Elizabeth Warren: Remarks on Citigroup and its Bailout Provision in the Cromnibus Bill

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

The YouTube:

That’s the stuff to give the troops!

The transcript (via WaPo):

Mr. President, I’m back on the floor to talk about a dangerous provision that was slipped into a must-pass spending bill at the last minute to benefit Wall Street. This provision would repeal a rule called, and I’m quoting the title of the rule, “PROHIBITION AGAINST FEDERAL GOVERNMENT BAILOUTS OF SWAPS ENTITIES.”

On Wednesday, I came to the floor to talk to Democrats, asking them to strip this provision out of the omnibus bill and protect taxpayers.

On Thursday, I came to the floor to talk to Republicans. Republicans say they don’t like bailouts either. So I asked them to vote the way they talk. If they don’t like bailouts, then they could take out this provision that puts taxpayers right back on the hook for bailing out big banks.

Today, I’m coming to the floor not to talk about Democrats or Republicans, but about a third group that also wields tremendous power in Washington: Citigroup.

Mr. President, in recent years, many Wall Street institutions have exerted extraordinary influence in Washington’s corridors of power, but Citigroup has risen above the others. Its grip over economic policymaking in the executive branch is unprecedented. Consider a few examples:

  • Three of the last four Treasury Secretaries under Democratic presidents have had close Citigroup ties. The fourth was offered the CEO position at Citigroup, but turned it down.
  •  The Vice Chair of the Federal Reserve system is a Citigroup alum.
  • The Undersecretary for International Affairs at Treasury is a Citigroup alum.
  • The U.S. Trade Representative and the person nominated to be his deputy – who is currently an assistant secretary at Treasury – are Citigroup alums.
  • A recent chairman of the National Economic Council at the White House was a Citigroup alum.
  • Another recent Chairman of the Office of Management and Budget went to Citigroup immediately after leaving the White House.
  •  Another recent Chairman of the Office of Management of Budget and Management is also a Citi alum — but I’m double counting here because now he’s the Secretary of the Treasury.

That’s a lot of powerful people, all from one bank. But they aren’t Citigroup’s only source of power. Over the years, the company has spent millions of dollars on lobbying Congress and funding the political campaigns of its friends in the House and the Senate.

Citigroup has also spent millions trying to influence the political process in ways that are far more subtle—and hidden from public view. Last year, I wrote Citigroup and other big banks a letter asking them to disclose the amount of shareholder money they have been diverting to think tanks to influence public policy. Citigroup’s response to my letter? Stonewalling. A year has gone by, and Citigroup didn’t even acknowledge receiving the letter.

Citigroup has a lot of money, it spends a lot of money, and it uses that money to grow and consolidate a lot of power. And it pays off. Consider a couple facts.

Fact one: During the financial crisis, when all the support through TARP and from the FDIC and the Fed is added up, Citi received nearly half a trillion dollars in bailouts. That’s half a trillion with a “t.” That’s almost $140 billion more than the next biggest bank got.

Fact two: During Dodd-Frank, there was an amendment introduced by my colleague Senator Brown and Senator Kaufman that would have broken up Citigroup and the nation’s other largest banks. That amendment had bipartisan support, and it might have passed, but it ran into powerful opposition from an alliance between Wall Streeters on Wall Street and Wall Streeters who held powerful government jobs. They teamed up and blocked the move to break up the banks—and now Citi is bigger than ever.

The role that senior officials working in the Treasury department played in killing the amendment was not subtle: A senior Treasury official acknowledged it at the time in a background interview with New York Magazine. The official from Treasury said, and I’m quoting here, “If we’d been for it, it probably would have happened. But we weren’t, so it didn’t.” That’s power.

Mr. President, Democrats don’t like Wall Street bailouts. Republicans don’t like Wall Street bailouts. The American people are disgusted by Wall Street bailouts. And yet here we are — five years after Dodd-Frank – with Congress on the verge of ramming through a provision that would do nothing for middle class, do nothing for community banks – do nothing but raise the risk that taxpayers will have to bail out the biggest banks once again.

There’s a lot of talk lately about how the Dodd-Frank Act isn’t perfect. There’s a lot of talk coming from Citigroup about how the Dodd-Frank Act isn’t perfect.

So let me say this to anyone who is listening at Citi: I agree with you. Dodd-Frank isn’t perfect.

It should have broken you into pieces.

If this Congress is going to open up Dodd-Frank in the months ahead, let’s open it up to get tougher—not to create more bailout opportunities .

If we are going to open up Dodd-Frank, let’s open it up so that, once and for all, we end Too Big to Fail. And I mean let’s really end it – not just say we did.

Instead of passing laws that create new bailout opportunities for Too-Big-To-Fail banks, let’s pass Brown-Kaufman. Let’s pass the bipartisan 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act – a bill I’ve sponsored with John McCain, Angus King, and Maria Cantwell. Let’s pass something – anything – that would help break up these giant banks.

A century ago, Teddy Roosevelt was America’s trustbuster. He went after the giant trusts and monopolies in this country, and a lot of people talk about how those trusts deserved to be broken up because they had too much economic power. But Teddy Roosevelt said we should break them up because they had too much political power. Teddy Roosevelt said break them up because all that concentrated power threatened the very foundations of our democratic system.

And now we’re watching as Congress passes yet another provision that was written by lobbyists for the biggest recipient of bailout money in the history of the country. And it’s attached to a bill that needs to pass or else the entire federal government will grind to a halt.

Think about this kind of power. A financial institution has become so big and so powerful that it can hold the entire country hostage. That alone is a reason enough for us break them up. Enough is enough.

Enough is enough with Wall Street insiders getting key position after key position and the kind of cronyism we have seen in the executive branch. Enough is enough with Citigroup passing 11th hour deregulatory provisions that nobody takes ownership over but that everybody comes to regret. Enough is enough.

Washington already works really well for the billionaires and big corporations and the lawyers and lobbyists. But what about the families who lost their homes or their jobs or their retirement savings the last time Citi bet big on derivatives and lost? What about the families who are living paycheck to paycheck and saw their tax dollars go to bail Citi out just six years ago? We were sent here to fight for those families, and it’s time – it’s past time – for Washington to start working for them.

* * *

As we now know, Warren’s speech was for naught, at least in terms of legislative impact. The Boston Globe, from Warren’s home state, had this reaction:

WASHINGTON — Before she became a senator, Elizabeth Warren came to Capitol Hill and promised “plenty of blood and teeth left on the floor” if she did not get meaningful reforms of Wall Street. This week, she showed what she meant.

The Massachusetts Democrat brought Congress to the brink of yet another government shutdown in her effort to kill a provision that she said would have once again put taxpayers at risk of bailing out big banks. The provision was inserted by Republicans in a huge spending bill.

She appears to have lost the policy fight, but won a political battle.

By Friday morning, more than 300 former Obama aides had signed a letter urging her to run for president, joining overtures made by an increasing number of liberal groups, some of which are unhappy with front-runner Hillary Clinton. Warren said again Friday that she will not run.

“It’s not about rifts. It’s not politics,” Warren said in an interview, as she reiterated her now familiar argument that middle-class families are losing out to the billionaire class. “It’s about putting the issues forward.”

Frankly, I’m not certain that the support of 300 Obama aides is a good thing, given their track record. That said, is Warren “catching fire”? Will we look back on the Citigroup bailout provision fight — which might as well never have happened, from a legislative standpoint — as the spark that flamed into a Warren candidacy?

Or is it all kayfabe, with the Democrats faking left — and not that much to the left, either — because all their Blue Dog Republicans lost to real Republicans, and they “have no place to go”? And could it be that some players — perhaps Warren — are breaking kayfabe? These are, after all, interesting times. Readers?

NOTE Warren’s reference to “corridors of power” is interesting. Corridors of Power is the title of one novel in C.P. Snow’s series Strangers and Brothers which, among other things, chronicles Britain’s inexorable post-World War I imperial collapse, as seen through the eyes of a young man from the provinces in London, as he climbs the career ladder as a lawyer, then at Oxbridge, and finally in Whitehall.

In Corridors of Power, the hero is an advisor to a Conservative, Roger Quaife, who hopes to parlay a brilliant speech on why Britain should divest itself of nuclear weapons — Suez had convinced him of the inanity of Britain’s strategic position — into party leadership, and thence to the Prime Ministership. Quaife is undone by pressure from the right in America, resistance from his own back bench, and finally by a sex scandal — though taking strength from that relationship he throws the dice one last time in the hopes that the humane nuclear policy he has come to believe in might win through, despite the whip count.

In the end, Quaife’s failure is worse than predicted, and he resigns and leaves politics. On to Maggie Thatcher! There are many resonances, as you see, with contemporary American politics, and one wonders which — if any — Warren and/or her speechwriter had in mind using the phrase (and not for the first time).

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. participant-observer-observed

    Warren seems to be one of the few Democrats left to still believe she has sworn an oath to serve the public interest and her electorate. The only shadow is we know BHO used to talk like that when he was a senator, and look what happened!

    Meanwhile, political cartoons from even before this latest episode show the president shining Lloyd Blankfein’s shoes, while Eric Holder, when he isn’t having house guests from UN-indigted criminals of Wall St and CIA/Bush-Obama executive, has nothing to do but sit back to watch the KKK take over police forces across the usa.

    What a sad mess. But the public is also complicit. The public could make at least a symbolic run on Citicorp, if they closed all of their retail accounts in mass, or refused to pay taxes in the spring (a real tea party). But like every drug dealer needs a drug addict, so every pimp and john needs a prostitute (public) under domination. The karmic cycle will continue like Newton’s 2nd & 3rd laws, until this dynamic is given some radical outside intervention, and i pray it happens while there is a chance for it to remain nonviolent.

    However, one question: Could players from Russia or China (for example only, as msm favored boogeymen), exploit Wall St deregulation to deliberately attempt to crash the US economy? Ditto for the legalized insider trading?

    1. MartyH

      participant-observer-observedMs. Warren’s academic credentials are quite a bit more impressive than Mr. Obama’s. One worries about her long and successful career in Professorship of Law at such Elite Universities (University of Pennsylvania and Harvard) and the lingering results of such immersion. “Hope and Change 2.0”? Not what I’d be worried about. I’d be more worried that she’d run a William Jennings Bryant, George McGovern, Barry Goldwater firebrand style campaign, and scare the Babbits into voting for the Devil himself. I certainly respect both her intellect and her outrage on these issues. Her Massachussets victory shows she has political capabilities. Other than that, she has to emerge from her “specialty” more and show us what she believes about war, the contracts with the people (Bill of Rights, New Deal, the Healthcare pillaging, etc.) and Foreign Policy on a broader front.

      1. Participant-Observer-observed

        No matter any faults, she deserves credit for outing Citicorp into the public record, but will need to take of Dem party or ditch that dead horse wearing Jamie Dimon’s aftershave.

        If the list here at
        is up to date, Citicorp chair is KKK poster boy Donald Sperling/LA Clipper’s counsel!

        Here’s the full board listing (there is 1 token female). Wonder where they will “enjoying” their holidays?
        Name (Connections) Relationships Type of Board Members Primary Company Age
        Richard Parsons Esq., J.D. 335 Relationships Unit Chairman Los Angeles Clippers, Inc. 66
        Edward Kelly III 192 Relationships Member of the Board of Directors Corsair Capital LLC 60
        William Rhodes 229 Relationships Member of the Board of Directors Citigroup Inc. 78
        Samuel DiPiazza Jr. 180 Relationships Unit Vice Chairman ProAssurance Corporation 63
        Todd Thomson 67 Relationships Member of the Board of Directors Headwaters Capital LLC 52
        Marjorie Magner 50 Relationships Member of the Board of Directors Brysam Global Partners 65
        David Bushnell 28 Relationships Member of the Board of Directors Cordia Bancorp Inc. 59
        Alan MacDonald 190 Relationships Member of the Board of Directors Citigroup Inc. —
        Stephen Long 16 Relationships Member of the Board of Directors Citigroup Inc. 71
        Duncan Hennes 74 Relationships Member of the Board of Directors Atrevida Partners, LLC 58

  2. Ben Johannson

    Lambert, you know as well as anyone that nothing in Washington is as it appears. A politician staking out a place that can be called “liberal” is, as a general thing, of less than honest character. Warren wants to preside over Hope and Change 2.0, regardless of her denials.

    1. Code Name D

      This question must be asked – is this a fake turn to the left?

      As long as she is satisfied with giving these cozy little speeches on the floor of the senate, than my answer must remain yes, and that nothing will come of this.

      For me to take this Warren Revolt seriously, she needs to start breaking some rules. One is to stop giving kinds of speeches on the floor, she needs to go directly too you-tube where she can speak to a larger audience and without time constraint.

      She needs to start making demands. “Mr. President, stop appointing Wall-Street insiders to regulatory position.” Start naming qualified alternatives, “If I were in your position, I would appoint this person, or that person, or the other person. Look at there résumés. This is what competence looks like on paper.”

      One reason I would like to see her naming people now is so that she can present them as her cabinet members should she run for president – during her campaign for the office. Not leaving these as blank slates to be filled in later. This can also put pressure on other Senators running for election at the time. “If you win your race to the Senate, would you vote to affirm this person, that person, or the other person? And if not, why?”

      To be honest, I don’t think she has that sort of imagination. Even if she is sincere, how far could she possibly go if she sticks to the same script?

    2. Yves Smith

      She declared war on the Rubin/Hamilton Party faction in the Democratic party, which has run its finance and economics policy for over 20 years. That’s significant. She can do that because she personally is a big fundraiser despite saying bad things about Big Finance pretty much every time she can. And her hammering on bank abuses is keeping media attention on this topic (as someone who covers this beat, I can tell you it had receded from MSM attention and the famed political “conversation” until she started stirring the pot). But the question is how many other pols can take that position and raise enough dough to be viable?

      1. Paul Niemi

        I think if I were her, I might best utilize the volunteers lining up to take over the Democratic party convention in 2016 and own the platform. When I saw that Nancy Pelosi had sided with Warren openly, against the White House, the thought struck me that she could do it. There is a real problem when 57 Democrats in the House vote to put the taxpayers on the hook for more big bank derivatives gambling, despite Pelosi’s opposition. There was no need for a slam. Both houses were willing to support short-term continuing resolutions, giving opportunity to remove the giveaway language. Harry Reid is finally exposed on this. Yuck. Well, if the slam indicates anything, I think it is that the next financial crisis is on the way, and the big banks are in real trouble. They think they need to put at risk their depositors’ funds.

        1. Participant-Observer-observed

          Bartlett Naylor, the financial policy advocate for Public Citizen who previously served as chief of investigations for the U.S. Senate Banking Committee explained (@~8 min) this morning on Background Briefing,

          Dem negotiator (c/o Pelosi?) was running around doing the Jamie Dimon’s c/o president’s bidding but then ultimately voted against it herself, after brief caucusing.

          Hardly a fight. If it was GOP, they would never have let this go. I’m not Dem or GOP (Freedom & Justice Party/independent), but the failure to uphold oath of office to serve public, to let Congress pass legislation written by unelected private corporation Citicorp, is the craven dereliction of duty.

      2. James Cole

        Better parliamentarians than I am may have an answer to this but why didn’t Warren filibuster the bill?

          1. James Cole

            Certainly, Reid can not have invoked cloture before she had the floor (obviously, because then she would not have gotten the floor) so at that point she could have threatened to filibuster at least. And the fact that there were not 4 or 5 Democrats who would have blocked cloture on this point is in itself really pathetic.

      3. ErnstThalmann

        How significant do you consider her failure to declare war on AIPAC ownership of Congressional opinion – her own included – concerning the genocidal Israeli attacks on Gaza a few months ago? How much would Goldman, Sachs or Citibank need to contribute to a future political campaign of her’s in order to get her to shut her mouth about bank regulation? From the facts, it would seem that something like $80,000 might do it. One shudders to think about the kind of salvation offered by Elizabeth Warren when she couldn’t raise her voice against the deliberate slaughter of Palestinian children when asked. Seeing her actually run away from the reporter that raised the question of her attitude toward that savagery said all I needed to hear about this hack’s integrity. We’ve managed to get absolutely nowhere in controlling the banks with Warren as our alleged “progressive” leader over the last several years. How “viable” is that?

        1. Doug Terpstra

          Yup, Warren’s uncritical support for Israel and its crimes is a dealbreaker. AIPAC has completely captured both major parties.

        2. Terez

          When I first started looking into whether Warren would make a good 2016 candidate, I went to her website to read more about her views. The Israel page made me want to barf. I suspect, however, that her beliefs on this are not very strong and that it’s all about what her voters expect of her. Furthermore, her position is not all that different from other potential 2016 candidates. I have thought for a long time that Russ Feingold would be the ideal VP choice for Warren; he has experience in all the areas where she is lacking, and his presence on her ticket might give her the liberty to moderate evolve on her Israel position somewhat, assuming she would want to do such a thing. I think it’s likely she would, though; Jews are a significant bloc in MA.

          1. ErnstThalmann

            Yeah, her views on Israel want to make you barf alright. When someone needs the “liberty” to evolve their views on ethnic cleansing and genocide, they’re a pretty poor expression of civilized humanity, I’d say. And I wouldn’t call pandering the equivalent of moral courage either. Warren is nothing more or less than an updated version of the same kind of hustle progressives got with DNC trojan horse, Obama, in 2008. Haven’t you had enough bailouts and drones?

            1. Terez

              Sure, most of us have had enough. But what are our real options here? For that matter, what are hers? Is she a poor expression of civilized humanity, or simply a reflection of her constituency? As Yves said below, she takes the expected positions on issues outside of her wheelhouse. If she hadn’t done so, she probably wouldn’t have been elected.

    3. readerOfTeaLeaves

      Before snarking about Sen Warren, perhaps you should take the time to read her book “The Two Income Trap.” It’s a fantastic read, and assembles a breathtaking number of statistics, while telling true stories about American families who worked hard and still got screwed by circumstances completely beyond their control.

      One of the more telling incidents she relates in that book is when she describes giving a presentation on Wall Street to bank execs. Basically, IIRC, she was trying to tell them, ‘You’re killing your own businesses by putting people deeper into debt they can’t afford.” But after her presentation, one bank exec sat back in his chair, looked at her (as if she was completely naive), and said, “But that’s where the money is.” IOW, the shittier the credit records of Americans, the more we can squeeze them by charging them higher rates. And the more we can squeeze them, the more money we make.

      Look at what’s happened in the US the past 30 years, for all kinds of reasons (including the tax code, political corruption, neoliberalism): debt has become commodified and interest on debt has become incredibly profitable for a smaller and smaller portion of the population.

      Warren speaks powerfully, because she’s done the research and assembled the statistics to understand what’s actually gone off the rails in the US economy the past few decades. Obama did nothing close to the quality of research that Warren conducted, nor did he ever have an idea for a ‘Consumer Credit’ agency at the federal level before he ran for office. Don’t conflate Warren with Obama; it’s a false analogy.

      1. Yves Smith

        I have to agree. The underlying Harvard Bankruptcy Project is one of the best pieces of social science research I’ve seen. She has IIRC something like 70 pages at the end of Two Income Trap not meant for the mainstream reader describing methodology. They did both extensive data analysis and a lot of qualitative research, as in interviews.

      2. Participant-Observer-observed

        I want to hope it is true; so far, evidence is in Warren’s favor, and she has light years’ more enlightenment esteem than the Clintons. But it remains a fact that Obama has undermined the credibility of the whole party and everyone who might stand under its flag, by talking like Warren while he was in the senate, and when on the stump, and then casting that all to the wind in order to take orders from Jamie Dimon.

        We need to face this fact going ahead, because lack of confidence in the content and process of that party is gone, and Warren will need to overcome that. As Yves said, it remains to be seen who else has the wherewithall to stand up to Wall St. The .01% so-called progressives voices (and dollars) also are notably absent throughout this spectacle. I wonder how the topic will go during the holiday dinner parties.

        Warren and Nader (left-right alliance) are correct that any reform will have to be a bi-partisan effort..the cancer is already metastasized in both legacy parties. That is why I was asking about the national security angle to this.

  3. Working Class Nero

    This anti-Wall Street rhetoric from Elizabeth Warren could really catch on. I saw a right-leaning site singing her praises with the comment – “Who knew – the politician with the biggest balls is a 65 year old 5′ 8″ woman from Massachusetts.”

    Which leads me to believe she could be a serious threat to the US political establishment by doing a “Marine Le Pen – lite” and running as an independent against the two legacy parties. Staying with the Democrats is useless as she will indeed only be an anti-Wall Street hood ornament on a rabidly Pro-Wall Street political bulldozer. The key is to be left-leaning on economic issues and right-leaning (or neutral) on social issues. For example her platform would be:

    –Bringing to justice Wall Street criminals and crushing the power of the banks.

    –Anti-free trade

    –Pro enforcement of immigration laws particularly involving the employment of illegal immigrants.

    –America First foreign policy (except naval), climbing down from Empiire, with explicit references to ending the unnatural relationship between the US and Israel.

    –Studied ambiguity on divisive social issues.

    –Increased taxes on the wealthy (unfortunately the idea of balanced budgets and runaway debt are too ingrained in the US electorate to be overturned by EW alone).

    –only accept contributions from individuals (not that any corporations or PAC’s will want to contribute to her anyway).

    If Elizabeth Warren ran on this platform as an Independent she would do exceedingly well. She might not win, but she would more importantly start the process of creating a new opposition party and by doing so push the two legacy parties to join forces against her. In the end there could be a restructuring of the US political map in a similar was to how in France the two legacy parties are increasingly aligned against the National Front.

    One huge advantage Elizabeth Warren has is none of the ugly baggage from her father’s past that Marine Le Pen carries around with her. But it is a great joy to watch Marine Le Pen destroy the various representatives of the two mainsteam parties on French news shows. Elizabeth Warren would have similar a field day against for example Hilary Clinton and Jeb Bush should they get their parties nominations. She would make the “debates” actually become real debates.

    1. Katniss Everdeen

      ” She would make the “debates” actually become real debates.”

      IF she were allowed to participate, which she would not be. The purpose of the “debates” is to define positions and legitimize restricted choices. They made the mistake of allowing a third voice with Ross Perot and won’t make it again.

      Especially now, and especially with Elizabeth Warren.

      1. James

        I agree. She can be tolerated as harmless entertainment for the time being, especially as she has the Tea Party as a political counterweight. Should she somehow get traction however, the hounds would be unleashed. But I like what she said here anyway, and it no doubt took a huge amount of courage just to get up and say this. Kudos to Warren!

        1. Bridget

          Counterweight? Au contraire, the Tea Party deplores government bailouts. Too bad she excoriated them for their willingness to shut down the government, because that is exactly what she should be trying to do. And she should publicly call on Ted Cruz to step
          Up to the plate with her.

          1. Yves Smith

            Oh, please. They’ve been nowhere to be found in the debate over weakening Dodd Frank which is ongoing. They show up for the occasional photo op on “no bailouts” but are otherwise all on board for re-deregulating banks (not that they were re-regulated all that much).

            1. Bridget

              That’s exactly why she should call Cruz out on this issue. He and the others who were elected in 2010, in part due to fury over bailouts, need a reminder.

              1. James

                Yep, I agree with that! But let’s be real, Teddy marches to a different beat altogether. He is well paid for putting on his little show. Just might be a Prez or VP in it for him one day soon.

      2. John

        By the 2016 presidential debates TTP and TTIP will be passed by the Republicans and signed by Obama.
        She can make all the noise she wants, with the people behind her, it won’t make any difference.

    2. wbgonne

      So let me say this to anyone who is listening at Citi: I agree with you. Dodd-Frank isn’t perfect.

      It should have broken you into pieces.

      And that’s how you do it when you want to win. You attack. You don’t apologize. You don’t obfuscate. You don’t wonk out. Elizabeth Warren is terrific, no doubt, but to what effect? We’ll soon see. I still think she either throws her hat in the ring and takes control of the Democratic Party or she will be the Democrats’ progressive hood ornament, another shiny object like Obama to fool the rubes just one more time into thinking that the Democratic Party is really truly on their side. She should heed the words of someone who understood how American politics really works:

      I seen my opportunities and I took ’em.

      — George Plunkitt

      Warren’s moment is now.

      1. James

        It should have broken you into pieces.

        That was indeed a pretty ballsy declarative statement. Let’s see if there’s any fallout.

      2. ErnstThalmann

        Yeah, she was really something to watch as she ran away from a reporter asking her about the savagery of Israel’s attacks on Gaza a couple of months ago. Now there’s progressive leadership for you.

    3. bh2

      Warren may have the balls (as did Perot) to press for change, but Congress has the purse-strings.

      Warren’s quite right that many members of both parties hate what’s been happening. And remember it was the leftist Democrat, Ms. Pelosi, who publicly hectored Republican members opposing the absurd bank bailout by claiming voting for it was the “patriotic” thing to do. Just another proof that “patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel”. However, in spite of cheering on the transfer of massive wealth to the few from the many, she remains uncontested House party leader and a reliable apparatchik in service of big donors.

      Where’s the actionable response from the left to remove her for abetting that crime?


      Laws passed by Congress are those duly bought and paid for by organizations dispensing piles of money (perhaps sweetened by implied promises of future board memberships, subject to good behavior) as career protection for the perpetual political class in charge, regardless of party. (Being in the same club is what matters, not which table you sit at.)

      Naive (cynical?) people who promote the transparent charade that a majority of members in either major party obeys more noble “principles” than members of the other is risible. Both parties obey only a single principle: get elected and stay elected — whatever it takes. Voting behavior by most members is far more aligned to their own personal gain than anything to do with superficial party “principles” or adherence to fundamental law.

      In the present instance, there’s an interesting follow-the-money graphic by WaPo (posted at Zero Hedge) demonstrating how very little did political party affiliation influence congressional members’ votes on the budget bill: http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-12-13/democrats-who-voted-cromnibus-received-double-money-wall-street-no-voters But it seems bucket-loads of money from the usual suspects surely had an impact. As others have said, we have the best damn government money can buy.

      Warren may be the best thing since sliced toast, but it won’t matter as long as laws are blatantly and routinely rigged to serve plainly corrupt ends, financial or political. It can be no surprise that corrupt governments generate corrupt consequences.

      E.g., when congress-critters legally permit themselves the astonishing privilege to use insider knowledge of legislation and industry information to front-run their personal investments, is it likely they worry whether you or yours are being systematically screwed by the very same hands so generously feeding them?

      If Warren plans to go up against Hillary, she may also want to top up her life insurance in advance.

      1. cwaltz

        Warren and Hillary LIKE each other. I don’t expect Warren to run unless Hillary decides against running. It doesn’t surprise me that they respect each other since they are somewhat similar. Hillary’s domestic policy made far more sense to me then Obama’s in 2008.

        Despite liking both these women I really don’t see myself voting for them though as long as they are veal penned. The reality is I would have had way more respect for Clinton had she insisted on a floor fight in 2008 instead of deserting her voters and taking her place in an administration that had likened her foreign policy experience to tea parties(disclosure- foreign policy was the one area I actually preferred the then less hawkish Obama.)

        1. bh2

          “Warren and Hillary LIKE each other.”

          The Clintons politics are utterly utilitarian and there is precious little evidence that a person either of them “likes” won’t be trashed and thrown under the bus if it’s politically expedient. (Ask Monica.)

          As some wit commented about the Clintons: “they’ll always be there when they need you most.”

    4. ran

      She vigorously defended Israel’s latest mass murder spree in Gaza.

      No way she’s going to do or say anything about the US’s despicable enabling of Israel that AIPAC would disapprove of.

      1. Working Class Nero

        I’m well aware of her support for Israel which is why I explicitly mentioned she has to rectify this position. That support is also why she must leave the Democratic Party. The simple fact is that you cannot fundraise as a Democrat without taking a pro-Israeli position. Mathew Iglesias (who I’m no fan of) explains it well via the link below:


        So my (perhaps generous) take is that her position on Israel is a result of realpolitik concerning the need to fundraise and not some deeply held position she feels strongly about. Beggars cannot be choosers so I am willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. For EW to be considered serious she needs to dump the Democrats and dump Israel just like she has already dumped Wall Street in a very unequivocal manner. All of these moves are or will be hugely popular with people who vote. She needs to work with heterodox foreign policy experts and develop a limited, America First-type foreign policy. This too will be exceedingly popular with everyone except our elites.

        The absurdity is that the only reason a politician really needs to fundraise is to get further away from what is in the interests of the voters she is courting. The easiest thing in the world to do is run on what is best for the people. What money does is stretch a politician like a guitar string away from what is in the people’s interest and towards whatever special interest is footing the bill. The key is for Big Money to control both parties so that neither party “cheats” and starts creeping back towards “populist” policies that the people might actually appreciate. So in a rare case of a virtuous circle — the less a politician fundraises, the less a politician needs to take positions that would actually make her need to fundraise.

        And that is where EW could be a serious threat to the powers that be. She could break away from the false constraints and become free to scoop up all that easy political capital just sitting there on the streets waiting for some politician unconstrained by Big Money to come by and take.

        And one thing I forgot in my first comment was that on health care she should run against ObamaCare and instead call for at the very least instituting a public option with a buy-in to Medicare for all.

        1. Yves Smith

          My suspicion is it isn’t quite as Machiavellian but gets you to the same place.

          Warren is a technocrat and is data/fact driven. She reversed her views on bankruptcy and banking based on the Harvard Bankruptcy Project, which she led. Her populism doesn’t come out of populist instincts, it comes out of seeing a big problem with large scale societal impact and no one doing anything about it. But witness the CFPB, she believes in regulation to make markets work better. The first speech I saw her give (before her stint at the Congressional Oversight Panel) made me cringe because she started with a long discussion of how she loved markets. But she also stressed she believed in contracts, and you can’t have commerce work if contracts are one-sided or duplicitous.

          Basically, outside the beat where she has expertise, she defers to the Democratic party orthodox position. My guess is that that is the result of her not having done what she considers to be sufficient work (or found an independent-minded expert she trusts) to take a different stance.

          1. wbgonne

            Basically, outside the beat where she has expertise, she defers to the Democratic party orthodox position. My guess is that that is the result of her not having done what she considers to be sufficient work (or found an independent-minded expert she trusts) to take a different stance.

            I tentatively concur. Have we heard anything from Warren re: Middle East policy since her Israel trip that suggests she has altered her views?

    5. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

      Unfortunately, instead, we will sleepwalk to a Hitlery presidency, informed by the Rubin Politboro, supported all the way by Rupert and Goldman, after a brief Kabuki with Warren as the *arrogato* (superhero) who then makes a stylized *roppo* (exit). The only remaining question is what color shirts the Hitlery minions will wear, my money is on brown.

      1. hunkerdown

        Nah, not brown. The creative class wouldn’t have it — not fabulous nor innovative enough, so no work for them in it. The creative class pulling the levers for them are more interested in a “color revolution”, forgive the pun.

        1. Chris

          11th dimensional chess move: Warren switches back to Republican Party and runs for prez on the Republican ticket, leading to a Warren(R) v. Hillary(D) general election showdown.

  4. Doug Terpstra

    Elizabeth Warren is a voice crying in a bleak and desolate wilderness. But what a voice. Barack Obama too once tickled the ears like that before he became a noisy gong and clanging cymball.

    1. TheraP

      You described it accurately: A Prophetic Voice!

      Much as I’d love her to run, I suspect she’d have to compromise too much to win.

      I’d rather see her continue to issue these clarion calls.

      Her forte is finance, however. Not foreign policy. She should stick to the firm ground where her values and her voice are aligned, where any objections can easily be demolished by her breadth of knowledge and her passionate ability to cut through the right-wing nonsensical assertions which substitute for wisdom.

      1. Participant-Observer-observed

        It is part of the kabuki to shop foreign policy as separate from environmental policy as separate from finance & monetary policy.

        This was well documented by our best filmmakers with respect to Syria in Years of Living Dangerously.

      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        “Prophetic.” Please. We had the religious stuff with Obama already; I vividly rememember one long-ago commenter calling him a Boddhisattava. We don’t need to do the same thing twice.

  5. MikeNY

    Ms Warren spoke the truth. THAT is the way to shine the light on the cockroaches of corruption.

    It’s an interesting moment, with people taking to the streets over police bias, and a growing rift in the Democratic party over centrism v populism. We will inevitably have a real political earthquake in this country. What can’t go on forever, won’t. I hope it doesn’t come too late.

    1. ErnstThalmann

      How do you shine the light on the cockroaches of corruption when you’re bought with roughly $80,000 of AIPAC money? Not very easily, I’m afraid.

  6. nat scientist

    Who didn’t start the National Bank Party?
    That’s the one that requires a US National Bank of No Derivatives and open accounting, that all crony bankers fear worse than the reality of working for an essential utility.

  7. James

    So far so good. I’ll continue to take a wait and see attitude toward Warren. But if all she says here is true, you can rest assured she’ll be targeted by big money for marginalization/elimination unless she can somehow establish a broad-based coalition of some sort. Everything she’s talking about here goes much, much deeper and wider. The financial cancer won’t be eliminated that easy.

    1. Brooklin Bridge

      I’ve slowly changed my mind and now tentatively feel that Warren may be effective. There is something sincere about her that I never felt regarding Obama. But regarding a run for President, I agree that her battle would be progressively up hill if and as the threat she poses becomes more apparent. But she is not Obama. If somehow she managed, and still sold out, it would likely be in a different way than Obama who was a sell out long before he ever ran.

      As has been pointed out, she is a conservative on many issues. So that would be yet another element of her make up that could be used by powerful forces to dilute the effectiveness of her term. Then again, perhaps it would protect her at some level – after all conservatism doesn’t have to equal rotten to the core and more than does liberalism. But when it comes to the real levers of power, there are few game changing surprises anymore, if indeed there ever were in the past.

      1. NOTaREALmerican

        She can’t be effective as part of the Red & Blue Tag Team, but she can regenerate the Hopium needed for the Blue Team true-believers to vote again.

        I have hope the Blue Team true-believers will continue to believe.

        1. Brooklin Bridge

          It’s very unlikely I will be voting blue again, ever. Even for Warren though that would be a tough call. To me, the party is dead. It’s as rotten as a log that crumbles into moist brown earth in your hand when you grab it and Warren would be better to use it for fertilizer and run as something else.

          Effective may have been a poor choice of words. I meant it in a relative sense. I don’t think that Warren or anyone else for that matter could do all that much even as president. There is no room for FDR’s at this point in time.

          But financial fair play and accountability is no small matter. If she were consistent and carried her current battle right into the WH, even if that meant being restricted as current presidents tend to be particularly if anthing in thier agenda goes even faintly contrary to the wishes of TPTB, there would nevertheless be no telling what sort of ripple effect(s) her administration might have.

  8. cnchal

    And now we’re watching as Congress passes yet another provision that was written by lobbyists for the biggest recipient of bailout money in the history of the country. And it’s attached to a bill that needs to pass or else the entire federal government will grind to a halt.

    Think about this kind of power. A financial institution has become so big and so powerful that it can hold the entire country hostage. That alone is a reason enough for us break them up. Enough is enough.

    “Corridors of power” are now the corridors of corruption and criminality.

  9. SamAdams

    With the fall of oil prices, the banksters are staring down the barrel of thier derivative bullet. The provision is needed if the price of oil continues or dropped further and contract need to be paid. The undercapitalized banksters can’t cover thier bets.

    1. readerOfTeaLeaves

      Wolf Richter has done some good posts about this very topic.
      And it needs a lot more attention, as it seems ‘there will be blood’.

  10. Banger

    Frankly, I’m not certain that the support of 300 Obama aides is a good thing, given their track record.

    I can sympathize with that sentiment–however, I think it is a VERY GOOD thing. People who have been at the edge of power understand what kind of a fist fight it is and know the ropes and anyone who is a WH aide knows that they are fighting every day among lots of interests–if you haven’t experienced that sort of fight you are at disadvantage. If I go into a fight I want some guys I know can handle themselves and not pee in their pants in front of some big bruiser on the other side.

    Warren is a fucking miracle. She comes into that corrupt den of vipers and speaks the truth–whether she does anything substantial or not that is a major achievement in itself and could signal a cascading series of events that would shake Washington to its roots. The whole thing is teetering on so many lies and the most corruption we have seen in U.S. history that with social media and everything ready to explode the whole edifice could come tumbling down or at least major portions of it. Let me tell you what speeches like the one she gave mean. It forces the media to take note–she is a Senator and they have to make a choice–do we silence her while, at the same time, giving people like McCain the ability to spread their filth? Reporters are corrupt also but they are human beings who, in the main, want to be honest (I’ve known reporters and editors in the MSM) but generally have little wiggle-room because of the tyranny of the Narrative that must be conformed to. But this issue lies at the edges of what is allowed and reporters and editors can push that edge out more and they will if they see what they consider “serious” people like WH aides beginning to connect with her and their networks (all WH aides have extensive networks in media, in academia, in the corporate world, and so on.

    If you start seeing more coverage of Warren then you will know that some heavy-hitters are pulling in her direction. Even for the ruling elites a broken Washington, in the long-run could be dangerous to their interests and not all oligarchs have the same interests so if they feel their little kingdoms are shaking they will run to someone who has popular support and Warren could have it if the MSM was at least neutral and open to what she has to say.

    1. James

      Warren is a fucking miracle.

      Actually, she’s not. She’s just one person that has the audacity to see and speak the truth to power. What’s more miraculous is that we ever let it come to this in the first place, and what will be much more miraculous still is if her words here are heeded and followed up on and we begin to root out the nest of vipers running things now. But then again, I don’t believe in miracles, so I’m not expecting that to happen anytime soon. Organized crime doesn’t care if you document and identify their activity. Hell, they’re proud of that! They didn’t get to be in positions of power by playing small ball with a handful of impudent regulators and politicians, and it’ll take a lot more than a little outrage from a handful of liberal activists and politicians to root them out.

      1. Banger

        I do believe in miracles I’ve experienced them in major and minor ways. Odd stuff happens. In terms of our politics I refer to Chris Hedges excellent reminder that no one knew that the events happening before the fall of the Berlin Wall would be happening as fast and as thoroughly as they did–the same could happen now–so we keep the faith. Great movements of history turn over the petty criminals and, eventually, a new class of criminals evolve–but, in the meantime, we may get some breathing room.

      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        I think a fucking miracle would also have pointed out that the same FIRE sector that’s benefiting from the derivatives provision is also benefitting from gutting ERISA, so that existing pensions can be cut. *** crickets *** from the Democratic leadership on this — and that’s going to have far greater direct impact on people’s lives than the derivatives provision.

  11. zadoofkaFlorida

    to working class nero:

    Don’t you remember they wouldn’t let Ross Perot participate in final debates because he was of neither party?
    That’s why I voted for hum.

  12. Jim Haygood

    ‘During the financial crisis, when all the support through TARP and from the FDIC and the Fed is added up, Citi received nearly half a trillion dollars in bailouts. That’s half a trillion with a “t.” That’s almost $140 billion more than the next biggest bank got.’

    Half a century ago, Citibank was regarded as the most dynamic and innovative money center (New York) bank. Its former chairman Walter Wriston was the most influential commercial banker in the US. Wriston played a prominent role in shaping policy during the first and second oil shocks of the 1970s.

    But Citi had already passed its high water mark by then, commencing a long slide into mediocrity and dependency on corporate welfare. From Nov. 1968 when Citi was listed on the NYSE (banks used to be traded over the counter) to Nov. 2014, Citi’s various corporate incarnations have delivered a total return to common stockholders of 5.55%.

    Coincidentally, the return on 3-month T-bills over that same 46 years was 5.60%. Within a small rounding error, Citigroup could be fairly described as a high risk, zero excess return investment.

    What do you call the incompetent clowns who manage Citibank, as they blunder along on their government-issued crutches? LOSERS.

    1. bh2

      You are mistaken. The people who run the big banks are never losers, personally. They always receive fat salaries and enormous bonuses, regardless of criminal prosecutions, fines paid for wrongdoing, or earnings performance on behalf of stockholders.

      They often get appointed as Sec’y of the Treasury or some lesser government post which allows them to manipulate from within the government rather than only from outside.

      Losers? Oh, no. They are the only assured winners, aren’t they?

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        A lot of this debate is predicated on the conventional “power pyramid” we are all taught. Government at the top, passing the law of the land on behalf of the people it governs. Next layer down is corporations, including banks, that must obey these laws.
        In reality the actual pyramid has banks at the very top, directing governments at each step as they do their work. The simplest examples to understand are Citi, who routinely pens the actual language of the laws that government then foists on the population, and the ECB. When Berlusconi in Italy got uppity and resisted what the bankers wanted next, he was summarily removed and Mario Monti, straight from Goldman, was installed as Prime Minister. For those who don’t recall, what they said was “now is not the time for elections, now is the time for actions”. Italy’s sovereignty as a nation and her people’s right to have a say in their governance were directly subordinated to the banks.
        The other obvious example was Hank Paulson, suicide banker, who showed up at Congress with a 3-page ultimatum strapped to him: “give me $700 billion today or I will blow up the entire financial system”.
        So let’s see this all through the right lens, fooling around at the “government layer” is pretty pointless. The issue is the legitimacy of the entire system, blustering around at the “Kabuki” layer is just how they want us to waste our energy.

        1. James

          Excellent points! And legitimacy? Don’t get me started. We flushed that sometime back now in favor of mere authority.

      2. Participant-Observer-observed

        As a colleague relayed to me yesterday in deliberating to turn down a post-doc offer from harvard, (Citing someone currently there):

        “Harvard has everything money can buy. But what money cannot buy, it lacks.” (It also has plenty one would not want to buy)

        The money, fame, power, are what in Buddhism are called the “worldy dharmas.” That ultimately is what we are mourning here, the lack of vision beyond selfish personal gain, and betrayal of oath of office to serve the public, for the same.

        It is a good response for us to consider how to replace this content and process with something more enlightened, or at least not incompetent dereliction of duty.

  13. TG

    Love this column – yes, the reference to “Kayfabe”: politics is now scripted, like pro-wrestling but without the muscles.

    I admit that so far Elizabeth Warren looks good – but. I recall that not so long ago the country was sick to death of Dubya, and Obama told us al that we wanted to hear. And it was all of it fake.

    Now the country is sick to death of Obama’s Potemkin liberalism, and here comes Warren saying what we want to hear. I don’t know if this is another con, but there are some danger signs. 1. Team Obama likes her. 2. The corporate press likes her (and has not ignored her or slandered her as a quixotic egotist). 3. She talks good, but has never actually managed to do anything to inconvenience Wall Street.

    Always beware of politicians telling you what you want to hear. Always beware of politicians that somehow never actually manage to do anything to help you, but have only excuses. ‘It’s too hard’ ‘the Republicans won’t let me’ ‘It’s not the right time’ etc. Maybe. Or maybe it’s all kayfabe. Hard to tell nowadays, isn’t it?

    1. James

      I think she’s the real deal alright, I just don’t know if she can attract enough like minded truly courageous people – if indeed such people even exist anymore! – to go along with her to make a difference. And even if she did, I would envision any prospective “movement” of that sort to get co-opted and neutered somewhere along the way.

      1. readerOfTeaLeaves

        Having read her ‘The Two-Income Trap’, which IMVHO is quite an intellectual achievement , Sen. Elizabeth Warren is as real a deal as we’re ever going to see.

        I highly recommend that book – she weaves the stories of individual Americans and their families who – through illness, layoffs, or other incidents completely beyond their control – ended up in deep financial distress. By her own admission, she set out expecting to encounter ‘deadbeats’, and instead — to her surprise and deep alarm — found decent, incredibly hard-working parents who because of forces beyond their control, had their credit ruined and often lost their homes. You can see where her outrage stems from — the people that she describes who got sidewise of the banks tried valiantly to do everything right. And they still ended up screwed. The larger economic and social and political forces are stacked against them, and she documents how and why. It’s an amazing read.

        In that book, she also tells about giving a presentation to some bank execs on Wall Street – trying to show them the impact of their policies on the lives (and livelihoods) of millions of Americans. People get into trouble, and their credit scores drop. Their credit scores drop, and banks can charge them higher interest… et cetera.

        She describes how – following her presentation – a bank exec sort of shrugged off her data, and told her, “But that’s where the money is.” I interpreted that section of the book roughly as, “Listen up, Prof. Liz Warren: my business model IS putting people into debt, and the worse debt they are in, the more I make. So don’t f*ck with my business model.”

        So I’d argue that Sen Warren is ‘f*cking with the banks’ business model’, and I hope they are pretty threatened by her. (FWIW, my personal reaction is: Game On, you self-absorbed, greedy assholes ;-))

        By ‘forcing’ that derivative clause into a federal budget, the banks did several things that have yet to play out:
        1. They overreached, which is stupid.
        2. Their overreaching showed that they have no principles, no sense of limits, and that they believe that they are entitled to whatever they want, all of which is almost entertainingly stupid.
        3. I’d argue that they gave a ‘tell’: they revealed that without government backstopping, they don’t actually have a functioning business model. (Mwhahahaha ;-)
        4. They reinforced the fact that they have no qualms whatsoever about letting the rest of us — yet again! — clean up their gambling losses. By doing that, they’ve set Nemesis in motion. Some might call her Lady Karma, and in my experience she is one diabolically clever, ironic bitch ;-)

        If the banks are crowing over a victory today, they’re very stupid.
        It’s a Pyrrhic victory, the full ramifications have yet to play out.

        Basically, we have a Congress who appears to be so completely clueless about what creates value and prosperity that they are vulnerable to the sweet deceptions of Wall Street lobbyists.

        Liz Warren is out there exposing their so-called ‘business model’ as a fraud, and IMVHO she is tapping into a vast aquifer of suppressed public outrage. She, Bernie Sanders, Sherrod Brown, Maria Cantwell, and (weirdly) David Vitter seem to have the brains to see that the so-called business models the banks are foisting on us all are mostly smoke-and-mirrors, with terrible long-term social outcomes.

        Let Wall Street gloat today.
        This has yet to play out.
        It’s generally darkest before the dawn.

    2. Lune

      There is a difference though: Obama never said any of this where it might matter i.e. on the Senate floor or in his actions. His populist rhetoric was only on the campaign trail. Indeed, for TARP, Obama not only voted for it, he was one of the unofficial whips tasked with rounding up Dem votes. Anyone who looked at Obama’s record, whether in the U.S. Senate or in the state assembly, could see that his rhetoric and his actions didn’t match up.

      OTOH, Warren’s rhetoric and actions *do* match up. While her actions may be limited by her relative powerlessness as a junior senator, I don’t see any mismatch between them so far. Admittedly, given that her actions are limited, they may be more tolerated by the party leadership, but I never saw Obama give a fiery speech against TARP when he could have as a junior senator back then…

      1. Doug Terpstra

        Good reading. This is such a brazen f— you to voters it actually looks more like panicked desperation than greed. The oil price collapse may indicate the start of a great unraveling, where commodities, housing, commercial RE, and all investment assets are discovering organic (real economy) pricing, despite trillions of QE pushing on a string. All those leveraged derivative bets are about to go bad, and the banksters want to stick it to taxpayers again. I think Warren is wisely getting out in front of the whirlwind. The collapse of this granddaddy of all bubbles will be the revolutionary tipping point.

        It’s always darkest before it rurns pitch black.

  14. danb

    In her remarks Warren uses the rhetorical device (of the useful tautology) “Enough is enough.” She needs to apply this device to her own party, and to other issues: health care, war, national security, debt, etc. If she remains a democrat, she’s this election cycle’s version of Hope and Change. The democrats are desperate and divided, but not divided over how to help the common person; the division is over how to keep the White House and serve neoliberalism. Obama is now a lame duck, fair game for uprisings, and subtle ridicule and insults since he’s no longer a vote-getter; and he probably does not care about what comes after him. So if Warren remains a Dem, this is theatre and veal pen politics; if she leaves the party, then she really believes “enough is enough.”

    1. James

      And let’s face it, financial reform alone does not a Presidential candidacy make. Even if she’s the real deal on that, if she has to sell her soul on foreign policy (GWOT!) and the rest then she’s little more than a palliative. In fact, she’s probably better off right where she’s at where she can at least influence legislative branch politics. The title of Prez is mostly overrated absent a truly transformational figure, and I doubt she’ll ever be all that. Anybody I could possibly support would have to be genuinely off-scale to the left of where Obama was when he ran in 2008 and be a credible possibility to actually follow through and deliver. Don’t see anyone out there who’s likely to meet that criteria yet, nor do I expect to anytime soon. America is going through an extreme psychotic delusional phase right now (Honey, we’re not exceptional after all, oh my!), and it might be best for people of conscience to just stand back and take cover until the inevitable fallout settles. There may well be better times ahead yet, but I have a feeling the troughs we’re about to plumb first are gonna be ones for the ages.

  15. patrick k

    Great political theatre but grand standing nonetheless. The derivatives in question are so small as to be meaningless in the grand scheme of things. Also lost in the shuffle, on or off the books, we the public will be held accountable as we were with AIG and Lehman–all supposedly off the books. Ms. Warren knows all this.

    1. flora

      Grandstanding? hmm. I dunno ’bout that. This has been Warren’s issue since long before she ran for office. Mere grandstanding doesn’t usually bring out the full artillery push back response her speeches are generating.

    2. flora

      “The derivatives in question are so small as to be meaningless in the grand scheme of things. ”

      Uh, no. Yves comment immediately below (12:08 pm) is an excellent rebuttal of your assertion.

    3. Yves Smith

      I posted this earlier (per flora’s remarks) but am reposting in the right place:

      Are you paid to post lies like this on blogs? From Bloomberg in 2011 (I’m too lazy to update this, since it’s easier to find stuff like this in my archives than go to the OCC website and find current data, but it won’t be all that much different):

      Bank of America Corp. (BAC), hit by a credit downgrade last month, has moved derivatives from its Merrill Lynch unit to a subsidiary flush with insured deposits, according to people with direct knowledge of the situation…

      Bank of America’s holding company — the parent of both the retail bank and the Merrill Lynch securities unit — held almost $75 trillion of derivatives at the end of June, according to data compiled by the OCC. About $53 trillion, or 71 percent, were within Bank of America NA, according to the data, which represent the notional values of the trades.

      That compares with JPMorgan’s deposit-taking entity, JPMorgan Chase Bank NA, which contained 99 percent of the New York-based firm’s $79 trillion of notional derivatives, the OCC data show.


      That is trillion with a T. The market value is clearly much lower, but to say this is “small” is a complete and utter crock. Banking expert Chris Whalen has long described JP Morgan as $75-80 billion derivatives clearing operation with a $2 trillion bank attached to it.

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        Thank you. Deutsche Bank’s derivatives book is currently at 25X the entire GDP of Germany. Sure, sure, that’s “notional” and the risks are supposed to “net out” (precisely what *didn’t* happen in 2009). People miss that FASB are the ones who pulled the veil in that year, replacing “mark-to-market” accounting rules with “mark-to-fantasy”. Every large bank in the U.S. would have been declared insolvent had they not taken that step.

  16. GuyFawkesLives

    How do we find out which Senator/Representative put the Citigroup provision into the bill?

  17. local to Oakland

    She’s no saint. She is talented and hard working. One thing she does have is personal insight into the struggles of ordinary americans in a way that few of the power brokers do. Her study of bankruptcy gave her deep, thorough and granular knowledge of the precise financial pressures on the working and middle class. Her popular books reflect that knowledge and offer practical advice to the people who face these pressures. She didn’t have to write those books, so at minimum she has some personal compassion/ empathy. That’s huge in contrast to the callous disregard and ignorance of most Washington and New York players.

    Secondly, in spite of her intellect and scholarship she can speak the language of the people. She grew up in a middle class household in Oklahoma. Some of what I’ve seen called here conservative bent reflect those middle class values, the sort of thing held by most teachers, nurses and others who are the social glue of this society. I don’t know if she should run but I’m extremely grateful for her work. She gives me some hope.

    1. flora

      Agreed. I think she’s doing great in the Senate. We need more like her. It’s a systemic problem that needs many people in many jobs to change. She’s pulling together some like minded people in the senate and forcing the MSM to talk about these economic issues. (not that they’re happy about that.) So I hope she does not run for Pres. That would dilute her abilities, in my opinion.

      1. James

        So I hope she does not run for Pres. That would dilute her abilities, in my opinion.

        Agreed as well with the sentiments in both comments above. Well put and much appreciated.

  18. Jon Claerbout

    Please tell us, Elizabeth, WHICH Republicans did the dirty deed. Some of us vote in Republican primaries.

  19. Lune

    I think the time for Warren to run is this election. Leaving aside her swelling popularity, etc., history is also against her if she waits.

    In the past 100 years, only 3 sitting senators have been elected President, Warren Harding, JFK, and Obama. Since JFK, every single President has either been a VP or governor, until Obama. Political analysts speculate that this is because governors can make an intrinsic case for being in the executive office: if you manage a state well, balancing budgets and growing jobs, then you could potentially manage the country well. OTOH, being a Senator doesn’t give the same story, since even if the economy grows during your time, it’s usually the President that gets the credit.

    Even worse, whereas governors only have to have an official policy on the bills that ultimately end up on their desk, Senators need to cast hundreds of votes on bills regardless of whether they’re ultimately passed or not. This means there’s tons of compromise votes, tactical votes, horse trading, etc. which are all duly dug up by your opposition to cast you as a hypocrite, spineless, just another Washington weasel, etc. For example, it’s not unusual for Harry Reid to argue vociferously against a filibuster, then end up voting for that very filibuster (technically, voting against the cloture motion) for procedural reasons. That’s why ads like the nonsensical “Senator XXX voted to raise taxes 500 times!” get made, and (unfortunately) have an effect on voters.

    The longer you’re in the Senate, the more these types of votes accumulate, and the more ammunition you give to your opponent. Which is why Senators have such a big disadvantage to Governors in modern elections. It’s telling that even the three Senators who managed to get elected were all very junior: Harding and Kennedy were early in their second terms, and Obama was in his first.

    So while Warren may feel that she has no shot as a junior senator just starting her political career, the truth is there is no better story in American politics than Mr[s]. Smith Goes To Washington. She should consider running while she can still be credibly viewed as an outsider, rather than wait and risk having her Senate record become a burden as it inevitably does…

    (Ironically, IMHO, the most *effective* presidents are ones who’ve spent tons of time in politics. But that’s the yin-yang of getting elected vs. actually governing…)

    1. James

      I think if she were to run that her best role would be to run a truly courageous, “tell it like it is” campaign in an almost certainly losing campaign. I think we give too much weight to winning the big battles and losing the small ones vs the opposite. In the first place, nothing I’ve seen from Warren yet makes me think she’d be suited to the big seat just yet – or ever. Not that that’s a bad thing in the least. The Prez is largely a ceremonial post – lots of pomp and not a lot of day to day circumstance – whereas Warren’s current post involves much more detail, especially in her area of expertise. Warren’s a goldmine in the legislative branch, but likely a bust as an Executive, especially without a strong like-minded D (NR) following, which is of course nowhere to be found.

    1. John

      I will NEVER forget him on Charlie Rose after the U.S. taxpayer bailout that saved his fortune (the biggest chunk of his money was in Citigroup and he was the largest shareholder)
      air date 1/19/2010
      “American is down. When you have a country with 13 trillion dollars of debt, and it’s GDP is 14 trillion and they are competing which is going to grow faster, and when you have budget deficits of a trillion dollars, going for the foreseeable future, it’s UNACCEPTABLE. When you have this economic crisis, that hit you very badly, things are not… in the United States. But you still can get out of it……Taxes have to be raised, across the board….Get your economic house in order.”

      Air Date 2/6/2012
      “The United States Economic situation is not very good….

      Air Date 11/18/2013
      “If the United States politicians get their house in order….

      Newscorp, Citigroup, Apple, Twitter, FourSeasons
      Largest individual foreign investor (looter) in the United States

  20. Carole

    Matt Taibbi commentary: Dodd-Frank Budget Fight Proves Democrats Are a Bunch of Stuffed Suits

    “All of this is infuriating on multiple levels, but mainly because Warren’s opposition to the Citi provision wasn’t a left-leaning move at all. It was very much a conservative position. Ayn Rand herself, dragged from the grave and lashed to a chair on the floor of the Senate, would have argued the same thing…

    Think of it in terms of a workman’s compensation law. If you’re going to be insured against injury by the state, the state should get to demand that you don’t engage in fire-eating or base-jumping during work hours.

    There’s no logical argument against the provision. The banks only want it because they want to use your bank accounts as a human shield to protect their dangerous gambling activities…

    Is killing the Citigroup provision really worth the trouble? Is it a “Hill to die on”? Maybe not in itself. But the key here is that a victory on the swaps issue will provide the Beltway hacks with a playbook for killing the rest of the few meaningful things in Dodd-Frank, probably beginning with the similar Volcker Rule, designed to prevent other types of gambling by federally-insured banks. Once they cave on the swaps issue, it won’t be long before the whole bill vanishes, and we can go all the way back to our pre-2008 regulatory Nirvana.”

    1. Chauncey Gardiner

      Thanks for the link, Carla. As Matt Taibbi set forth in the last paragraph, I believe it is also likely that the full complement of rhetoric, linguistic and propaganda tools in the MSM’s very large toolbox will soon be deployed against Senator Warren for her public position against this legislation:

      … “If the Democrats actually stood for anything other than sounding as progressive as possible without offending their financial backers, then they would do what Republicans always do in these situations: force a shutdown to save their legislation. How many times did Republicans hold the budget hostage to rescue the Bush tax cuts?

      But the Democrats won’t do that here, because they’re not a real party. They’re a marketing phenomenon, a big chunk of oligarchical Blob cleverly sold to voters as the more reasonable and less nakedly corrupt wing of a two-headed political establishment.

      So they’ll punt on this issue in the name of “maturity” or “bipartisanship,” Wall Street will get a nice win, and Hillary Clinton or whoever else is being set up as the Blob candidate on the Democratic side will receive an avalanche of Financial Services donations to stave off Warren (who will begin appearing in the press as an unhinged combination of Lev Trotsky and Spartacus). A neat little piece of business all around. I don’t know whether to applaud or throw up.” 

  21. NOTaREALmerican

    I have hope that when Elizabeth wins the white house, she will find the 100k+ nice people needed to staff her administration and then finally FINALLY a new era will dawn upon America of government run Of the nice people, By the nice people, and FOR the nice people.

    (Is that the alarm clock?)

    1. hunkerdown

      No, the Nice People are the Democratic Party itself. Even one of those “civil warriors” (as George Carlin might have put it) is two too many.

  22. Paul Tioxon

    Elizabeth Warren’s message from the floor of the Senate has 2 radical parts, among others. 1: A death warrant for big money center banks, they should have been broken up. 2: Citigroup should not be writing the rules regulating what government can do to Citigroup, and then having its bought and paid for pols vote it into law.

    The government by definition has the job of governing social relationships, because anything other than a national body representing the public, the people as a whole, is going to install a policy limited to their narrow benefit, their special interest, as oppose to the public interest. Ask not what America can do for Citigroup, ask what Citigroup can do for America. Citigroup, you can die. That would be a good start.


    1. Gibby the Fifth

      I totally agree with Paul Tioxin, all Warren speeches (and preferably those by many other senators as well) should start and finish

    2. James

      Elizabeth Warren’s message from the floor of the Senate has 2 radical parts, among others. 1: A death warrant for big money center banks, they should have been broken up. 2: Citigroup should not be writing the rules regulating what government can do to Citigroup, and then having its bought and paid for pols vote it into law.

      Thanks for the cogent analysis Paul (no sarc intended), but given the complete infestation of our government with career personnel from the big money center banks who have also quite cleverly engineered Financial Weapons of Mass Destruction to ensure that they continue get their way, what is a mere government of mere “we the peeps” to do?

  23. Jackrabbit

    Complaining about student loans is one thing, embarrassing power-centers (and their lackeys) is quite another. Yet, if the DP turns against her maybe that would be a good thing. Imagine her running as an independent, uniting independents and third parties (Libertarians and Greens pulling for the same candidate?!?!?). Imagine a President that is not beholden to ‘special interests’ and not afraid to speak his/her mind. Yowza!

    H O P

    1. Jess

      She has to run as a Democrat. Otherwise she’ll be excluded from the debates which are run by the two legacy parties. In addition, as a Dem she has guaranteed ballot access in all 50 states, something that Nader and other third-party candidates have found to be a huge impediment. (Such as not being on the NY state ballot.)

      1. Jackrabbit

        No. The debates have a polling threshold (I believe it is 5%). As long as she has is getting at least that amount of support from likely/registered voters, she would be in the debates.


        To me, she makes a better candidate as an independent (though I think she’s probably one of the most principled of the establishment politicians). Also, aA few Cabinet positions for Libertarians and Greens would give these parties credibility and break the grip of the duopoly. That seems less likely if she ran as a Democrat.

        1. hunkerdown

          15% of whatever numbers they feel like analyzing at the time it best serves their purposes. And that was just for 2012. In 2016 they can make up whatever rules they want to get the result they want. And the CPD is bipartisan, not nonpartisan — you can count on careerists to never risk their place on the ladder or the (two-party-owned) ladder itself, because “that’s where the money is”.

          The CPD’s third criterion requires that the candidate have a level of support of at least 15% (fifteen percent) of the national electorate as determined by five selected national public opinion polling organizations, using the average of those organizations’ most recent publicly-reported results at the time of the determination.

  24. dejavuagain

    Was the insertion of the Citigroup provision from the Democrats or the Republicans or both?
    Why do many assume that only Republicans pushed for this provision, and that the Democrats were pressured in consenting?

  25. John

    Seriously people get a grip. Warren was a Republican.

    I’m not at all certain she’s not another Obama faker.

    1. Jackrabbit

      She starts from conservative principles rather than progressive ideals. Yet that is a breathe of free air compared to the corporate/establishment lackeys of the duopoly.

      I doubt that the Democratic Party would nominate her for President because she will not attract the establishment approval in the form of campaign contributions. But I kinda like her more as an independent anyway. OTOH, she may simply remain where in the Senate and continue to draw attention to important issues.

      1. John

        So the Left is to be happy with “former” Republicans?
        Just remember, Warren was a wet blanket on student loans when all was said and done.
        I suspect she meant as the Lefts’ anger release valve.

    2. flora

      “Warren was a Republican”.
      As was Jim Webb. I have no problem with principled Main Street conservatives who find the current GOP neither conservative nor principled and leave the GOP. Edmund Burke wouldn’t recognize radical greed masquerading as principle in today’s party as any sort of conservatism.

  26. John Yard

    Is Warren perfect ? No. But it is hard to think of a politician today who is supportable, who is saying and doing the right things, and at the same time can appeal very broadly, than Warren . Even the LA Times and the NY times say there is a ‘warren faction’ building. This is a rare opportunity.
    I say support warren to the hilt. Who knows what will happen ?

    1. James

      I say support NO ONE to the hilt, and hold the bastard who wins to the highest standards regardless. Time to let BOTH PARTIES know that we’re keeping our eyes on them, and that no matter who wins, we still expect to be fairly represented either way. Time to extinguish the idea of the two party either/or duopoly forever. It’s not a winner take all question (Rs, take note!).

  27. Sam Adams

    The derivatives needed to be insured by taxpayers because oil price derivative bets leave the banks vulnerable to collapse. The real message was the banks needed to be broken up into pieces.

  28. Jim

    Open the PodBay Doors HAL stated above at 5:21PM that:

    “In reality the actual pyramid has banks at the very top.”

    That is only half the equation– there are the banks at the very top along with the national security network. The banks have the wealth but National Security has the muscle.

    This muscle involves in the power to see and hear all of our every words and to arrest, jail and kill.

    Both half’s of this structure have grown ever more powerful in the last 10-15 years and to ignore either is a serious strategic mistake.

    The two functioning together is not “inverted totalitarianism” but the real thing.

  29. McWatt

    I heard Warren on an NPR interview this morning. She was nowhere as good at speaking these points as this
    speech was. This was a great speech. Perhaps one of the best I have read in a long time. It will take someone who believes strongly about the good things of the past to turn around the present. It’s hard to describe how far and
    how fast the “shinning city on the hill” (our country) has fallen since they were re-uttered by the one whose name must not be spoken.

    “Catch-22 says they can do anything we can’t stop them from doing.” Heller

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