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President Franklin D. Roosevelt: Architect of Monetary Madness and a U.S. Debt Default

Every schoolchild is dutifully taught that President Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) was America’s savior. They are repeatedly told that FDR and his New Deal policies pulled the U.S. out of the Great Depression. What nonsense. In fact, FDR was the architect of monetary madness and an American debt default. Yes, FDR engineered a U.S. debt default in 1933.

This story is brilliantly told in a new scholarly book by Sebastian Edwards, the Henry Ford II Professor of International Economics at the University of California at Los Angeles. Edward’s book, American Default: The Untold Story of FDR, the Supreme Court, and the Battle over Gold, has just been released by the Princeton University Press.

FDR entered the White House on March 4, 1933, and in less than two months (April 19, 1933), he announced that he was taking the U.S. off the gold standard. FDR asserted that he was doing this to end the Great Depression and to raise farm prices. As FDR put it: “the whole problem before us is to raise commodity prices.”

FDR gave Congress license, and Congress used it to abrogate the Gold Clause via a joint resolution in June of 1933. Before that, a gold clause was included in most private and public bond covenants. These covenants insured that bond holders would receive interest and principle payments in dollars that contained as much gold as the dollar had contained when the bonds were issued.

The U.S. government manipulated the price of gold upward until President Roosevelt redefined the dollar in gold terms under the Gold Reserve Act of January 1934. Overnight, the dollar became 41% lighter. This left gold-clause bond holders out to dry.

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