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To the legendary founders of these United States, we modern-day citizens offer our heartfelt apology. We learned of your sacrifices as schoolchildren, but we took the fruits of your labor for granted.
We've visited monuments erected in your honor, overlooking Washington, the capitol, but we've failed to keep watch ourselves. Your words, in time, fell tragically into the well of human forgetfulness, and so we stood by as many of your works were undone.
I am sorry to report that here in the year 2009, we find our nation mired in debt as you cautioned against, and to a degree for which you would have no context. I know you are each austere statesmen to the core, but be not surprised to shed a tear as we describe the fiscal state of our nation.
Mr. Washington, of you we were told quaint parables about cherry trees and epic tales of bravery, but only today do we fathom this great nugget of your wisdom: "Paper money has had the effect in your state that it will ever have, to ruin commerce, oppress the honest, and open the door to every species of fraud and injustice." You and your fellow patriots knew the value of sound money, backed by gold and silver, and had witnessed the very same ravages of fiat currency crises that we are witnessing today.
Mr. Jefferson, you were most explicit in outlining the dangers posed by undisciplined fiscal policy. You warned that "banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies," and today we have clear evidence in the shattered remains of banks like Citigroup (NYSE: C ) and Bank of America (NYSE: BAC ) . Today, Mr. President, we feel humbled by your most prescient declaration of all:
It is from Great Britain we copy the idea of giving paper in exchange for discounted bills: and while we have derived from that country some good principles of government and legislation, we unfortunately run into the most servile imitation of all her practices, ruinous as they prove to her, and with the gulph yawning before us into which those very practices are precipitating her. The unlimited emission of bank-paper has banished all her specie, and is now, by a depreciation acknowledged by her own statesmen, carrying her rapidly to bankruptcy, as it did France, as it did us, and will do us again, and every country permitting paper to be circulated, other than that by public authority, rigorously limited to the just measure for circulation.
All these years later, we regret to inform you that Britain once again faces a test of its very solvency, dwarfed only by the scale of indebtedness accumulating here between our own shining seas. You will be troubled to learn, furthermore, that in 1913 we passed much sovereign authority of the Treasury to a consortium of private banks called -- quite cunningly -- the Federal Reserve.
The power to print
Mr. Jackson, though you stood on the shoulders of those founding giants, you too understood the sanctity of sovereign authority over the nation's currency. You clarified the intent of the founders with this: "If Congress has the right under the Constitution to issue paper money, it was given to be used by themselves, not to be delegated to individuals or corporations."
Well, Mr. President, I'm sorry to inform you that not only was the authority delegated away, but as you read this letter the resulting Federal Reserve has embarked upon the most ambitious effort to reflate a deleveraging economy ever devised. Adding insult to injury, your portrait graces the very paper that you would have vehemently opposed … the fiat $20 federal reserve note.
It has happened before, and it will happen again
Take a breath, sirs, for we have more to report. The unfathomable debt recently accrued by quasi-national corporations called Fannie Mae (NYSE: FNM ) and Freddie Mac (NYSE: FRE ) in a futile stretch beyond our collective means bears a striking resemblance to a crisis in 1873. Half a century later, our nation endured a Great Depression, as did many bread-and-butter companies like United States Steel (NYSE: X ) and Bucyrus (Nasdaq: BUCY ) . Thereafter, the universal reliance upon leverage and the treatment of debts as assets returned once more, adding bitter irony to the name Fifth Third Bancorp (NYSE: FITB ) .
For offering your lives of service and your words of wisdom as guiding templates for the nation you built, we thank you. For failing to adequately oversee the practices of our government and the financial industry it coddled, we are truly sorry. We ignored Mr. Jackson's timeless lesson: "eternal vigilance by the people is the price of liberty." I wish I could say that it will never happen again, but history and human nature would seem to suggest otherwise.