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Conservatives chime in on global money ills in G-20 precursor

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Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2009

Railing against the G-20: It's not just for liberals anymore.

"You don't have to be a socialist to be concerned about the G-20," said Thomas Woods, one of three speakers at Freedom Conference 2009, a conservative forum billed as a "free-market alternative to the G-20."

The event Tuesday night attracted about 100 people to Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum in Oakland.

"They tell us no one could've predicted" the global economic crisis, said Woods, an author and economist. "There were people who did predict and, by and large, it was free-market economists who predicted it."

Sounding at times like marchers who have been protesting the Group of 20 economic summit since Sunday, speakers and attendees repeatedly blamed "the system" for creating the recession and saving only the wealthy and well-connected.

"We agree on what's wrong. We don't agree on the right way to fix it," said Tom Kawczynski, president of the Republican Assembly of Greater Pittsburgh. One of the organizing groups, the assembly is not part of the official local party structure but touts itself as the "Republican wing of the Republican Party."

"This system attracts predators," said author and activist G. Edward Griffin. "They call themselves statesmen, but they are predators."

Others warned that huge debt owed to central banks around the world has created a behind-the-scenes government to which elected leaders are beholden.

"The countries of the world owe the banks 67 percent of their GDP," said Joan Veon, founder of the Women's International Media Group and another speaker. "This is what we call world government."

Tribune-Review columnist Dimitri Vassilaros served as master of ceremonies.

Woods blamed the Federal Reserve and other central financial institutions -- the World Bank and International Monetary Fund among them - for the depth of the recession.

"We can talk about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but that's small potatoes to the Federal Reserve," Woods said.

Disconnecting U.S. currency from the gold standard allowed the congressionally created bank to manipulate interest rates by printing more money whenever it wanted, he said. That kept interest rates too low and ended the post-dot-com recession before the market could correct itself, he said. "The system contributes to this problem."

Melina Brajovic, 42, an attendee from Blawnox, gathered signatures for a petition asking House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to bring to the floor a bill, sponsored by Libertarian hero and Texas Rep. Ron Paul, calling for an audit of the Federal Reserve.

"We need to bring our currency back to the gold standard," said Brajovic, who immigrated to the United States in 1985 from Serbia.

Among her signatories was Mike Ott, 48, of Hampton.

"I believe we should audit the Federal Reserve and take back the right to print our own money," Ott said. He called the nation's central banking authority "unconstitutional" and "morally wrong."

The forum was organized by a coalition of conservative groups looking for an excuse to get together. The G-20 summit provided that excuse, Kawczynski said.

"The entire world has come to talk of what will be, and we know we need to be a voice in these discussions," Kawczynski said.

While liberal groups march against the G-20's role in promoting international trade and globalization, the Freedom Conference's problem with the gathering is that world leaders are putting too many restrictions on trade.

"Look at carbon caps," Kawczynski said, referring to proposals being discussed among world leaders to limit countries' carbon emissions. "They're creating a market, putting a price on something you didn't have to pay for before."

Liberals have blamed the bank collapses and home foreclosures on free-market excesses, while the conservatives said the blame lies with government meddling in the market, mostly through its monetary policy.

"It doesn't matter what race you are. It doesn't matter what class you are. Bad monetary policy affects you," said Herman Bauer, 25, of Mt. Oliver Borough.

Bauer worries policies such as the 2008 bank bailouts and 2009 stimulus package required the Federal Reserve to print so much money, the dollar was emptied of its value.

"I definitely think the worst is yet to come," Bauer said. "The dollar is completely devalued."

Bailing out financial firms whose risky behavior led to the global credit crisis last year encourages entrepreneurs who are "crazy, risk-prone drunkards, basically," Woods said.

Distrust of the Fed runs so deep, Bauer insinuated it is responsible for the assassination of President Kennedy, who he said was the "last president that seriously worked to get us off the Federal Reserve."

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