Elizabeth Warren Attacks Beltway Powerhouse Third Way as Fronting for Wall Street

Wow, the gloves are finally coming off. Elizabeth Warren has been making good use of her Senate bully pulpit in terms of keeping the excessive power of the big banks and the haplessness of regulators in the headlines. But as readers know, we’ve had our doubts as to how much in the way of tangible outcomes she could achieve from the Senate. For instance, she’s dutifully sent pointed follow up questions as part of Congressional hearings to various regulators. The replies have been at best evasive, in the faux polite form of bureaucratic obfuscation and misdirection to (from the Fed) borderline dismissive.

More important in her use of her Senate microphone is Warren’s ongoing campaign to move the Overton window to the left on basic economic issues for what remains of the US middle class. It’s vital to note that positions that are regularly depicted in the media as “liberal” or “progressive,” such as strengthening Social Security and Medicare (even if it means raising taxes) and cutting defense spending in fact poll with significant majorities, so they are in fact both popular and centrist for those outside the elites.

But because, as political scientist has documented, American politics are driven not by voters but by powerful monied interests. And perversely, those groups on the whole seem to believe that bleeding ordinary Americans dry is a winning strategy for them. Short term, of course, it sure looks that way, but we look to be at the end of an economic paradigm, so how long they can keep that sort of thing up remains to be seen.

Two operatives from the Washington think tank Third Way put Warren in their crosshairs for daring to suggest that Social Security be strengthened and the rich be taxed more in a Wall Street Journal op-ed on Monday.

It’s critical to understand that Third Way presents itself as “centrist” which is code for “oligarchy promoters pretending to be reasonable” and has consistently advocated gutting Social Security and Medicare. As Dave Dayen wrote in 2010:

I know the world-weary journalist pose is to huff that the catfood commission will go nowhere, that the recommendations released today are politically impossible, and that it’s not worth getting worked up about. Indeed, any proposal that both Grover Norquist and Paul Krugman can take time beating about the face and mouth doesn’t appear to have a constituency.

But there is a constituency for this, and it begins and ends with Third Way, who wastes no time in telling the world that they can only be real manly men if they support cutting Social Security and health care for the poor, the elderly and veterans….The only proposals that are “serious” in Washington, according to Jonathan Cowan of Third Way, are the ones that hurt people who have no voice in the political process. In the name of “sacrifice.”

Daily Beast had a gag-reflex-inducing piece of puffery on the Third Way in 2011, describing it as the “Democrat’s new power base” and describing its influence over White House thinking. For instance:

Another area where its influence has borne fruit is the White House’s relationship with the business community. Throughout 2010, Third Way counseled Dems that anti-business populism was bad for the economy and the middle class, and a political loser. Since the midterm elections, Obama has been making moves to thaw that relationship, including a speech to the Chamber of Commerce this week.

Now the interesting bit that all of this paean to putting a “pragmatic” face on making the Democratic party into a retread of the Republicans is that it flies in the face of demographic trends. Young voters poll left on economic issues and the role of the government. Hence Warren poses a particularly interesting threat, in that she embodies the sort of alliance between older voters and the young on issues like consumer debt, social safety nets, and economic justice that is particularly threatening to the top wealthy and their minions. Is it any wonder that divisive generational messaging has gotten louder in the last two months?

With this as background, the Wall Street Journal attack by the Third Way’s Jon Cowen and Jim Kessler on Warren was frontal:

Screen shot 2013-12-05 at 2.45.30 AM

The article contained the usual canards about pending Social Security “insolvency” and played the predictable age cohort warfare card. In fact, merely raising the cap on payroll taxes would be a sufficient fix; Dean Baker points out that the cost of Social Security will increase from 5% of GDP to 6%, which if the US focused on job and wage growth, is entirely manageable. But more striking than its predictable cherrypicking of information was its histrionic tone: “disastrous” “fantasy” “even more reckless” “collision course”.

The funny bit is that the progress of budget talks flies in the face of these screechy claims about political and economic viability. In sharp contrast with the high drama failed budget talks of 2011 and earlier this year, the negotiators are focusing on the most narrow deal possible to avert either another shutdown or more severe sequester cuts kicking in. The Republicans are finally hoist on the spending cut petard. Enough of them are in districts with military bases where deeper cuts (which the next round of the sequester would impose) would be toxic politically. So they are willing to make concessions. And from what I am told, neither side is willing to table the politically contentious issue of Social Security cuts in the form of chained CPI.

Warren did not take this insult lying down. She issued a letter to Jamie Dimon, Lloyd Blankfein, John Stumpf, Brian Moynihan, Michael Corbat and James Gorman asking them to voluntarily disclose their contributions to think tanks. Her message was clear: this isn’t technically lobbying but we all know how this game is really played.

Screen shot 2013-12-05 at 3.01.42 AM

This of course tees up an easy follow up: she can pursue the CEOs in future hearings if they don’t cooperate, and threaten legislation aimed at the banks. Given the banks’ welfare queen status, legislation aimed at them would get favorable media coverage and would also dent the perceived legitimacy of think tanks.

Politico credits Team Warren with having landed a blow:

A chorus of groups aligned with the liberal wing of the party – from the Progressive Change Campaign Committee to Howard Dean’s Democracy for America and Russ Feingold’s Progressives United – responded by attacking Third Way as a Wall Street-funded front group.

A liberal candidate running in a crowded Democratic primary, John Hanger, then joined these groups Wednesday morning in calling on Rep. Allyson Schwartz, the early Democratic frontrunner in the race to take on Pennsylvania Republican Gov. Tom Corbett next year, to resign as an honorary co-chair of Third Way.

A few hours later, Schwartz condemned the piece for the Journal but declined to end her affiliation with the group.

“She read the op-ed and thought it was outrageous and strongly disagreed, and she told Third Way that,” said spokesman Mark Bergman. “She has constantly fought to preserve and protect Medicare and Social Security.”

Schwartz’s outrage is awfully disingenuous, given Third Way’s longstanding agenda of cutting down Social Security and Medicare. But the fact that someone who has a prominent role with Third Way has criticized a prominent article and distanced herself from one of its core positions is a sign the tectonic plates in the Beltway are moving. Heretofore, it was not just safe to attack “entitlements,” it was orthodox. That finally appears to be changing, and not a moment too soon.

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  1. Andrew not the Saint

    So I suppose it’s time for Wall Street to step up their game and start playing it a bit rougher by, e.g. kick starting another financial crisis (not that they have to try particularly hard)

  2. direction

    “She issued a letter to Jamie Dimon, Lloyd Blankfein, John Stumpf, Brian Moynihan, Michael Corbat and James Gorman asking them to voluntarily disclose their contributions to think tanks”

    a personal letter. simple. brilliant. I hope she follows through with this.

          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            Republican women love Ellen. I know this sounds childish, but the element in the GOP which gets flustered by the gays is the same which gets flustered by the blacks, the Europeans, music, happiness, science, and so forth.

            I expect it, but I don’t think it will go anywhere. Even Sarah Palin had a good line about shattering the glass ceiling Hillary cracked. The crowd loved the line, but then again, political crowds just largely follow motions and visual queues.

            The Ayn Rand afficandos and closet cases may run with this, but if anything, I would expect a backlash which means the GOP will run with it.

            1. neo-realist

              Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Ellen come out so to speak as a republican or a supporter of them?

              It doesn’t surprise me that republicans like her. Her daytime schtick is as boring and safe as a glass of milk which is right in the republican’s wheel house.

        1. Jim

          How does standing up for the economic interests of the vast majority of Americans translate into “narcissistic?”

    1. John Mc

      I am wondering how Warren stayed focused on the task. As Samantha Bee chronicled in her interview with Gretchen Morgenson last night on the daily show:

      “there is so much to write about, I do not have time to get to it all.”

      I think this calls for a daily letter to these bastards in a very public place.

  3. luxtexente

    the article is good. However, the idea that corporations are looking to the short term is not correct. They are looking to the long term. They are expecting to have long term control and an endless stream of wage slaves to use, abuse, and toss as refuse.

    the design is not to eliminate the middle class but to build a wage slave class. Hunger is a killer but prior to starvation it is a great motivator.

    while I admire Senator Warren’s tenacity and willingness to ruffle feathers, beating the master is not accomplished by ruffled feathers and political hi-jinks, the last time it took much more and cost much more than it was thought it would.

    Go Senator Warren, ride your war pony, and I hope someday you get a War Horse.

  4. Jhallc

    About time someone called out these groups for what they are, back door lobbyists funded by the corporate elites. The gentlemen for third way are really a couple of “Chippendale’s” willing to strip them selves of any integrity for a paycheck at the expense of others. Proud to call Ms. Warren my Senator.

      1. Strangely Enough

        Sounds a bit like California. Well, at least one of my Senators seems reasonably sane…

      2. jhallc

        OK I might have gotten a little excited there, but I can honestly say I have never come close to saying that about a political representative. Compared to her current crop of competition here in MA she stands out. I never was that excited about her predecessors in the Senate (except perhaps Paul Tsongas). Compared to someone like Barney Frank, … please not even close. There were times when I hoped Barney would choke on a schnitzel while hanging out in Davos with the beautiful people. Anyway, while I don’t agree with all her postitions and I’m sure she’s has some warts like the rest of us, I can at least believe she has some integrity. Of course it’s only her 2nd year so perhaps I may regret my enthusiasm.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          I don’t think the issue is enthusiasm, but it should be focused on the next battle. I suppose its nice the Senator responded to a campaign against her, but energy should be devoted to the next fight, not the acknowledgement of a savior.

          One of the stories about Jesus is that the crowds wanted to carry him to Jerusalem to be named King after Jesus performed a miracle of the loaves and fishes. Jesus fled into the hills and instructs the crowd to seek out the bread of life not the base miracle (my guess its in John). I don’t go for religion myself, so my details are probably off. This story reminds me very much of the attachment to our political leaders when they have a sense of decency. We are so hungry, we will follow crumbs into the hills by hailing this Republican as some kind of visionary and miss the real solution which is demand true leadership, not leadership based on a few crumbs but “the full menu of rights*.”

          *H/T Desmond Tutu

          1. jhallc

            Well at the very least she has woken me from my dazed apathy of past years, which is saying something. I’m not going all “hopey changy” just yet but, I did actually email a comment to her regarding SS which is something I’ve never done in the past.

            1. Pearl

              That’s just cuz she’s got a thread of “Troublemaker” in her.

              Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (18 July 1918 – 5 December 2013)

              “….[his] father named him Rolihlaha, which means “pulling the branch of the tree,” or more colloquially, “Troublemaker.””


              Troublemaker, indeed.

              May the world be blessed with more “Troublemakers!”

  5. tyler

    She’s going so hard on the right that one can’t help but be concerned for her safety. The right despised John Kennedy.

  6. Jay

    I’d love to see an investigation of claims made to access the combination of federal funding to TBTF’s and a clawback of those funds plus interest.

  7. middle seaman

    Social security increase is now one of a set of fights waged against the Wall Street/Obama reactionary front. Minimum pay increases show up all over the country. Better pay for fast food and Walmart workers gets stronger by the day. California has reclaimed it role as the leader of social progress. In the last two years, since Jerry Brown became governor and the Democrats took absolute control of the local congress, more than a dozen labor inspired laws have passed. Labor started to win some fights after a prolonged losing period.

    Warren is an important element in the resurgence of 99%. Let’s also give credit to OWS that started it all.

    1. susan the other

      It is possible that our dear leaders, the oligarchs, have realized that it never pays to kill the goose, and especially when growth is verboten. Naturally they can’t admit to a realization like this because egg on face. But a subtle, if imperious, change in policy leading to a new position advocating the social safety net and perhaps single payer, etc. does seem to be emerging. I think Liz’s letter writing is good but I always suspect her of jumping to the front of the parade.

  8. Klassy!

    I was suspicious of Warren. It is nice to be pleasantly surprised. See, who says NC is always pessimistic?

  9. Banger

    Warren and a few other Senators and, also, a couple of handfuls of Congresspeople are all that is left of the left in national politics. Why? This is what we have to discern. I think that most citizens really don’t care much about national political issues–they have vague preferences for this or that but a slick commercial or politician who flies the right cultural/tribal colors will negate that and have citizens eating out of his or her hands.

    Until there is a sense of urgency among the citizenry concerning the oligarchs and their clear plan to create a neo-feudal politics with police-state trimmings then I don’t see how Warren can succeed. Perhaps it the left stopped merely shaking their fists at the elites and actually took concrete action that might change things.

    1. F. Beard

      Why? Because the Left is lame!

      Instead of providing direct restitution to the victims of the banks, the Left piles on by implicitly blaming the victims with government PROGRAMS!

      1. Carla

        F. Beard: When you’re right, you’re right!

        And I cannot help but say to Banger: Warren was never on the left, and she is not on the left now. But that’s okay, because the whole left/right thing is so over.

        Let’s see if Warren can do some good. I’m skeptical, but willing to watch (huh! what choice do I have?)

  10. Eureka Springs

    While this is welcome news, it barely rises to the level of a sternly worded letter and most certainly isn’t heroic, its basic common sense with no substantive intent behind it. Least she (and so many others) could do is introduce legislation taking a bite out of the obvious answers (they are corrupt and financed by the corrupt oligarchs) while issuing subpoenas to these cretins where they answer in person, with great specificity under oath. Of course with NSA and so many other hearings of late we know lying to congress is no longer illegal.

    The system is completely broken and cheerleading with pom poms for team stockholm syndrome democrats is not a fix. Heck it’s not even duct tape.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      When Warren names the names of fellow Democrats who aid and abet their shadow masters, she might be worth paying attention to, but as you note right now, everything she has said can be found in any corner, bar, restaurant, family gatherings, and even the Vatican in far more stark terms.

      Calling out Blankfein and company doesn’t do anything because they get off on being the power behind the throne. They are too repulsive to win an election, so being the targets of an attack of a Senator who won’t attack their support network does nothing but feed their ego.

    2. Lambert Strether

      It’s better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, but it certainly isn’t commensurate to the severity of the situation. As you point out, it’s not even a “sternly worded letter.”

      Crumbs from the table, basically. And we’ve seen this sort of thing before: A question from Warren, a YouTube boomlet, then nothing. Looks more like branding than serious policy, as we would expect.

        1. lambert strether

          Oh, it’s pleasant. But on a scale where 0 is Meh!, 1 is Could be worse, and 10 is unending, oceanic waves of orgasmic pleasure, this is much more 1 than 10.

          I’m just not an “Is it excellent, or is it off-the-charts excellent?” type of guy, I guess.

          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            I would wager you didn’t find inspiration in the Mediocrity of the Trite:

            “Now, don’t get me wrong, the people I meet in small towns and big cities and diners and office parks, they don’t expect government to solves all of their problems. They know they have to work hard to get a head. And they want to.

            Go into the collar counties around Chicago, and people will tell you: They don’t want their tax money wasted by a welfare agency or by the Pentagon.”


            “They know that parents have to teach, that children can’t achieve unless we raise their expectations and turn off the television sets and eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white. They know those things.”

            Aren’t you inspired by the soaring rhetoric?

            Its such a far cry from:

            “As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they asked — and rightly so — what about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government.”

  11. DakotabornKansan

    What is the Third Way? It is a Washington stink tank!

    From their website: Third Way believes in “pragmatic solutions and principled compromise”…agenda includes “grand economic bargains”…the media has labeled us “the future of think tanks,” “incorrigible pragmatists,” “radical centrists,” and the “best source for new ideas in public policy.”

    [i.e., they try to brainwash the naïve public, who they hope will subconsciously start to believe their lies if they repeat them often enough (see Edward Bernays) through various corporate media outlets]

    Who is the Third Way? http://www.thirdway.org/trustees

    [they’re almost all investment bankers and Wall Street executives]


    [i.e., they are the Republican wing of the Democratic Party]

    Lee Fang @ The Nation, “GOP Donors and K Street Fuel Third Way’s Advice for the Democratic Party”

    “Buried inside the annual report for Third Way is a revelation that the group relies on a peculiar DC consulting firm to raise half a million a year: Peck, Madigan, Jones & Stewart. Peck Madigan is no ordinary nonprofit buckraiser. The group is, in fact, a corporate lobbying firm that represents Deutsche Bank, Intel, the Business Roundtable, Amgen, AT&T, the International Swaps & Derivatives Association, MasterCard, New York Life Insurance, PhRMA and the US Chamber of Commerce, among others.”

    “Peck Madigan signs as a lobbyist for the government of New Zealand on the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal; Third Way aggressively promotes the deal. Peck Madigan clients push for entitlement cuts, and so does Third Way.”


    Other stink tank news:

    Yesterday, The Hamilton Project at Brookings hosted a forum – “Supporting America’s Lower-Middle-Class Families” – to highlight two new proposals for aiding America’s lower-middle class.

    [almost half of families in the United States live below 250 percent of the federal poverty level]

    Introductory remarks by former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin!!! Check out the list of other elites on the agenda.

    [they’re sending us to a new low wage economy with low expectations]


    Jeff Faux, The Servant Economy: Where America’s Elite is Sending the Middle Class, as the super-rich get even richer, they’ll need more and more servants:

    “The mantra is jobs, jobs, jobs. Listen carefully because the subtext is low wages, low wages, low wages…They will hire people to take care of their large homes and to tutor their children in Chinese, tennis, and sophisticated strategies for getting into the best private schools and universities. They will hire personal assistants to shop, pay their bills, and run their errands. Coaches will come to their homes to instruct them in physical fitness, mental relaxation, and spiritual transcendence. They will need maids, cooks, and gardeners.”

    Peter Edelman, So Rich, So Poor: Why It’s So Hard to End Poverty in America, writes that the proliferation of low-wage jobs -not the lack of jobs – is the single biggest cause of persistent poverty in America.

    Alas, our governing elite have ruled in favor of austerity. As Jeff Faux says, the last five years have told us that the power of big money easily intimidates the Democrats.

    “Obama internalized what might be called Clinton’s “business liberalism”… Clinton’s business liberalism, however, is a chimera, every bit as much a capitulation to powerful and selfish interests as was Hoover’s 1920s progressivism. We are back in Evan Bayh territory here, espousing a “pragmatism” that is not really pragmatism at all, just surrender to the usual corporate interests…These interests did not spend fifty years shipping the greatest industrial economy in the history of the world overseas only to be challenged by a newly empowered, green-economy working class. They did not spend much of the past two decades gobbling up previously public sectors such as health care, education, and transportation only to have to compete with a reinvigorated public sector. They mean, even now, to use the bailout to make the government their helpless junior partner…

    “Franklin Roosevelt also took office imagining that he could bring all classes of Americans together in some big, mushy, cooperative scheme. Quickly disabused of this notion, he threw himself into the bumptious give-and-take of practical politics; lying, deceiving, manipulating, arraying one group after another on his side—a transit encapsulated by how, at the end of his first term, his outraged opponents were calling him a “traitor to his class” and he was gleefully inveighing against “economic royalists” and announcing, “They are unanimous in their hatred for me—and I welcome their hatred.” – Kevin Baker, Barack Hoover Obama http://harpers.org/archive/2009/07/barack-hoover-obama/1/

    [Obama and the Democrats chose to side with the “economic royalists” and Franklin Roosevelt rolls in his grave]

    1. Lambert Strether

      That’s an impressive chart, but… Let me see. Who was Kos backing in 2008? Wall Street’s guy, as it turns out. And Chris Bowers, who is “Campaign Director for Kos”, is the author of any number of fundraising letters for Warren that have appeared in my Inbox. The take-a-percentage on clickthroughs business model is alive and well.

      So, besides career “progressive” princples, if any, we’re also talking business model. And if you think about it, where else does Kos go for the money? (Remember, their advertising revenues are down.) Certainly not the Clinton campaign, after 2008. And what other Democratic figure out there can they raise money off of?

      So, Kos has no place to go (ha ha ha). It’s Warren or nothing, for them. So it is not surprising they are acting as they are. What else would you expect?

      * * *

      Warren, with becoming modesty, says “I am not running for president”. But then, “she has to say that” (ha ha ha). And I know a Sherman statement when I see one, and this is not one.

      * * *

      Finally, don’t get me wrong, I think dragging the Overton Window a millimetre left is a good thing, and not easy. But when the Democrats, and Warren, take some actual risk on actual policy proposals, and then battle and win for good outcomes, I’ll take them more seriously. Chained CPI is still in Obama’s budget, right? Silence on all sides about that, and gauzy obfuscation, right? Let Warren throw down the gauntlet on Chained CPI. How about a filibuster from the left on that, Senator Warren? A nice Christmas gift to the American people.

      So, until we see something serious from the Democrats, and Warren, I think that the two questions to ask are:

      1) What have you done for me? and

      2) What have you done for me lately?

      And as a troll prophylactic, consumerist palliatives don’t make the nut. The problem in housing is not better disclosure through plain English mortgage forms. The problem in housing is outright theft by large financial institutions, and the detruction of the land title system. And if Warren wanted to get serious, that is what she’d go after, instead of rotisserie Inside Baseball stuff like letters to other insiders. Still waiting.

      NOTE The answers to the pop quiz above are 1) Way too little, way too late, and now they’re taking it away (SNAP), and 2) Zip, zilch, nada, and a big fucking fat zero. And that’s being generous.

      1. savedbyirony

        Who cares right now if she has any plans to run or not. (Why do you and the paid for press obsess about such, at present, distractions? Well, i know why the press does it.) The point is, she professionally and politically brings the anger and issues into a much larger public context which helps to motivate other members of both the public and politics to act and/or change their rhetoric and public speaking. As for the Kos, no kidding, they would try to feed off of her (or any political story that appeals to their readers and might push their financial backers agenda)and she in turn would use them and any other media outlets available. It’s called politics, remember, an extremely exploitive and opportunistic occupation. You say you agree with much of the issues she pushes (like increasing S.S. and banking reform). Well, she and her rhetoric and Senate seat and popular appeal are there to be used and pushed. Why don’t you try to concieve of ways to either support her efforts or make her become more forceful then wacking away at the most public Politician we have at present actually fighting for banking reform. It’s not just about support a candidate or politicain; it’s about growing populist or labor or whatever contervailing movements that will become attractive basis of power to politicians, draw money/influence to them and have organized, collective public/profesional bodies who won’t go quetly home when their “elected” officials either act to stab them in their backs or lack for broader power to pass legislation.

          1. savedbyirony

            Warren got up in front of the Senate about two weeks or so ago and spoke out against the chained CPI, grand bargaining and in favoring of raising/re-inforcing Social Security. Now, it would have been oh so convenient for everyone to stay quiet about the behind close doors baragining for S.S. cuts, but that is not what she or Sen.Brown and a few other Dems. decided to do.

            1. NotTimothyGeithner

              The question is what will Warren do next. Will Warren dutifully line up to embrace her friend Senator X from state Y who did attack Social Security like so many before her? Or will she make it an actual issue?

              By the way, being in nominal support of a popular issue such as protecting Social Security isn’t difficult, its easy. I bet next Senators will pray for peace in our world while they advocate for weapons factories in their state.

              1. savedbyirony

                I basically agree with what you are saying but alittle less so in this particular case of the G.B. and cutting S.S. right now. Many folks have gone to a great deal of trouble to move the budget dealings behind closed doors and falling after a huge scare tactic default threat. The best plan, if everyone was on board, would have been to stay quiet and let the deal get done. By some politicians becoming publicly vocal about the chained CPI and proposing a positive change for S.S.,i think they intended to put the monkey in the works and have for a time probably done so. But we all know Pete P. is not going to quit and the cuts will be back. So how does the populist side (the general American people) and what political/social forces they have get an alternattive legislative option really moving? For what it is worth, she has been taking the S.S. message to a wider organized labor audience for some time.

                1. NotTimothyGeithner

                  I suppose thats a way to look at it, but I think one of the problems is every one praises a false politeness. The SS types come out whenever they can, and they are never held accountable. It would be nice to see the “Good Democrats” hold one of their own accountable and let it be known that poor behavior won’t be tolerated anymore because this strategy of forgiveness hasn’t resulted in success yet.

                  This isn’t in a vacuum. Warren may be newer, but this is the same crap as Democrats who lined up to support Clinton over NAFTA, over financial deregulation, or the Iraq War (Hillary in this case). I don’t see any wins.

                  This is what I see. Obama’s popularity is tanking over his handling of the economy and his right wing economic policies, so what he does he do, he at least says wealth inequality is a concern. Its obviously a cynical effort on his part, but until there was prominent pressure, he didn’t care. Two months ago, he was driving the country to another war while his previous “smart war” has resulted in widespread poverty, roving street battles, and Sharia Law which distinguishes it from Chicago.

                  The time for niceness has long since past. These Democrats behave like they do because they aren’t afraid of you and know you will do all kinds of mental gymnastics to make them heroes over a few crumbs.

                  1. Alexa

                    Heard on XM Radio “The Press Pool” that the Dems would be running on “inequality.”

                    So I’d take PBO’s “spiel” with a grain or boulder of salt, LOL!

                    Julie Mason interviewed DNC Chairperson Debbie Wasserman Schultz when her book came out several months ago, and she indicated at that time that the theme for the next races would be “inequality” and jobs. (And at that time, the ACA.)

                    Actually, there is SOME TRUTH to what the Administration says, in that they intend to strip Americans of their social insurance benefits in order to fund “education, infrastructure research and defense spending,” since they are not willing to make substantial increases in taxes on “the wealthy.” (Or decrease defense spending.)

                    1. NotTimothyGeithner

                      If their polling was better, they would just be going DOW JONES DOW JONES, much like they did in 2000 when a coke addled moron made it close enough to steal an election after Clinton’s just general crumminess resulted into was poor turnout.

                  1. Savedbyirony

                    I don’t support her across the board. I simply look to her in the banking reform area. An area in which her past time as a Republican who jumped ship does not bother me, and in the heavily GOP area in which i live seems to make her message to many more appealing. I think she, her popularity,fight,rhetoric and knowledge can be used as tool in raising the public’s anger, action and level of ideas for banking reform, which she at least claims to support (and has done some actions to try and further, although quite nominal when the situation is looked at as a whole.)Politicians want power, there is power to be had and gained for those who push substantive banking reform IF the public becomes far more engaged, the politicians have financing and other forms of support from other quarters than the TBTF interests and the financial services can be taken down a political peg.(No one is saying this is easy or not risky to try and do, or that such steps will succeed) Warren raises excpections (or can with her talk/actions), a dangerous thing to do with a population as angry and fleeced as Americans still very much are with the Finacial services crooks, but we need civil unrest and far more broad public engagement for this to happen. I think she can be used as one tool to generate this. I don’t trust politicians, but they use and abuse us and need to use them.

                    1. NotTimothyGeithner

                      The public is already angry, so stop this nonsense about getting the public on our side.

                      Public perception is already there. 50% of Republicans support higher taxes on the wealthy. Discussing the issue ad nauseum isn’t important because will make the assumption she isn’t going after fellow Democrats because they agree with her, and the result is nothing happens. Do you think the fast food protesters need to hear an argument about need for banking reform and accountability?

                      The first step to banking reform is the restoration of Glass-Steagall which was the law of the land for 70 years. Where is she on that?

                      Part of the reason you are facing such pushback for Saint Warren is you are making the same tired arguments about Hillary and Obama that were made in 2007. They were lame then and lame now. Lets demand action from Warren instead of anointing her savior, and yes, being a Republican for much of one’s adult life raises serious questions about someone’s basic values and dedication to an issue.

                    2. Lambert Strether

                      I take it that’s a No, albeit a prolix one?

                      * * *

                      Let me give you an example, and see if that helps. After Obama was nominated in 2008, he flip flopped on FISA “reform” in favor of granting retroactive immunity to the telcos for their role in Bush’s warrantless surveillance program. The “progressives” of that time — not as clearly part of the Democratic nomenklatura as they are today, for those who came in late — had made a serious and IMNSHO correct argument that Bush’s program was a serious expansion of executive power, and unconstutional was well. (It also involved multiple felonies, which is why the immunity.) In fact, they had been making this argument vociferously, for many many months.

                      So that was my gag limit; I couldn’t vote for Obama, the Constitutional law perfessor, let us remember, if he puked up constitutional principles and let major corporations off the hook for multiple felonies!

                      You, apparently, have no gag limit. That’s OK, I suppose, but it is a difference between us.

                      * * *

                      The episode was instructive also because:

                      1) It showed what Obama was made of; his flip flop on FISA reform foreshadowed the bailouts and the appointment of Tim Geithner.

                      2) It showed what “progressives” were made of; it’s all “any stick to beat a dog” with them; after making, again vociferously, a constitutional argument from princple, they went silent as soon as Obama flipped.

                      3) It showed what Democrats are made of, since Obama then went on to rationalize and consolidate and normalize and deepen every one of Bush’s power grabs, including, as Snowden shows, surveillance.

                    3. savedbyirony

                      (I’m not posting so much later for any nefarious reasons. i have simply not had the time or opportunity to reply before now.) This is where Warren is at with Glass-Steagall
                      http://www.warren.senate.gov/files/documents/21stCenturyGlassSteagall.pdf (Ok slam her for the media not covering this widely. We all know that is exactly what they and their owners want to do.)

                      Where are all the angry americans. For the most part, they are unorganzied and basically short of effective, well known leaders. Equating the situation of Obama and Warren so closely i disagree with, but I’m just going to leave that go mostly, except to say that I never expecting anything of populist substance from Obama. Looking at his behavior in the Senate and especially what i could find of substance from what he had said about economics and finance (outside of the campignin trail), i saw absolutley no reason to think he would do anything to reform banking or prosecute the crimes committed by Wall Street. But i do fault all those people who backed him and organized so well for his campaign. After he was in office, he basically said go on home and no need from now on to get involved; and THAT is what they for the most part did and we desperately needed not to happen (maybe not so much for the environmentalists). They needed to stay organized and active to put pressure on him. No where am i saying Warren is a saint or savior. I am clearly saying that without much larger public envolvement, no substantive banking reform will happen; and IF there is a much larger and organized public movement for such reforms, then Politicians are necessary to move legislation and that they will do so not necessarily because they are in favor of it but also for politically expedient reasons. Warren is in the Senate, she sits on the banking comittee, she has a public bully pulpit and a constituency who helped put her in power especially to deal with banking reform. Now, how do we capitalize on that and either help her or push her (depending on how one thinks of her true motives) to gain more political enfluence and opportunity to actually do so whether we favor her or not. I don’t support McCain, but i do think he as well should be a direct target of public pressure to re-instate glass-Steagall. Short of a revolution, i am at a loss as to how exectly people think we will ever actually see any of the changes we want to happen come about if people totally disengage from the politicians we have at hand.

            2. lambert strether

              Democrats will often give some members a pass to vote their consciences, if any, on certain votes, as long as their vote doesn’t affect the overall outcome. This is sometimes called the strategy of rotating heroes.

              The nice thing about a filibuster is that it would short circuit that nonsense.

              You did read my comment, right? The focus on policy outcomes? Words are wind, as they say in game of thrones.

      2. Waking Up

        Perhaps the endless speculation about Elizabeth Warren is a way to “introduce” her to the Democratic party at the national level. Other than her somewhat populace stance regarding the banks, for many years she was a Republican and her position on many policies is decidedly conservative. Yet, she is constantly called “progressive” in the media. If anything, I think she may be set up in the future as the so-called “progressive” in Hillary’s Vice Presidential selection.

        Bottom line, all the speculation is a way to bring Democrats back into the fold once again under false pretenses.

        1. savedbyirony

          I think it’s about: 1.) the press always wants to talk about “the race” not issues; 2.)they want us to think, “well next time it will be better, so if we can just hunkerdown and waite until then…” 3.)it’s a way to make it look like all her bank reforming talk is cynical, disingenuous, politicking, etc., etc. 4.)it’s a way to make it look like it’s about “politics” not actual reform, not tactical and stategic step-by-step building of power and momentum to actaully pass legislation and 5.)it does make, for now, good copy. But what people have to accept is that it’s NOT up to Warren or any other single politician to pass the banking reforms the vast amount of Americans (of both parties) want. She can be sincere or she can be a bald-face lier, but she is in power and she is preaching reform. Whether she means it or not, it is public outrage, non-cooperation and real pain brought onto the elites which will cause change, but we will need people in office who will act in refernce to this public pressure whether the actally favor it or not. Example. So what if JFK didn’t really favor the civil rights movement, he acted in ways that furthered it at times.

          (I have a serious question for folks here. Do you favor trying to capture the Dem. party for political reform or attempting to create a viable third party?)

          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            The Democratic Party is too rotten to be redeemed.

            Liz Warren is the perfect example. She spent a good portion of her adult life as a proud Republican, is an advocate of imperialism and the dismantlement of civil rights, and writes polite letters. She is the best Democratic Party has to offer, and she fails on numerous levels.

            Even now, the Democrats who promised to fix ACA later in 2010 just don’t seem to have any ideas on how to fix ACA except to plead for more time or outright lie.

            At the same time, what would the Democrats do to rebuild trust? There are simply too many members who voted for financial deregulation, rampant imperialism, and have overseen the growth of the MIC to be trusted with any responsibility.

            Elected Democrats didn’t stop the Syrian thuggery. Fear of the voters did, and the GOP woke up and saw an easy way to embarrass the White House which just expected the Obots and thugs in the GOP to embrace his call for killing foreigners.

            Can we really trust Pat Leahy, another one of the good ones? A noted proponent of the filibuster who couldn’t manage to organize one when Dubya was appointing Scalia and Roberts to the Supreme Court which is now used as a convenient for Democrats having a hard time in elections.

            The Senators from Oregon and Washington, Mikulski in Maryland, and maybe Gillenbrand considering relativity aren’t terrible. The House Caucus loyally votes with Nancy and the President.

            Words and vague promises of future actions and concerns aren’t sufficient (see Obama’s concerns wealth inequality from yesterday). Where are the alternative policies which are not borrowed from right wing think tanks? They aren’t coming from Democrats.

            Where are the mea culpas?

            Where are the lambs of Senators in good standing being offered up to appease the crowds?

            They don’t exist because the Democratic Party is rotten to its core. Demanding action from the outside might work. ADA, the last decent activity of the U.S. government, was not a project of partisans but outside groups. Bush’s efforts to privatize Social Security wasn’t stopped by Democratic outrage but by AARP concerned about losing membership dues.

          2. Waking Up

            Don’t you stop to wonder why someone who is “preaching reform” in the banking sector would then go on to vote FOR confirmation of Jack Lew, a former White House Chief of Staff, OMB Director and Citibank executive and Wall Street insider? A “reformer” would have said, this is just wrong and I’m not voting for him. That immediately raised doubts in my mind as to her real motives.

            As for the Democratic party, people have been trying for decades to “reform” from within without success. Money won and the Clintons, Third Way, and others representing corporate interests represent the Democratic party. I don’t know when a third party will take hold, but, I do know the Democratic and Republican parties do NOT represent the people in this country and the system is NOT working for the people.

            1. NotTimothyGeithner

              I partially blame a lack of standards.

              Maybe the question from us/me shouldn’t be about Warren’s commitment, but haven’t the other Senators rushed to write similar letters?

              Too many people will say, “I met Congressman, and he said he was really concerned about my problem and workin’ hard for us little folk,” and be impressed by what should be a minimum behavior of every member of the Democratic Party. Being mildly apprehensive about Wall Street is a winning issue which will bring raucous support.

          3. Lambert Strether

            One thing I’m not in favor of is false binary options, which legacy partisans are expert in creating FDR said:

            [T]he country demands bold, persistent experimentation. It is common sense to take a method and try it: If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something. T

            That’s what I’m in favor of.

            1) Split the Dems to allow emergent parties? Yes.

            2) Emergent parties? Yes.

            3) Non-partisan efforts like Occupy? Yes.

            4) Economic democracy a la co-ops? Yes.

            5) One big union a la the wobblies? Yes.

            6) Entirely parallel structures of governance? Yes.

            The political class is a sac of pus waiting to burst. We just need to find the right pin to prick it with. Experiment!

  12. Wendy

    speaking of banks being welfare queens, have you heard of this study showing 1/3 of all bank tellers rely on public assistance? heard it on NPR yesterday and can’t quickly find a link but for this HuffPo piece criticizing NPR’s take:


    This information reveals a whole new level of just how deep the rot, and the welfare, go, at our nations big banks.

    And not only do they pay poorly, but by doing so, they drag (push) down the labor market for everyone at every bank, and at every similar level job. Kinda thinking that this is a feature, not a bug.

  13. dow2long

    @DakotaBornKansan – re “The Republican Wing of the Democratic Party” I always thought Gore Vidal had it right when he said of Demos and Repugs: “One national party with two right wings.”

    Thanks Yves for this piece. Really a great analysis. I am going to soak in hopefulness for a little while. what a refreshing change.

    Of course, the banks sued the CFTC so they can spread the Whale worldwide. But that was yesterday.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      People need higher standards. Warren hasn’t done anything to take on the MOTUs. If she wanted to take on those punks, she would attack her fellow Democrats who take Wall Street’s money and actively work against the interests of the American people and world at large while demanding accolades for not being quite as hideous as the GOP.

      Its time for the Senator to use her popularity to shine the spotlight on her fellow Democrats who obediently carry out their actions but are never held accountable due to fear of the Red Team and solidarity from the Democratic elite. Until then, Warren is just another Democrat who is largely a stumbling block to real progress.

      1. danB

        Warren is my senator and I think that if she’s serious about these moves towards representing citizens and taking on the 1% it will lead her out of the Democratic Party.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          Yawn…this is the same faith-based delusions Democrats have made about Obama, Hillary, Teddy, Biden based on a few words.

          Demand she make a real change. She could announce her organization and fundraising name will never support any advocate or person who is not Why hasn’t she done this?

          I’m done with blind faith especially in former Republcans. I hate to break it to you, but Ted Kennedy was the chief co-sponsor of the 1973 HMO Act which ended the ban on for-profit medicine in this country. Yes, for all of Ted Kennedy’s blather, Teddy was one of the primary architects of the current healthcare structure.

          Why not demand more as a citizen?

          1. jhallc

            It’s easy to go down that road given the state of our political system. To paraphrase an ex Boston Celtics coach “The negativity in this town sucks! Teddy Roosevelt’s not walkin’ through that door, FDR’s not walkin’ through that door… Lary Bird’s not .. well you get the point. She’s what we got and yes, we should demand she walk the walk. She might only be around for a term or two at most anyway.

  14. LillithMc

    In CA Prop. 13 gave corporations a way to avoid having their property tax revalued upon sale like other property in CA. It means much commercial property is still valued at 1978 levels when the Proposition passed. Several years ago there was a movement to adjust this through another Proposition. The Third Way and other Corporate groups jumped on the issue by wanting permission to completely rewrite the California State Constitution. Major media loved them and also pushed the idea. Finally someone smelled a rat and the entire subject died. The Third Way and friends are the most slick and dangerous of all the corporate fronts because they are not tarred with right-wing connections, but are aligned with the global multi-national corporate interests. There is nothing about them that supports either democracy or the needs of American citizens.

  15. Charlie Henrickson

    The political writer Walter Karp convinced me that Roosevelt ably acted on behalf of his fellow aristocrats by delivering only the bare minimum of legislation necessary to keep the economy going. Unions were sanctioned, but they only prevented outright abuse and never truly advanced the cause of the working man. The current plight of the working woman and man is ample proof of that. Social Security is a pittance that nobody can live on, and there’s a maximum amount that can be taxed, so it’s a regressive tax – the rich guys made sure of that. I know this is heresy, but Karp makes a very convincing case against Roosevelt as a champion of the little guy. Liberals will respond that it was the best he could get, but I don’t believe it. If he got anything less, the economy would have completely collapsed. Even the oligarchs eventually realize that the worker has to have money to spend to keep the machine running. And he could have gotten more because most of the country was behind him, even the Congress. Calling the New Deal a raw deal may be overstating it a little, but it was certainly undercooked.

    I think the book is Indispensable Enemies.

  16. entirelyanonymous

    I find this whole thing a bit absurd. I expected so much more from Elizabeth Warren, to be honest.

    Watching her fawn over Janet Yellen was just about the last straw for me. The behavior of the Fed directly and most disadvantages the constituents that Warren purports to represent and fight for. And the beneficiaries? The folks bidding $120mm apartments in NYC. She’s not a dumb woman… she must clearly realize this.

    Her support for Mel Watt is the same. So Mel Watt gets appointed… what next? “Affordable Housing” and “Mortgage Availability” for everyone! Who is helped? The hedge funds and PE shops that get to flip out their REO-to-Rental houses at a profit. Who is hurt? Elizabeth Warren’s constituents that end up paying too much for a house.

    Its disgusting… just wish I could wipe my mind clean and not see it for what it truly is.

  17. Hugh

    Warren is an example of the revolving hero. She says a few good things, and we are all supposed to cheer. But we will only know that people like Warren or Krugman or Stiglitz are on our side when they have given up their Establishment connections, rejected their class and we meet in the trenches along side us.

    I frankly loved that headline: “Economic Populism is a Dead End for Democrats.” It just says so much about the twisted Orwellian nature of our political speech. The opposite of the elites are the people. The opposite of elitism is populism. Easy to see why then the elites treat populism as a nasty word. It is a synonym for “mob”, the unwashed, the rubes, us.

  18. Min

    “And from what I am told, neither side is willing to table the politically contentious issue of Social Security cuts in the form of chained CPI.”

    Unfortunately, “table” is ambiguous. Not sure what you mean here. :(

    1. Jackrabbit

      In this context, ‘table’ means: no longer consider/give consideration to.

      It is not ambiguous. I think the meaning is derived from how people act. If you are in a meeting and discussing a document, you are likely to hold it and flip the pages, etc. When you ‘table’ it, you put the document down. It doesn’t mean rejection, just no longer part of discussion/consideration.

      A synonym would be ‘put aside’.

  19. Collective Punishment

    Enjoy her while you can. Remember Lincoln Chaffee? Popular in the state his family owns and, like Warren, glinted integrity in the Senate. But after Chaffee’s criminal party got done looting and betraying the subject population, Chaffee got puked out with the rest of them in 2006. No hard feelings.

    Now Warren’s criminal party is almost done looting and betraying the subject population. The Dem president is holding people down so his corporate paymasters can peel off the remaining strips of flesh. Dem heads will roll in 2014, 2016 and 2018. Don’t be surprised if Warren gets shitcanned in turn. She will have the Dem stink.

  20. Francois T

    “Economic Populism is a Dead End for Democrats.”

    Is that so?

    Lemme suggest you a different interpretation:

    “Economic populism is the Rebirth of True Liberalism.”

    Yes Mr Cowan & Kessler: It also means a waterfall drop in fluence and power of your paymasters.

    Deal with it, for it’s only a matter of time.

  21. PaulArt

    90% Marginal Tax rates, 90% Estate Tax Rates, 40% Corporate Taxes strictly enforced with ALL loopholes closed. Once we get started on this then we make these 0.1% ba**tards busy, very busy huddling with their f**g accountants and tax advisers 24/7 on how to save their measly ill gotten gains. The only way to detox a selfish greedy Fat Cat is to strike fear in it’s heart about losing it’s treasure. Remember what Jesus Christ said, ‘where your treasure is, there will your heart be also’. Remember also the parable where a Fat Cat approaches Jesus and asks him about eternal life and Jesus challenges him to sell all his belongings, give it to the poor and then come and follow him and the Fat Cat immediately departed. The rich need to be struck at their most tender spot which happens to be their bank accounts. It is the ONLY way they learn. It WAS the only way that worked from 1945 – 1978 till those idiots Carter and Reagan turned up. Increasing marginal tax rates and estate taxes and closing all corporate tax loopholes are the the first step and a sine-qua-non, nay it is the enabler of all other reforms that need to be done. Taking their money away will weaken them and take away the megaphone they hold in their hands through which they shout down everyone else. Inequality can only be tackled with progressive taxation.

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