The Federal Reserve and the Bible

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Perhaps others were just as puzzled as we were when the religious-right bloc on the Texas State Board of Education went after the Federal Reserve System earlier this month. At the board’s March 11 meeting, Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands, proposed the following standard for revised curriculum standards for high school economics:

“(A)nalyze the decline in value of the U.S. dollar since the inception of the Federal Reserve System in 1913.”

TFN has no economists on staff, but unlike state board members, we have no problem searching for the opinions of experts. A prominent University of Texas economist (we didn’t ask permission to quote him by name, so we won’t identify him here) scoffed at the suggestion that a focus on the Federal Reserve System would be sufficient for analyzing the changing value of the dollar over the course of the last century. “It would not only be insufficient,” he replied. “It would be like searching for a mouse among a herd of elephants.”

In other words, dumb standard.

During debate over the proposal, some board members echoed the views of our UT economist. In fact, board member Pat Hardy, R-Fort Worth, marveled at the implication that her board colleagues were so knowledgeable about economics that they could approve such a standard without bothering to consult even one economist. And board member Mavis Knight, D-Dallas, noted the obvious: there are many reasons for the changing value of currency over time.

Eventually, board members approved a revised standard, with references to the Federal Reserve System and 1913 deleted. Students are simply required to analyze the decline in the value of the dollar — except board member David Bradley, R-Beaumont Buna, another member of the board’s religious-right bloc, succeeded in adding the words “including the abandonment of the gold standard.”

We wanted to know why the board’s religious-righters have such hostility to the Fed. And surprise of surprises, we found a likely candidate: the Federal Reserve System (along with the abandonment of the gold standard, which came later) is unbiblical.

Simply Google  “Federal Reserve System” and “unbiblical” and you’ll find numerous essays and assorted other screeds attacking the Fed as violating law set out by God in the Bible. Here are some examples:

From Worldmag.com (“Today’s News/Christian Views”), Dec. 7, 2009:

“Since it was created in 1913, the value of the dollar has depreciated 95 percent. In other words, a 1913 dollar would be worth less than 5 cents today, or it would take $21 today to match the value of $1 in 1913. How did this happen? In Biblical terms, we’ve allowed our federal officials to create a monetary system based on dishonest scales and weights.”

From an essay posted on the Nehemiah Institute (“a non-profit private foundation to aid in restoring our nation to a biblically-based society as it once was“) website:

“I have stated for years that the decade of 1910-1919 would likely be identified as perhaps the most troublesome decade in our history due to several unbiblical polices put in place, not the least being the creation of the Federal Reserve System, passing the 16th Amendment (direct income tax), and passing the 17th Amendment, change of electing U.S. Senators by popular vote rather than by state-appointment, as had been the case since the ratification of the constitution. All of these were adopted in 1913.”

Among the most interesting information we found was on the website of Educational Research Analysts, founded by the late Mel and Norma Gabler in the East Texas town of Longview. For decades the Gablers were among the most influential textbook censors on the religious right. Today the organization’s head is Neal Frey, who clearly has the ear of far-right members of the State Board of Education. In 2004, for example, Frey persuaded board member Terri Leo, R-Spring, to demand that publishers replace “asexual stealth phrases” (like “couple”) in health textbooks with words that clearly suggest marriage as a union of one man and one woman. Those “asexual stealth phrases,” she (and Frey) argued, actually promote same-sex marriage.

Anyway, Frey publishes textbook “reviews” and newsletters, among other things, on the Educational Research Analysts website. At least twice, those newsletters have promoted economics education along biblical principles. For example, the May 2006 newsletter decries “government sovereignty over money and banking” as unbiblical. It also accuses the Federal Reserve System of violating “constitutional/Biblical principles” by “undermin(ing) the gold standard.”

A June 2009 newsletter looks at economics textbooks published for Christian schools and declares:

“Deductively and inductively, the deity of Christ, the Word of God, entails the gold standard.”

The newsletter also makes clear that some of the strategies used by the Fed in setting monetary policy violate biblical mandates:

“Scripture forbids inflationary monetary policy but not a deflationary one. The state cannot expand by deflating as it can through inflation.”

There’s plenty more in that June 2009 newsletter if you’re interested in what biblical literalists want to teach in economics classes. The question is how influential Frey and Educational Research Analysts have been on the board’s decisions regarding curriculum standards for economics and other social studies courses.

17 Responses to “The Federal Reserve and the Bible”

  1. David Says:

    Apparently the permutations of the word “dumb” and it’s synonyms has run dry. Stupid, knucklehead, misguided, moronic, sophomoric, et al. have all been played out.

  2. Coragyps Says:

    I never would have guessed that the ancient Hebrews even had Senators, let alone elections. I wonder how much the Nehemiah folks complain about the (unamended) Constitution being unbiblical?

    And it’s odd, isn’t it, how an amendment to the Constitution can be “unconstitutional” to these folks. Well, the Second Amendment can’t be, surely, but ones they don’t like, I mean.

  3. John C Says:

    How about ‘stunning stupidity’? There are times when words fail.

  4. David Says:

    As we have every year, we had working class communities attacked by tornadoes, this time in the South. Usually mobile home dwellers are the hardest hit. Presumably a few of these folks are “tea partiers” and members of the “religious right”. When these folks get disaster assistance, I hope they finally get it.
    I hope that they understand that “the government” is “We the People”.
    That’s all of us. We’re in this together.
    The government assistance comes from (mostly) federal taxes.
    I hope that we can learn to prevent the wealthy and powerful from exploiting corporate welfare.
    I hope that we can solve the problems of unresponsive bureaucracy.
    I hope that we can learn to make the government as small as possible by making it effective.
    I hope that we can tax persons at the absolute minimum necessary.
    I hope that we can educate all our citizens so they don’t confuse religion with politics.
    I hope we can all climb out of the muck of hooey and counter-hooey one finds on the internet.

  5. Evan Carroll Says:

    The problem here is you simply believe they are assigning too much blame to the Fed. I frequent this blog a lot, and enjoy most of the posts. But, I think you’re making a huge jump off the cliff in your accusations: let me summarize you’re case.

    Some radical Christians have been found to put all of the blame for the dollar’s decline on the Fed.
    The Texas State Board of Education employs radical Christians.
    The Texas State Board of Education wants to put some or all of the blame for the dollar’s decline on the Fed.
    Therefore, The Texas State Board of Education is attempting to assign blame to the Fed because they’re Christian.

    It doesn’t hold. It is factually incorrect. Stop it! Here are some alternative more plausible explanations:

    (a) They’re libertarians.
    (b) They listen to the arguments by their ultra-conservative representatives such as Ron Paul.
    (c) Not exclusive to (a) or (b), they have legitimate reasons they understand full to want to cast light on the fed: many of us do.

    I consider myself a liberal. I reside in Texas. And, I don’t mind telling you the current control and power wielded by the Fed specifically is scary. I also read the phrase, “inception of the Federal Reserve System in 1913” to be the start of a new era of monetary policy — just as much as a statement assigning blame. This to me seems for the most part perfectly valid. At the very least, just as valid as “explain the growth in trade amongst European nations since the adoption of the Euro” indicates the start of a new era of trade — just as much as it assigns the reason to be the “adoption of the Euro.”

  6. TFN Says:

    Evan,
    You might be right that some board members wanted that standard because they’re libertarians or support Ron Paul. It’s certainly possible. But considering the history of these board members and public statements they have made on various issues, we know their fundamentalist religious beliefs influence their decisions on issues before the board. So it’s a fair question to ask whether Neal Frey and other religious extremists are influencing them. As we note in the post, it wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened.

  7. Joshuajudgesruth Says:

    I wonder why they don’t cite the specific Bible verses regarding the gold standard. Maybe because there aren’t any?

  8. David Says:

    Evan,
    Not only do these nitwits have a history of shooting their mouths off on subjects about which they have absolutely no knowledge or understanding, they have been remarkable consistent and persistent in doing so.

    I too have concerns about the Fed and Wall Street, corporate feudalism replacing our system of government, etc. That’s why I’m finding credible information and learning more about it.

    To say that these folks are knee-jerk in their response to “Christian-right” stimuli is an understatement. They have the thoughtfulness and deliberation of bacteria.

    I wouldn’t waste your time cutting them any slack, if I were you. They’ll just disappoint you. They just need to go home and get out of the curriculum biz.

  9. Charles Says:

    Hi all. I have a new job and will not be posting as often as in the past—or as long. On this federal reserve issue, I think it all really boils down to religion and the area where I live—photocopied and transplanted to Texas.

    “Pinot Noir” on a wine bottle around my parts is:

    “Pine Knot No Ear”

    Keep up the good fight folks. See you in church or somewhere else.

  10. David Says:

    Dang, we miss you already, Charles. Don’t be a stranger.

  11. Rocket Mike Says:

    Charles, that is great news! I sorta had a feeling that you weren’t with us as much as usual, and I’m glad it was for a good reason.

    It has been a while since I took economics from one of President Eisenhower’s former economics advisers, but we were told that the consensus from economists was that an inflation rate around 3% gave the best results for growing an economy. From what I have read in the intervening years, I think that still holds true. What was most dreaded was deflation. I went to one of those compound interest calculators on the net and calculated that $1.00 would grow to $21.23 in the 97 years since the Fed was born given a growth rate of 3.2%. To me, it sounds as if we are right on target after almost a century of Federal Reserve monetary policy. If the BLZ’s on the SBOE want a biblical economy, there are a number of cult compounds around Texas where they can come pretty close to it. Just don’t try to indoctrinate Texas children with that subsistance level economic thinking because with our population it would be unsustainable.

  12. Ben Says:

    Congrats, Charles. Happy to hear it.

  13. Evan Carroll Says:

    I’m very disappointed by the reactions here… This article is trash and the rationals inside the comments are so imbued with a hate of the board’s religious affiliations that every action must be an attributed to religiosity. I imagine the majority of us are secular — we have no reason to make a religion out of attributing every action of the board to religion. If we can with reason – fine, but we can’t abandon the qualification: reason.

    @Rocket Mike, do you have any reason to believe any of the members of the board want Biblical economy just because they’re religious and their religion at times interferes with other policy?
    @David, A history of “shooting their mouths off,” does not make them incapable of speaking without “shooting their mouth off.”

    P.S. I’m not “cutting them any slack.” I’m defending them from vague and quite possible false allegations that fail to link /their/ religiousness to this policy decision. I agree their horrible decision makes with very a track record of poor policy and poor rationals. Issue being, your reasoning here is no worse then theirs; and, it has yielded and equally bad product (this article, and your comments).

  14. David Says:

    Evan.
    Their religiosity is a matter of record because THEY have made it so.

    Now that they’ve encountered so much national and international exposure of their foolishness, they may indeed try to backpedal and offer “secular” reasons for their actions.

    Let’s just get some other people in there who will let the experts on the various topics make the decisions.

  15. Charles Says:

    McLeroy and crew are getting big-time international coverage on Yahoo!! News with a McClatchey news service article that debunks a number of the far right revisions of history. McLeroy is mentioned specifically along with the Texas SBOE. Upshot: Texas SBOE makes Texas look like a fool’s paradise before a worldwide audience. I weep for my sensible friends here—the REAL TEXANS.

  16. David Says:

    Remember the Alamo!!!
    Where Jesus, Andrew Jackson and Ronald Reagan fought off the Godless Communists.

  17. Rocket Mike Says:

    Evan,
    The Biblical Literalist Zealots on the SBOE have time and again showed themselves to be like Yassar Arafat. They say one thing in public and then go back to their religious/political groups and say something else. Until they start showing us that they want to act in the manner we usually ascribe to mainstream Christians that respect the Constitution, I will continue to presume they are acting as Christian Nation/Dominionist goons.

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