I saw some weird guy on Twitter this week peddling an unhinged conspiracy theory about liberals secretly plotting to use the Federal Reserve and some unnamed digital currency to prevent Americans from buying firearms and gasoline. We’ve probably all seen assorted oddballs peddling strange ideas online, but this one was a doozy.
Wait, did I say the idea came from some weird guy on Twitter? What I meant to say was that it came from the governor of Florida — who also happens to be a leading (albeit unannounced) candidate for the Republican Party’s 2024 presidential nomination.
The Miami Herald reported this week that Gov. Ron DeSantis has been directing much of his rhetorical fire of late on the Federal Reserve and its Trump-appointment chairman, Jerome Powell. But it was The Washington Post’s Catherine Rampell who flagged the GOP governor’s amazing recent remarks about the Fed. From Rampell’s column:
Don’t get me wrong. The Federal Reserve has made mistakes in recent years. It’s not immune from criticism, including criticism of its record on financial oversight or inflation. And yet, somehow, it still seems pretty bonkers for a major, supposedly mainstream politician to attack the Federal Reserve for trying to steal your guns. Which is what Florida governor and likely 2024 presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis (R) suggested in recent remarks.
That might sound like an exaggeration. It’s not. In remarks that were televised via C-SPAN, the Floridian delivered remarks in Pennsylvania this past weekend that were so odd, I feel like they should’ve come with a fringe-to-English translation guide.
DeSantis began by boasting to his conservative audience that Florida would soon ban “the idea of a central bank digital currency.” He added that “they want the Fed to control a digital dollar,” but failed to identify who the nefarious “they” might be.
But then he kept going. “Guess what’ll happen?” the governor said, in high dudgeon. “They’re going to try to impose an ESG [Environmental, Social and Governance] agenda through that. You go and use too much gas, they’re going to stop it. They’re not going to honor the transaction because you’ve already bought more than what they think. You want to go buy a rifle, they’re going to say, ‘No, you have too many, too many of those, you can’t do it.’ So it’s ceding the power of our financial freedom to a central bank which does not have our interest at heart.”
To the extent that such a vision can be fact-checked, let’s go ahead and state for the record that while there is some discussion about the Federal Reserve creating a central bank digital currency, there is no secret leftist plot to use the Fed to control firearm and gasoline purchases.
Let’s also state for the record that it’s a little unsettling that DeSantis sees this as a legitimate concern — and feels strongly enough about his fears that he spoke publicly about them while gearing up for a national campaign.
Remember, there’s a sizable contingent within the Republican Party that would love for Donald Trump to go away, and members of this GOP faction tend to see the Florida governor as a credible alternative.
But as DeSantis prepares to launch a bid for national office, he keeps giving those political insiders reason to question whether he’s truly ready for prime time.
Indeed, the closer the Floridian comes to the presidential campaign, the more ridiculous he becomes. In recent weeks, DeSantis has been incoherent on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine; he responded to Trump’s indictment with overt hostility toward the rule of law; he has waged a pointless crusade against his state’s largest employer; he has signed a wildly unpopular measure to weaken his state’s gun laws; and he has endorsed radical new restrictions on reproductive rights.
And then, of course, there’s the governor’s weird ideas about a secret plot to use the Fed to limit purchases of guns and gas.
George Will, who’s hardly a liberal, wrote in his latest syndicated column: “In politics as in baseball, at which the young DeSantis excelled, ‘AAAA players’ are those who excel in AAA ball, the highest minor league, but fail above that. A presidential campaign is a rigorous apprenticeship that DeSantis, although still not an announced candidate, is, less than a mile into the marathon, flunking.”