The Federal Reserve System Is Not A Government Agency - It's A Privately Owned Cartel of Powerful Banks Protected By Law
It's commonly but falsely believed the Federal Reserve System is a function of government and subject to its control. False. It's often referred to as a quasi-governmental, decentralized central bank, but that's just cover to disguise what, in fact, it really is: a privately held and operated cartel made to look like the government is in charge. The fact that it's headquartered in Washington in the formidable and impressive-looking Eccles building (named after a former Fed chairman) is just part of the clever subterfuge. Here's how it works:
The Fed is composed of a Board of Governors in Washington and 12 regional banks in major cities throughout the country (including in my own city of Chicago where anyone once but no longer could walk up to a teller's window and buy US Treasury securities). The system also includes many and various member banks including all national banks that are required to be part of the system. Other banks were also allowed to join and many did. The Federal Reserve began operating in November, 1914, almost one year after the Congressional act creating the system the previous year as explained above. It was mandated by law to have the greatest power of any institution in the country - the power to create and control the nation's money supply.
Most people know little or nothing about money and banking, likely never think about it, and have no idea how what the Fed and bankers do affect their lives. Before writing this article, I had little more than the modest knowledge I learned in a required course on the subject and basic accounting as part of my MBA curriculum 46 years ago. Those courses left out the most important parts of the story and never hinted at anything sinister about how the banking system works in fact. But no one should ever imagine banks were established or intended to be run for our benefit. They surely are not, and anyone suggesting they are should read on. They're about as beneficial to the public welfare as was the MX Peacekeeper ICBM (the clever language is impressive) intended to carry nuclear warheads back in the mid-80s that had the power to destroy all life on the planet and one day may do it in its old or updated form.
The Federal Reserve Act of 1913 (the law of the land) stipulates that the Federal Reserve Banks of each region are owned by the member banks in it. These Fed banks are privately owned corporations that make a great effort to hide the fact that they, in fact, own what the public largely thinks is part of the public treasury and government. It's easy to think that as Fed chairmen and seven of the twelve Governors are appointed by the President and approved by the Senate. As such, the FRB is a sort of quasi-government entity, but the fact is the System is a privately owned for profit enterprise just like any other business. It has stockholders like other public corporations that are paid 6% risk free interest every year on their equity holdings. The public doesn't know this, and it likely wouldn't be good PR if it found out. People might be even more upset if they learned some of the owners of our Federal Reserve are powerful foreign investors in the UK, France, Germany, The Netherlands and Italy. They're partners with giant US banks like JP Morgan Chase and Citibank as well as powerful Wall Street firms like Goldman Sachs in a new world order banking cartel that influences and affects business activity everywhere and our lives.
The issue of private ownership of the Federal Reserve Banks has been challenged several times in the federal courts to no avail. Each time the courts upheld the current system under which each Federal Reserve Bank is a separate corporation owned by commercial banks in its region. One such case was Lewis v. United States that was decided by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that ruled the Reserve Banks are independent, privately owned and locally controlled corporations.
Our Founding Fathers Had Different Ideas Than the Powerful Men who Met on Jekll Island
Throughout our history, there was disagreement over who should control the power of the nation's money supply and the right to issue it. The Founding Fathers understood that the British Parliament was forced to levy unfair taxes on its American colonies and its own citizens because the Bank of England had run up so much debt the government needed revenue to reduce it. Benjamin Franklin, in fact, believed that was the real cause of the American Revolution. Most of the Founders also understood the danger that could result from bankers' accumulating too much wealth and power. James Madison, the main drafter of our Constitution, called them "Money Changers," referring to the Bible that said Jesus twice drove the Money Changers from the Temple in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago. Madison said:
"History records that the Money Changers have used every form of abuse, intrigue, deceit and violent means possible to maintain their control over governments by controlling money and its issuance."
Thomas Jefferson was just as strong in his condemnation when he said:
"I sincerely believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. Already they have raised up a money aristocracy that has set the government at defiance. The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people to whom it properly belongs."
Jefferson and Madison understood the dangers of commercial monopolies of all types and tried to assure they never would exist in the new nation. They, in fact, wanted two additional amendments added to the "Bill of Rights" in the Constitution but never got them. They believed to protect the liberty of the people the nation should have "freedom from monopolies in commerce" (what are now giant corporations including the big international banks and Wall Street investment firms) and "freedom from a permanent military," or standing armies. Try to imagine what the country would be like today if Jefferson and Madison had gotten their way - a country without giant predatory corporations exploiting everyone for profit and without a rampaging military waging war on the world, threatening to destroy it, and doing it so those corporate giants could earn even greater profits.
They never did, of course, and the people have paid dearly ever since including the great harm caused because the government relinquished its right to control the nation's money supply. It gave it away secretly with the public none the wiser, never knowing how greatly it's been harmed. It's been even worse since the 1980s because the power of the Fed grew under a friendly Republican president, and the corporate media led cheerleading for it hid the effect. For them, no public demeaning of it, its giant member banks or Wall Street allies is allowed.
Things were especially out of hand during the tenure of Alan Greenspan - a Fed chairman no one should have found much reason to cheer either before he headed the Fed when he was a presidential advisor or during the time he did. It was only after his economic consulting firm failed that he went into government service likely because he needed a new line of work. There he managed to become a larger than life seer of central banking who was elevated to near sainthood by the business pundits who thought under his tenure the skies were only blue and the few clouds in sight always had silver linings. Now Alan is retired to the greener pastures of lucrative book contracts and speaking engagements, which shows when you do your job well for the rich and powerful (at the expense of the rest of us) who gave it to you, you'll be well rewarded in the end. It's likely the new Fed chairman has taken note and will dutifully try to follow in the tradition that preceded him.
But try imagining a different sort of Fed chairman, one who knew, believed in and practiced the words and wisdom of another American president of some note - Abraham Lincoln. In 1886 Lincoln said the following: "The money powers prey upon the nation in times of peace and conspire against it in times of adversity. It is more despotic than a monarch, more insolent than autocracy and more selfish than a bureaucracy. It denounces, as public enemies, all who question its methods or throw light upon its crimes. I have two great enemies, the Southern Army in front of me and the bankers in the rear. Of the two, the one at the rear is my greatest foe."