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Ron Paul vs. Ben Bernanke: final battle ends on surprising note

With Rep. Ron Paul retiring this year, his epic battles with Federal Reserve chairmen are coming to an end. But his last run-in with Ben Bernanke took a more reflective turn. 

By Staff writer / July 18, 2012

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke appears before the House Financial Services Committee Wednesday to deliver his twice-a-year report to Congress on the state of the economy.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

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It’s been a long ride for Ron Paul and Ben Bernanke.

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Since 2006, when the latter was named as the chairman of the Federal Reserve system, the former – the libertarian congressman from Texas – has been haranguing Mr. Bernanke during his annual visits to the House Committee on Financial Services.

But with Mr. Paul retiring after this term, Wednesday marked the final chapter of six years of Paul-Bernanke combat. Their engagements have often been the stuff of Internet lore.

Paul-Bernanke matches “certainly made the hearings more interesting – and provided several memorable YouTube moments,” said Rep. Spencer Bachus (R) of Alabama, the chairman of the House Committee on Financial Services at the top of the hearing.

The script usually goes like this: Paul launches into a lecture about Austrian economics for somewhere near half of his allotted time, followed by a perfunctory question to Bernanke. Bernanke answers succinctly, often with a slim smile. Paul then fires off several other questions which Bernanke deflects with a mix of concision and respectful disagreement.

Wednesday wasn’t much different – but it dropped a curtain on a poignant, long-running episode of a broader battle within the GOP on fiscal and monetary priorities.

On one side of that divide stands Bernanke, a Republican and economist with technocratic bona fides after being thrice nominated by President George W. Bush to various posts, including his current spot, before being reappointed by President Obama. On the other is Paul, the leading light for the Republican Party’s disaffected libertarian cohort who see the Bernanke years, including bank bailouts and rock-bottom interest rates for years on end, as not distasteful necessities but deep betrayals of conservative financial principles.

Many on the Financial Services Committee were in a reflective mood early in Wednesday’s hearing – including Paul. 
 
“I have over the years obviously been critical about what goes on in monetary policy, but it hasn’t been so much the chairman of the Federal Reserve, whether it was Paul Volcker or Alan Greenspan or the current chairman, it’s always been the system,” Paul said. “I think they have a job that they can’t do because it’s an unmanageable job, it’s a fallacy, it’s a flawed system, and therefore we shouldn’t expect good results.

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