Fed Foe Ron Paul Breakfasts With Bernanke at Central Bank

By Kristina Peterson
WSJ.com

Republican presidential hopeful Rep. Ron Paul certainly wants to end the Federal Reserve. But he also has to eat breakfast.

One day after chairing a hearing on proposals to abolish or overhaul the central bank, the Texan congressman sat down for the first meal of the day Wednesday with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, the lawmaker confirmed in a brief interview at the Capitol. The decision to meet for breakfast at the Fed was “mutual,” said Mr. Paul, who last year introduced a bill to eliminate the central bank.

The Fed chief and lawmaker had “sort of an open discussion,” Mr. Paul said, while declining to provide any details of the conversation. “It was off the record,” he said. The Fed declined to comment on the meeting.

Wednesday’s visit to the Fed’s Washington headquarters was not the first for Mr. Paul, who has said previously he dined at the central bank with former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker.

Nor is it unusual for Mr. Bernanke to play host to lawmakers, including those proposing to refashion the Fed. The Fed chief had breakfast in February with Rep. Kevin Brady (R., Texas) who earlier this year introduced a bill that would narrow the Fed’s mandate to focus solely on price stability. Currently, the central bank has a dual mandate that also requires it to strive for maximum employment.

Still, Wednesday’s breakfast brought together two figures who publicly agree on very little. A longtime critic of paper currency and fan of the gold standard, Mr. Paul’s fiery Fed-bashing has enthused his campaign trail supporters, who often start rallies with loud chants of “end the Fed!”

Mr. Bernanke, meanwhile, dedicated a significant chunk of his first lecture at George Washington University in March to enumerating the flaws associated with a system in which the dollar is valued at a fixed price per unit of gold.

So did Wednesday’s meeting overturn any deep-set beliefs? “He’s for the gold standard now,” joked Mr. Paul.

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