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Right Wing Turns on Elizabeth Warren, Congressional Oversight Panel Head

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The move to clip the wings of TARP overseer Elizabeth Warren was predictiable. The fact that it took so long, and the angle is that she is anti industry (as opposed to anti industry bad behavior, a distinction that will hopefully be lost on the masses) and it took comparatively long to mount the salvo (Warren has been a critic of predatory lending for a long time, and hasn’t been too happy with the Treasury’s handling of the TARP since she first took an official look) suggests that attempts to find real dirt on her did not pan out.

Given that banks have an increasingly bad name in mainstream America, this effort to denigrate her may not stick. But the attempt to paint her as biased is nevertheless a nasty bit of work.

From Poltico (hat tip reader Matt).

While the bubbly and brilliant 59-year-old professor [Elizabeth Warren] is a darling of Democrats, Warren has become the scourge of conservative Republicans, who question her panel’s exploration of more-liberal approaches such as nationalization and bank liquidation.

Financial services lobbyists, who’ve long disliked Warren for highlighting predatory lending and abusive credit card fees, argue that she’s using her post to push her own, anti-industry agenda.

“A number of people wonder if this is the new Warren commission or the congressional oversight panel,” said Wayne Abernathy, executive director for financial institutions policy at the American Bankers Association. “It’s looking more like the former than the latter.”….

“The role of congressional oversight is to ask the tough questions, to push back on the decisions, to request additional information and to recheck the numbers,” Warren said in an interview with POLITICO. “It’s our job to be cranky.”

But some of that crankiness has wormed its way into the panel itself. Two members, AFL-CIO associate council Damon Silvers and New York State Superintendent of Banks Richard Neiman, signed on to the tepid six-month review of the Troubled Asset Relief Program released by the group last month. The two other members – former Sen. John Sununu (R-N.H.) AND Republican Rep. Jeb Hensarling – voted against the entire report.

“The panel did not reach an agreement on either the economic assumptions underlying strategic choices or on the optimal strategy to pursue,” wrote Sununu and Neiman, in a dissenting opinion that raised questions about the report.

The dissenters worried that the alternative approaches presented in the report, including nationalization, management changes and the liquidation of failed banks, implied that the banking system was insolvent and that the current plan was already a failure.

Warren says that the report is the product of interviews with dozens of experts across the political and intellectual spectrum.

“That majority report was based on an understanding that came from many different voices,” Warren said. “I think we write panel reports that reflect a broad spectrum of ideas.”

The lack of consensus has fueled Republican criticisms that Warren is reaching far beyond the original intent of the panel by suggesting regulatory changes.

In private conversations, even some Democrats complain that Warren’s role as a constant Cassandra could undermine already tenuous public support for the bank, auto industry and other financial rescue programs.

The panel specializes in calculating the kinds of scary numbers that the Obama administration would rather not broadcast too loudly.

Like $4 trillion. That’s the amount the Treasury Department, Federal Reserve and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. have spent on financial stability efforts so far, according to the panel’s most recent report.

And that huge number may not address some smaller — but no less worrisome — statistics, like the 29.1 percent that national housing prices have fallen since their peak in the second quarter of 2006, according to the report.

Warren, who proudly calls herself an “outsider’s outsider,” is comfortable announcing those kinds of very uncomfortable figures, even if that means taking some political punches.

“I’ve never held a government job, and I’m not looking for a government job after this,” she said. “I’m not out there trying to go and find my next landing spot.”

The last statement makes Warren very threatening, needless to say. But Politico may be spot on in deeming her a Cassandra. Remember, her curse was to have her prophecies, which all were accurate, be ignored.

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34 comments

  1. Anonymous Monetarist

    Get people to ask the wrong questions and you need not worry about their answers.

  2. tyaresun

    I adore EW. It really pisses me off that the current admin. is systemically sidelining all the sane voices. It simply keeps increasing the final cost of this crisis.

    Might want to post the Daily Show appearance to go with this.

  3. Anonymous Jones

    I’m sure she knew the attack dogs would eventually come after her. It’s all the more reason we should be so thankful she took the job. We were very, very lucky that we were given someone with integrity, intelligence, and the incentive to do the right thing.

    Even an old cynic like me can be proven wrong about people sometimes. Kudos to Elizabeth.

  4. sangellone

    A minor point perhaps but does the writer of this article KNOW who runs Congress? Does he really believe the Republicans are the party of the big banks? If so why is it that guys like Shelby, Bunning or even McCain have been about the most vocal critics of the Federal bailouts. Who passed the TARP? It wasn’t the GOP!

    Don’t want to make this into a political blog but I see far too many snarky comments based on real ignorance about just which political party is behind what.

  5. kilgores

    I think it reprehensible that anyone would go so low as to attack Elizabeth Warren, who is about as competent and compassionate as anyone could be. That really goes to far. I am truly incensed.

    SWK

  6. Luke Lea

    She wrote The Two-Income Trap didn’t she, about how transportation, childcare, etc., eat up the second paycheck?

  7. Mannwich

    Warren is clearly a threat to those who would like predator “business” tactics, criminality and fraud as the underpinnings of our economy and culture to continue. Not a shock, by any means they would try to smear and silence her.

  8. DiverCity

    From a former Republicrat, I say _ _ _ _ the EW naysayers, and don’t believe for a minute that it’s just the right side of the two-headed one party monster that wants to shut her up. Her report was virtually deep-sixed by the MSM. It took over three days for it to hit and when it did it was either ignored in its substance or pooh-poohed insofar as her report’s more heavy-hitting conclusions were deemphasized. Come on folks, reject the left/right paradigm and realize that the parties are two sides to the SAME bankster coin.

  9. Doc Holiday

    This was a great spot for Warren not long ago:
    Daily Show Clip – Elizabeth Warren Explains USA Economic History
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e02loKMuJFw

    If I failed to post these links (below) before, this is totally on topic, and I suggest reading as much as possible about this great person:

    Brooksley Born
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brooksley_Born

    While on the commission and after becoming its chair two years later, Born sought comments on the need to regulate derivatives, specifically swaps that are traded at no central exchange, known as the dark market, and thus have no transparency except to the two counter-parties (no actual regulatory scheme was proposed at the time). The request for comments, called the "Concept Release," stated that the growth of trade in derivatives had prompted the CFTC to re-examine its regulatory scheme. [1] The request for comments was opposed by Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan and Treasury Secretaries Robert Rubin and Lawrence Summers.[2] Specifically, on May 7, 1998, former SEC Chairman Arthur Levitt joined the other members of the President’s Working Group – Treasury Secretary Rubin and Federal Reserve Board Chairman Greenspan – in objecting to the issuance of the CFTC’s concept release, in which Born attempted to shed light on the dark market, citing grave concerns about the possible consequences of the CFTC’s action.

    Also see: The World According to Brooksley Born
    http://www.derivativesstrategy.com/magazine/archive/1997/0597qa.asp

    >> The lobby groups need shut down ASAP and people like Warren need more control ASAP (over the financial terrorist/nazis)!!!!

    Full disclosure: The au natural author has been sitting out in the sun reading up on economics and looks forward to a long walk before dinner.

  10. bob

    Agree on EW, she seems to be on the ball and trying to make things work.

    The appearance on the Daily Show was probably the reason for her skewering.

    “If so why is it that guys like Shelby, Bunning or even McCain have been about the most vocal critics of the Federal bailouts. Who passed the TARP? It wasn’t the GOP!”

    It wasn’t the GOP that passed the tarp? Sure. Keep those teabags ready.

    The hardest part is finding someone who is not part of this. Read through the opensecrets.org site on who is contributing to those you listed. Citi, JPM, PwC, Capital one etc were on shelby’s list in 2004. McCain has roots back to the 80′s banking crisis. All have raised over one million from the financial services sector.

    This is not to say that the dems don’t have skeletons too, just much easier to find the republican hypocrisy.

  11. mmckinl

    America is a Greek Tragedy …

    Kill the messenger !

    ~~~~

    Thank You for your great work Yves …

  12. Michael

    Elizabeth Warren is an American Patriot whose integrity and track record of portraying the many fallacies of our economy is unassailable. Should Congress bow to insider pressure to replace her then they should weigh the consequences of taking away a highly respected voice the citizenry has identified as truthful in a chorus of lies.

    Perhaps Congress should listen more and posture less.

  13. emca

    Here’s an offhanded aphorism:
    when the rats are cornered, my they do squeal.

    “While the bubbly and brilliant 59-year-old professor [Elizabeth Warren] is a darling of Democrats…”

    This statement is a little confusing in that a good portion of the article is taken up with how she’s an embarrassment to democrats and particularly the administration with her dissidence.

    And as a disgruntled Democrat, I agree the that the issue is not Party, but personal responsibility; do we hold people responsible for their past transgressions? Or does wealth determine culpability?

    For Republicans this is a dangerous tack politically. If Obama’s policies (which as commented are little more than an extension of the Bush/Paulson team) fail, then it is not solely Obama (or democrats) who will pay the price, but all who are seen in league with “banksters”.

    To end this harangue, its not Geithner who should be charge of economic policy, but Warren or someone of equal integrity who shares her skepticism of bailout fever (Republican or Democrat).

    I need a cold beer.

  14. Edwardo

    Someone wrote:

    “Don’t want to make this into a political blog but I see far too many snarky comments based on real ignorance about just which political party is behind what.”

    Excuse me?

    There are plenty of bought and paid for hacks on both sides of the aisle who carried water for the banking system. Don’t make me name names. Both parties are the enemy!

  15. mrcommenter

    The “good cops” and “bad cops” both need dysfunction. Hence, I think she’s no better than Bush– i.e. they need each other.

    As far as I can tell, Warren has become a smokescreen and tries to help people forget that the government (both democrats and republicans) actively encouraged states to ignore their established lending regulations. i.e. “states were given stand down orders.”

    Thus, adding on more regulation would simply make the current facade heavier.

    Hence, to be credible, I think she needs to tell people what Washington did on their behalf;

    She also needs to tell Americans that racism was used to increase their quality of life via war (this was MLK’s observation).

    Her fairy tale, that regulations created a better world, are disingenuous at best and she’s turning herself into “the Pope of Finance” by telling us that a better bible would solve our ills. History, on the other hand, debunks this posturing.

    So I stand with the right-wingers on this one since her act is all show, nobody cares and it the outcome will be as unsatisfying as what the 9/11 commission produced.

    So far, she’s not “change I believe in” but someones pawn.

  16. Doc Holiday

    Is the Right Wing like The Velvet Underground?

    Re: "Don't want to make this into a political blog but I see far too many snarky comments based on real ignorance about just which political party is behind what."

    >> That kind of comment must fire a lot of people up, because The Bush Administration crashed The American Economy with its Ownership Society and non-regulation of accounting fraud, etc, etc, etc…. and then along comes The TARP Drama, which was a half-baked idea on the back of a napkin, and now we are to assume The Republicans had it right?

    Did I miss something in the details?

    I know damn well The Democrats are a clueless group of idiots but to suggest in any way, shape or form that The Bush Coup did something honest or efficient is just plain stupidity — it doesn't take too many brain surgeons to look at how many Trillions of dollars have been poured down the drain because of the lack of leadership that we had then and now!

    There obviously is a balance of power in our government with crooks on the left and right and then at the fulcrum of conservatism, we have a shadow group of opportunists that will follow the lobby group money no matter which side it's on.

    Back on track — Elizabeth Warren is a very BIG breath of fresh air in our American government garbage dump — with the obvious exception of Paul Volcker (who is locked in a room somewhere doing nothing).

    The odds of Warren or Volcker staying around much longer is highly unlikely. I imagine they will be gone before summer …. Speaking of Summers, I would think he would be very excited about using his power (again) to do to Elizabeth Warren what he helped do with Brooksley Born, e.g: "Summers resigned as Harvard's president in the wake of controversy over a talk in which he speculated that women may statistically have lesser aptitude for work in the highest levels of math and science. "

    Go get her Larry, and take out Paul too; he's too friggn old and he's in the way of progress and change and all that other crap!

  17. Doug

    I think Yves’ point here is not that the “right wing” is consistently marginalizing/attacking financial-system reformers, it just happens to be the case here because Elizabeth Warren is rather liberal. There are still plenty on the “left” as well (Geithner/Frank/Dodd/etc) who are also part of the problem.

  18. Harlem Dad

    Politico’s article is long on innuendo, but very, very short on facts. Is Elizabeth Warren the “Darling of the Democrats?” I should live so long. Is she drawing fire from the Right? The article offers no real evidence.

    I should say upfront that I love Elizabeth Warren. Knowing that she may actually have a voice in how the Financial Services Industry conducts itself in the future gives me hope. And I agree with Yves that she is a threat to Washington insiders.

    Now, to the article. Evidencing the Right Wing turning on Ms. Warren we have the following:

    The dissenters worried that the alternative approaches presented in the report, including nationalization, management changes and the liquidation of failed banks, implied that the banking system was insolvent and that the current plan was already a failure.Okay, the two dissenters are the two Republicans. So what? Aren’t Sununu and Neiman merely touting the current Administration’s Party Line? Have we heard one word from Geithner or Summers indicating anything different from Sununu and Neiman’s dissent? Has Obama even “hinted” that the banks might actually be insolvent and that his plan is a crock?

    By clicking on the link provided by Yves to Politico’s article I found this:

    On Tuesday, Warren will spark controversy once again when her panel questions Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. The Treasury Department has resisted testifying before the committee for months.Right wing attacks? I’m suspect.

    And as for the snarky comments from a lobbyist at the American Banksters Association, big deal. These guys get paid a bazillion dollars to whine like preschoolers on behalf of their crybaby clients.

    How about the claim that Ms. Warren is the Darling of the Democrats? From Politico’s text I read:

    [e]ven some Democrats complain that Warren’s role as a constant Cassandra could undermine already tenuous public support for the bank, auto industry and other financial rescue programs.The panel specializes in calculating the kinds of scary numbers that the Obama administration would rather not broadcast too loudly.Like $4 trillion. That’s the amount the Treasury Department, Federal Reserve and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. have spent on financial stability efforts so far, according to the panel’s most recent report.Darling of the Democrats? I don’t think so. Now consider this:

    But Warren was still shocked when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid asked her to chair the TARP panel.“I did say to him, ‘Senator, are you sure you want me?’” she said. combined with This:

    The lack of consensus has fueled Republican criticisms that Warren is reaching far beyond the original intent of the panel by suggesting regulatory changes.Leads me to conclude that Congress is too cowardly to propose it’s own regulatory changes. They still haven’t determined which way the wind will blow on this. They want Elizabeth to both state the problem and propose the solution. If her work finds favor with the people, Congress will take the credit for hiring her. But if (when) things go from bad to terrible they can (wrongly) blame it on her.

    The way I read it Ms. Warren isn’t being attacked by the Right so much as she’s being set up to take the fall, if they can pin it on her, by both parties.

    I’m reminded of the 1976 film Rocky, when Apollo Creed’s trainer tells Apollo “This man doesn’t know it’s a damn show. He thinks it’s a damn fight!”

    I’m also reminded of Ibsen’s wonderful play “An Enemy of the State.”

    In my dreams, Elizabeth Warren is Rocky, the underdog, fighting the good fight for the people.

    In my nightmares, she’s An Enemy of the State screaming with her last breath “the banks are insolvent, the banks are insolvent, the banks are in-solv-ent!”Tim in Sugar Hill

  19. RPB

    I do not understand your title:

    “Right Wing Turns on Elizabeth Warren, Congressional Oversight Panel Head”

    Why is it painted that the “right wing” turns on E Warren while 3 of the 5 parties mentioned to be against it are Democrats (2 AFL-CIO Reps, Administration)?

    Then the article cites “Republican criticisms” and “(even some) Democrats complain.”

    How is this indicative of the “right wing” turning on E. Warren? Would it not be more sensible and apolitical to suggest “those with vested interests are turning on her?” Or perhaps “both sides of the aisle, administration are turning on her?”

    Your writing has long conveyed where you lie on the political spectrum; but why did you find it necessary to inject it into your title when the story it alludes to notes otherwise?

  20. Capricorn

    Beyond the immediate article, after looking at her video’s, and a quick look thru her first repoet, it seems to me that Ms. Warren offers the one thing that no one else has, to date, in this mess – clear thinking, a real intention to resolve the problems, and putting the American people first.

    She deserves our support.

  21. Yves Smith

    RPB,

    First, if you read the Poltico article in its entirety (I excerpted only parts) both the headline and the omitted text support the thesis, I bothered to include mention of Democratic criticism, and given the relatively short except, it is more prominent than in the entire underlying article. There are passages omitted that show that discuss Democratic enthusiasm for her ideas and opposition from right wing groups like the American Enterprise Institute.

    And I see you chose to make Republican = right and Democrat = left. The split is not that straightforward, so you attribute to me something that I never said. One of the reasons some Democrats are unhappy with Obama’s banking policies is that they are so banker friendly. Hence, the Democrats are divided, the more conservative (centrist as they like to call themselves) versus the more liberal members. That is why some Dems are upset with Warren, which again supports the thesis.

    Second, I have several Congressional staffers who write to me. They separately report the conservative machinery is after Warren.

    Third, a third source (very connected) says efforts are under way to get her “booted” or pressure her to resign.

    You accuse me of bias when there is far more afoot than reported in the article. But your interpretation in fact demonstrates the very failings you try to pin on me. Funny, that.

  22. john bougearel

    I am not particularly pleased to hear the Democrats complain that they are displeased that Warren undermines “already tenuous public support for the financial rescue programs.”

    This is as fascist and undemocratic ideology seeking to forbid and suppress criticism of something that stinks to the high heavens. And suppression of criticism borders on a violation of the right to free speech.

    Sorry Elizabeth to see you in the crossfire. I had a feeling you should have been more forceful in that report, especially now that you are being marginalized

  23. RPB

    I am glad you cleared that up. I only read the excerpt of the story on your page and what you have written. So I am guilty of lack of further research. However, it would certainly be more telling if you had included your insider information in the post; you did not. Without the inside information your portrait of right wing rile against Mrs. Warren is incomplete. That is why I questioned it.

    It is both saddening, yet expected (which makes it even more saddening), that the outsider trying to reform the system is persecuted. Please include your inside information, if you are allowed by law, in your future posts. The combination of your unique perspective and your access to obscure information allows an informed and interesting argument rarely found in the blogsphere. That is why I read your site.

  24. Anonymous Jones

    While it is undoubtedly true that all actors are in jeopardy of being made into some malefactor’s pawn (and that the road to hell is paved with good intentions… and that no good deed goes unpunished… and…enough with the cliches), I think it is far too much to impugn everyone who might possibly be trying to make a difference. While it is of course a possibility that EW is snowing us, or that some other malefactor is snowing us by trotting out Ms. EW as some crusading do-gooder, it does seem far more likely (to me) that EW is simply doing what she believes is right (not just for herself, but for her society). A cynical person only needs to believe that *some* are out to create the worst possible world, not that *all* are. Believing that all is a farce, and that all is worthy of disdain, is perhaps equivalent to giving up. Why bother at that point? Cynicism is not total misanthropic nihilism. There is a difference.

    I don’t know that regulations create a better world, but there is *clearly* no evidence (and I mean, *clearly*, from an empirical view) that they create a worse one.

    The future is uncertain, indeed. I know not what will come of EW’s “crusade,” but I must make a decision, and at this point, I’m going to believe in her, and I’m going to hope that she makes a difference for the better.

  25. tom

    As a European, I often find that Americans don’t realise when they are blessed. Whether you like or dislike Warren, your nation has someone who is articulate, intelligent and willing to work to better your entire society. She provides analysis, the ability to deliver the analysis in an understanable way to the masses, and offers, at worst, a basis for discussion and possibly a sustainable plan to solve your immediate problems. We face many of the same problems in Ireland, but on possibly a more dangerous scale. No one in Ireland so far has the clarity, the commitment nor the ability to communicate half as well as Warren.

    I suppose there is irony hidden somewhere in this debate about Warren. A country, like the USA, blessed with so many resources and talent may be able to squander these opportunities, although one wonders how long such opportunites will keep popping up if they are squandered so often.

    Warren, at the very least, provides a basis for common sensical debate. I wish we had such a thorny character in our body politic.

    Best regards, Éire

  26. Brick

    Actually I think it was Neiman and Sununu who did not sign up on the premise that they did not really agree with the possibility that the banks were insolvent. It is Sununu who argues that the oversight panel has stepped outside the bounds of its remit.
    What did strike me was just how the panel was ignored by the treasury. Take these quotes for example.

    Despite months of requests, the Panel was unable to secure a commitment from Secretary Geithner to testify at a Panel hearing regarding Treasury’s strategy.

    Thus far, Treasury has offered no explanation for why it would attempt to exclude the Panel from access to this information.

    The Panel is particularly concerned that the opaque nature of the relationship among AIG, its counterparties, Treasury, and the Federal Reserve.

    Banks, particularly the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, has substantially hampered oversight of the TARP program by Congress and, equally important, has impaired the understanding of that program by the American people.Included in the Panels latest report are the letters from the Treasury and FED which make interesting reading if you want an insight into how they are thinking.
    People who ask difficult questions will most likely be swept away under the carpet.

  27. mrcommenter

    RPB: They separately report the conservative machinery is after Warren.My take is that the democrats come from the “intellectual elite” and are thus “intellectual snobs.” The republicans come from the “business elite” and are thus “industrial snobs.”

    The middle is a blending of these two powerful groups.

    In general I don’t like intellectual snobs since, as I get older, my belief in science and rationalism as a whole is fading as I find myself moving towards irrationally: no regulation; atheism and Darwinism– the present is based on accidents.

    IMO, if the court system wasn’t so corrupt, white collar criminals would get sent to jail as often as the poor and dispossessed.

    Through my eyes, Warren is a snob and she should be criminalizing the behavior of wall street (wall street’s biggest anxiety) instead of rationalizing it via regulation. Telling people that they can have their cake and eat it too, however, is the big academic lie that keeps false hope alive.

  28. HLS

    “The lack of consensus has fueled Republican criticisms that Warren is reaching far beyond the original intent of the panel by suggesting regulatory changes.”

    Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008

    “Sec. 125. Congressional Oversight Panel… (b)Duties. – The Oversight Panel shall review the current state of the financial markets and the regulatory system and submit the following reports to Congress…”

    Politicians may be angry that the Panel has recommended regulatory reforms that they do not support but to say they are overreaching is simply wrong.

  29. profnickd

    The Politico article is nonsensical in the respect that it assumes Republicans (the “right”?) have power in D.C. — the Dems control the House, Senate and of course the White House (and, it might be added, the mainstream media). There is nothing that the GOP can do to force the issue of resignation of an administration official.

  30. andywold

    holy crap Yves, what a bunch of nonsense.

    Trying to paint the Republicans as the “pro-bank” party is not just ignorant and misinformed, but sadly out of date as a propaganda tool. Where have you been hiding? The entire Clinton executive branch was in the tank for the banks, and that was over a decade ago. Most intelligent, thinking people have figured this out a long time ago. As a former Clinton democrat, it took me a while, but I finally got it… way back in 2003.

    This ain’t about Republicans and Democrats anymore, it’s about the criminals in Congress and the Executive branch versus the american people.

    Yves, you’re better than this.

  31. Yves Smith

    andywold,

    Did you read the post? Did I use the word Republican? Have you read my other posts lambasting how Team Obama is bending over on banks?

    The Politico point makes a VERY specific point, namely, that right wing groups such as the AEI are going after Elizabeth Warren. That is separate and apart from the issue of bank policy generally.

    The fact that Democrats like Summers and Rubin have given the banks everything want is an completely separate issue and in no way refutes the fact that conservative groups are after Warren.

  32. Francois

    Yves,
    You mention that several congressional staffers separately wrote to you that some conservative groups are going after Prof. Warren.

    Is there any way some names could be, ahem, shall we say, made available? Not necessarily on your blog, but, you know, some people with honesty and experience in investigative reporting have some ways to flash the light on the cockroaches.

  33. Sivan M.

    I want to like Warren but having read the COP Foreclosure Prevention Plan paper (http://cop.senate.gov/documents/cop-030609-report.pdf), I ended up siding with Hensarling.

    Warren and co-authors of the paper were calling on the government to essentially fix housing prices with taxpayer money.

    In that paper Warren only pays lip service to fairness, the most controversial aspect of any bailout. Hensarling takes her to task for asking renters to help prop up housing prices. Warren does not even bother to answer his comment.

    It’s easy to understand how Warren ends up in this position, which she probably sees as speaking up for the middle-class, but she is committing injustice to others who took no part in the run-up to the crisis.

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