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.