UK and elsewhere, it has become very evident that both QE and Austerity policies, while they enable the very wealthy to transfer and concentrate enormous wealth and political power in their own hands, are extremely damaging to the majority of citizens.

    I also understand the Dallas Fed has recently published a paper that is critical of QE policies, citing specific detrimental effects of QE on both the real economy and the financial system over the medium term. Although I consider the specific criticisms mentioned to be well founded, I wonder why this criticism is surfacing now. I also question why the criticism is coming out of the Dallas Fed, as I believe Fisher h/b supportive of QE during his time on the FOMC.

    In my view, there are many positive attributes to a debt-based monetary system that should be carefully considered and discussed before the baby is thrown out with the bath water. Further, there are incremental policy measures that can be taken short of adoption of Austerity policies and re-adoption of a gold standard.

    Among these, the Fed and the regional Fed banks could be nationalized and brought under the direct control of the Treasury Department, Glass-Steagall reinstated, intensive and extensive regulation of the banks and other significant financial institutions imposed, and the network of primary dealers significantly expanded and regulated. To achieve these goals politically would require the Supremes’ Citizens United decision be overturned, post-public service laws be enforced, and campaign financing laws be implemented. All are measures which I would support, especially after hearing Matt’s observations today.

  3. Arthur Wilke

    The Uygur-Stoller interview serves as an excellent introduction to politics. Uygur, by his own admission, highlights the “outsider’s” reading of affairs, akin to writing monday morning commentary on a week-end sports event. Stoller, by contrast, provides information on what it is to be in the trenches of politics, illuminating not just the interests, institutionalized routines and habits, but the contingent factors affecting guiding legislation. Uygur appears to have been an attentive student.

    Stoller stands as an example of one who embraces value commitments but in the process doesn’t abandon awareness, reflection and on-going activity.

    Stoller’s passing comment on awaeness of LIBOR going back to 2009 highlights that there’s a lot to be known and illuminated that already exists. News reporting, like the legislative process, often entails constraining patterns and practices, but there are still those working to render the overlooked conditions more transparent.’ The latter assist in reigning in the banality of corruption that Stoller highights.

    Stoller illuminates contexts and contingencies in tactical matters. His measured highlighting of multi-way communication via certain Internet outlets is informative. Of course having a few “knife fighers” like former Rep. Alan Grayson, is helpful.

    No doubt many of us will, like Uygur, find ourselves as “outsiders,” having interpretive guns fashioning what Gilbert Ryle labeled “knowing that.” Stoller and many contributors on this site along with often informative links reveal that there’s “know how” going on or at least provocations for more of us to reflect, illuminate, even organize intrusions into a “business as usual” environment.

  4. craazyman

    speaking of the Fed, is somebody here going to report on what comes out of Jackson’s Hole?

    Matt’s a good writer and he knows the topic, or maybe you F. Beard, but I think Matt would avoid the heavy editorializing & focus on reporting and analysis.

    I can’t bear to watch it or read about it. I can barely managed reading the stuff here.

    I just want one good summary, 1000 words or less. something your can read while taking a you know what in the bathroom. Extra words are OK as long as they crack people up.

    1. Yves Smith

      I’m trying to take a vacation……and I hate the Jackson Hole stuff. There is usually one good presentation, in 2007 by James Hamilton warning that Fannie and Freddie were gonna blow (which was generally ignored because Hamilton is not a Big Name) and in 2008 of Willem Buiter telling the Fed dudes that they were cognitively captured and having them get all pissy.

      So my take is the key is ignoring the noise, since it is mainly noise, and seeing if there is any good stuff that randomly gets said.

  5. F. Beard

    Great interview!

    So the Fed lends to the banks for crappy collateral, the banks then default and “Voilà” the banks have effectively sold crap to the Fed? Is that the way it works?

    Oh, and foreign currency swaps are a hoot too. The Fed creates dollars to buy Euros that the ECB creates to buy dollars?

      1. F. Beard

        Ok, after sleeping on it I perceive the game might be this: The Fed says to the banks “Here, let me loan you some new reserves for nothing and I’ll take those crappy assets of yours for collateral and btw I’ll pay you interest for those reserves that I lent to you for nothing. Or you can take those new reserves and buy Treasuries and profit from the interest rate spread.”

        1. LucyLulu

          You nailed it, Beard.

          Welcome to U.S. economic policy a la Obama. If Romney gets elected, do you foresee a significant change?

          1. F. Beard

            I perceive Romney as far more dangerous than Obama who at least has not gotten many of us killed so far. And who knows – Obama may have enough “F**k you!” money to finally stand up to the bankers and attempt to save his reputation?

            But I won’t vote for either.

          2. Up the Ante

            “And who knows – Obama may have enough “F**k you!” money to finally stand up to the bankers and attempt to save his reputation? ”

  6. LucyLulu

    Thanks, Matt. I really enjoyed the interview, best one I’ve seen in a long time. You answered the questions I wanted to hear answered, e.g. how prevalent is corruption (or something akin to that) and how best to influence your legislator (and confirm suspicions about being lied to, at state level). Brad Miller was my local rep. at the federal level. I really liked him, I hate to see him leaving. I think he was one of the good guys. I always loved Grayson, too. I hope he comes back in Jan. He got things done. I thought Bernanke was going to have a coronary for sure before Grayson was done with him the way he was sweating. It looks like he had your help getting stuff done too. A good staffer is worth their weight in gold, I imagine. But my best friend lived down in Florida, and let’s just say, he stirred up some strong emotions.

    1. Up the Ante

      “A good staffer is worth their weight in gold, I imagine. ”

      Here’s all you need imagine, many staffers like this one, each aware of what this one is, and each zeroed-out in relation to their ’employers’, the corruption continuing ..

  7. Martin Finnucane

    “If you believe in a fair distribution of wealth and power, then Barack Obama is your enemy.” [about 20:35.] Well said, brother, well said. I just can’t get any of my progressive friends to agree, or even to listen.

    1. Nathanael

      Well, yeah. Unfortunately, Obama genuinely is the lesser evil, because Obama supports free & fair elections.

      And the Republicans *don’t*. They have been doing their best to eliminate elections. If that happens then bloody war becomes the *only* possibility for change (particularly since, like most elites, they are quite happy to massacre protestors). That would not be a good thing.

      1. Lambert Strether

        If you think Obama supports free and fair elections, then you don’t know the history of the TX 2008 caucus fight.

        In any case, publicly counted paper ballots are the gold standard for voting, so if Obama truly supported free and fair elections, he’d support them. He doesn’t, so he doesn’t.

        I know the detail of the various shenaigains the Rs are pulling to restrict voting rights. A viable and vital party would have been fighting that from the word Go, and at the Presidential level, too. Instead, the Ds only react when it’s too late, and Obama doesn’t get involved.

        1. F. Beard

          publicly counted paper ballots are the gold standard for voting, LS

          Sigh! Will the “gold standard” meme ever die when even its enemies keep propagating it?

        2. Up the Ante

          W. Bush’s nickname for Rove, “turdblossom”, the flowering, what more could the R’s tell you ?

          see Greg Palast’s Billionaires and Ballot Bandits

          ‘Please don’t de-flower my Bushbrain’, is it ?

  8. Carol Sterritt

    Of course the Federal Reserve bankers are above the world of mere politics.

    They have control of trillions of dollars, so they are the Puppet Masters Deluxe, while any and all politicians are mere puppets.

    While any normal human being would be indicted under RICO for manipulating the world of finance, circa Autumn 2008, in the manner that Tim Geithner, in his role as head of the NY Federal Reserve happened to, Timmy went on to be the right and left hand man of Barack Obama, with his office right down the hall from the Oval Office.

  9. Mary Bess

    Enlightening insights on the legislative process from Matt Stoller. I’d like to hear a lot more from him.

    Note to Cenk: Your heart’s in the right place but don’t compete with your guest. Get out of the way. Stoller has a lot more to say that’s interesting than you do and you’re stealing his time. Your insertions detract from the interview, in this instance.

    Get Rid of that Set! Why are you and your guest STANDING???? It makes the viewer very uncomfortable. Stoller is tall–he has to bend in half to rest his arms on the table. Because you’re short, he has to look down on you which never allows the viewer to see his face and catch his expression or even see what he looks like. Whoever conceived this visual format should be fired.

  10. leafy sea dragon

    Matt’s my new hero! So nice to hear a candid viewpoint escape the beltway. I’ve enjoyed reading your pieces here on NC, and now I’m even more pleased. Glad to know you’re out there and that there are at least a few intelligent people in DC who are brave enough to try and get things done. bravo! (or should I say “cowabunga!”)

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