Now that the dust has settled from the November 2 mid-term elections, there is a consequence for collectors of United States coins: Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) will be the chairman of the Subcommittee on Domestic Monetary Policy and Technology, the subcommittee with oversight authority over the U.S. Mint.
Prior to the election, Rep. Melvin Watt (D-NC) was chairman of the subcommittee and Rep. Mike Castle (R-DE) was the ranking member. With the 60-seat gain by the Republican party, they will change the makeup of committees. Since Castle lost his primary race, the Republican leadership in the 112th congress will likely elevate Rep. Paul to be the chairman of the committee. It is likely Rep. Watt will become the Ranking Member.
While there will be other changes in the governing structure in the various committees that provide oversight to the U.S. Mint, this subcommittee provides the direct oversight where bills on coins, commemoratives, and medals are first assigned. Considering the legislative history of its new potential chairman, it is likely that it will be an interesting session.
To say that Ron Paul has an economic agenda that differs from current policies and similar policies that have existed since 1964 would be an understatement. Paul wants to go back to a precious metals-based standard specifically using gold and silver. While it is recognized that a precious metals standard would make it difficult to manipulate currency markets, it has its limitations to be able to supply a demand for money.
Although Paul’s policy preferences are something to be debated, policies dealing with the operation and production of the U.S. Mint is not the place for that discussion. During the hearing of “The State of U.S. Coins and Currency” held on July 20, 2010, Paul’s opening statement was more about not about his view of monetary policy. In his opening statement, Paul commented on the prosecution of Bernard von NotHaus by saying, “the federal government insists on printing trillions of dollars out of thin air, and prosecuting individuals who attempt to create precious metal currencies to compete with the devalued US dollar.”
Later during the same hearing there was a discussion regarding the U.S. Mint not issuing the 2009 American Silver Eagle Proof coins. Paul asked U.S. Mint Director Ed Moy why the U.S. Mint could not just strike 2009 Proof American Silver Eagles. Moy rightfully pointed out that doing so was not legal (see 31 U.S.C. § 5112(d)(1)).
In fact, during the questioning of Director Moy, it was as if Paul did not understand that the “Mint Does What It’s Told by Law to Do.” Although Paul said, “It is a shame that Congress has already unconstitutionally delegated its coinage authority to the Treasury Department,” he underestimates congress’s role as outlined in Title 31 of the United States Code.
I am not encouraged by Ron Paul’s potential elevation as chair of this subcommittee. Rather than provide oversight to an already over-regulated agency, Paul will use his position as a platform for his policy preferences. Oversight of the U.S. Mint is not the place to promote these policies. If Rep. Paul wants to promote his policy preference, I suggest he chooses another committee for which to serve or learn what the U.S. Mint actually does before accepting the role as chairman of its oversight committee.