Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said that Occupy Wall Street protesters -- as well as the rest of the American public -- have a right to be angry about the economic situation in the country, but they shouldn't be mad at Wall Street: They should instead be directing their ire at government officials.
The remarks from Gingrich came at Tuesday night's Republican presidential debate in New Hampshire.
Gingrich said that Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, first appointed by President George W. Bush, should be fired. But more astonishingly, he then suggested that two top Democrats behind the Wall Street reform legislation -- Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and former Sen. Chris Dodd -- should be jailed:
Let me draw a distinction. Virtually every American has a reason to be angry. I think virtually very American has a reason to be worried. I think the people who are protesting in Wall Street break into two groups: one is left-wing agitators who would be happy to show up next week on any other topic, and the other is sincere middle-class people who frankly are very close to the Tea Party people who care. And actually...you can tell which are which. The people who are decent, responsible citizens pick up after themselves. The people who are just out there as activists trash the place and walk off and are proud of having trashed it, so let’s draw that distinction.
If they want to really change things, the first person to fire Bernanke, who has been a disaster as chairman of the Federal Reserve. The second person to fire is Geithner. The fact is, in both the Bush and the Obama administrations the fix has been in. And I think it’s perfectly reasonable for people to be angry. But let’s be clear who put the fix in: the fix was put in by the federal government. And if you want to put people in jail, I will second what Michelle said: let's look at Barney Frank and Chris Dodd and let’s look at the politicians who profited form the environment and the politicians who put this country in trouble.
When asked whether he was suggesting putting them in prison for simply authoring legislation that regulated the financial community, Gingrich pointed to Dodd's "countryside deals" and argued Frank was close to lobbyists at Freddie Mac. "All I'm saying is, everybody in the media who wants to go after the business community ought to start by going after the politicians who were at the heart of the sickness that is weakening this country," he said.
In August, Rick Perry found himself in hot water for saying that Bernanke would be treated "ugly" in Texas and that his monetary policy was "almost treasonous."
Bernanke cannot be "fired." He serves for a fixed term and works for an independent agency.
“It’s interesting, the charge is failure to stop Newt Gingrich and Tom Delay from deregulating,” he said. “This notion we caused the problem that started while they were in charge even by Gingrich’s standards is very odd.”
Added Frank: “I wish I knew that he was willing to listen to my advice, I would have given him some: I would have told him not to impeach Clinton, I would have told his successors not to go to war with Iraq, and I would have told DeLay not to go on the dance show.”