Conservative lawmakers across the country seem determined to crucify mankind upon a cross of gold. In the past week, a string of articles have exposed how once-fringe conservative economic theories have migrated into the political mainstream — with alarming consequences.
Perhaps the most obvious example is the conservative gold craze, which is based on apocalyptic beliefs that the U.S. dollar is on the verge of collapse, runaway inflation is imminent, and gold is a more stable and reliable currency than paper money. The tough economic times have spurred many Tea Partiers in particular to rush to invest in gold, pushing its price to a record high. Glenn Beck and other talk show hosts frequently advertise gold on their shows — along with fallout shelters — “as a way to weather the end of the world as we know it.” And presidential contender Ron Paul (R-TX), who was made chairman of the House committee overseeing federal monetary policy, has long advocated returning to the gold standard and abolishing the Federal Reserve.
This month Utah became the first state in the country to officially recognize gold and silver coins as legal currency:
Utah legislators want to see the dollar regain its former glory, back to the days when one could literally bank on it being “as good as gold.”
To make that point, they’ve turned it around, and made gold as good as cash…The law also will exempt the sale of the coins from state capital gains taxes. [...]
The idea was spawned by Republican state Rep. Brad Galvez, who sponsored the bill largely to serve as a protest against Federal Reserve monetary policy. Galvez says Americans are losing faith in the dollar. If you’re mad about government debt, ditch the cash. Spend your gold and silver, he says.
The law is a toned down version of a bill introduced in Georgia last December that would have required that all transactions with the state, including paying taxes, be paid with gold or silver coins. Although Utah’s new law and similar bills are often sold as providing “options to consumers,” they are widely regarded as a backdoor attempt by conservatives to reintroduce the gold standard.
The U.S. officially went off the gold standard under President Nixon. Most mainstream economists agree that it never worked in the first place and reimposing a gold or silver standard now would have disastrous consequences. The U.S.’s failure to abandon the gold standard in the 1930′s was one of the main causes of the Great Depression.
Republican politicians have increasingly pandered to the far-right base by endorsing loony gold schemes, such as when presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty derided the U.S. dollar as a “fiat currency” — “a signal to a narrow constituency of voters who believe that America’s woes began when it abandoned the gold standard.” Minnesota also moved one step closer to adopting gold and silver coins as legal tender this month, and North Carolina, Idaho, and at least nine other states are considering similar legislation.
In a debate with Ron Paul, comedian Stephen Colbert lampooned the central tenet of this modern gold rush — the idea that gold is somehow different and better because it is inherently more valuable. “Yes!” he declared, “Gold is intrinsically more valuable because…it’s shiny!”