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Economic Illiteracy

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Yesterday, I watched the tape of a Congressional hearing in which Representative Michele Bachmann told the chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, that “China, Russia and Kazakhistan [sic]” were seeking the establishment of a “global currency.” She asked Bernanke whether he believed there was a need for a global currency, to which he answered, curtly, “no.” As the Center for American Progress highlighted yesterday this meme has been percolating through the right-wing echo chamber for the last 72 hours. It started with the Drudge Report, quickly worked its way onto Fox News, and then to the floor of Congress.

Where did this come from? It seems that those who originated and adopted this idea do not understand what a “reserve currency” is. Since shortly after the end of World War II, the world has had a currency that is de facto dominant and has been held by central banks around the world as a reserve (much in the way the world held gold reserves before World War II). That currency is the United States dollar. The fact that a global consensus is emerging against this practice is a powerful statement indicating a lack of confidence in the U.S. economy. But it has nothing to do with the creation of a “global currency.” Nonetheless, this incident is extremely useful: it allows us to pinpoint economic illiterates. Which leaves an important question: how do illiterates get such swift access to the airwaves?

Update, March 26, 2009, 1:50 P.M.

Dumb, meet dumber. Michele Bachmann is proposing legislation to thwart the menace of a global currency. But, her office clarifies, she’s not trying to influence what other countries do with respect to their reserve currencies.

“She’s talking about the United States,” Bachmann spokesperson Debbee Keller told Greg Sargent. “This legislation would ensure that the U.S. dollar remain the currency of the United States.”

Who exactly is seeking to end the use of the dollar as the currency of the United States? Bachmann’s serial delusions could furnish the material for a sitcom.

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