Yves here. Bil Black underscores why Senator Warren was able to force the Administration to back down from its plan to have Antonio Weiss Serve in the number three position at Treasury. Weiss was all too obviously a patronage pick, and not one based on having th right skills for the role. He also reminds us that the Administration is set on its plan to continue getting Wall Street cronies in positions of influence, even if in Weiss’ case, it is a position of lesser influence than they had intended.
And lest you think I’v overstating the case in calling Big Finance’s influence over government a coup, please read Simon Johnson’s 2009 Atlantic article, The Quiet Coup.
By Bill Black, the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One and an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Originally published at New Economic Perspectives
There is an excellent indicator that Senator Warren’s successful effort to block the appointment of Antonio Weiss, an Obama Wall Street bundler, to a senior Treasury position while merely a skirmish was an important accomplishment. The financial media that pander most slavishly to the Wall Street and the City of London’s CEOs is enraged at Warren’s success. The headline in the UK’s Business Insider reveals their angst “Elizabeth Warren Wins, The Treasury Loses.” The article doesn’t try very hard to support that headline with facts because there is no real case to support the claim.
A number of former Treasury officials thought Warren was way out of line, and that Weiss’ experience was perfect for the position he was being nominated for.
The White House stood by its nominee throughout, stating last month, “This is somebody who has very good knowledge of the way that the financial markets work, and that is critically important.”
No argument on that here.
Let’s begin with logic. There’s no logical way to declare that “Treasury lost” without knowing who else is willing to take the position of Under Secretary for Domestic Finance. No one thinks President Obama selected Weiss on the merits. He was selected because he bundled Wall Street campaign contributions for Obama’s campaigns. Treasury does not “win” when we appoint such people – Wall Street wins. We have no way of knowing whether Obama will select someone for the position who is better or worse than Weiss. The Undersecretary position is prestigious enough that we know that Obama has the ability to appoint hundreds of people who would like to take the position and are better qualified than Weiss. As a matter of logic, therefore, the authors could not support their claim.
The authors also don’t seem to have felt they could even try to make a case for their claim. They simply quote authority rather than reasoning. Their effort unintentionally made Warren’s opponents look bad. Consider the extraordinary arrogance of the statement “A number of former Treasury officials thought Warren was way out of line.” A U.S. Senator who is a member of Treasury’s oversight committee is completely “in line” to oppose nominees. Warren obviously did not oppose Weiss for partisan reasons. She opposed him on the merits. Weiss does not have a strong background for the skill sets required for the Undersecretary position. Again, no one can claim with a straight face that Obama selected Weiss on the merits. Of course, the same thing was true of many of the Treasury officials who think it is “way out of line” for Senators not to rubberstamp political reward-style appointments of Wall Street bundlers.
The best that the White House could come up with was that Weiss “has very good knowledge of the way that the financial markets work.” That description fits about one million Americans.
Warren has given Obama a golden opportunity – a “do over.” Obama can appoint someone who has a “very good knowledge of the way that the financial markets work” – and a passion for changing how they work in order to end the Wall Street culture of corruption and create radically improved markets based on integrity and service to investors with radically reduced profits. Obama could pick someone good for America, not “Treasury” and its Wall Street overseers. It is “critically important” that the financial markets be restored to a condition in which they aid Main Street and small investors rather than acting as parasites and predators.
At this juncture, the White House is signaling its continued opposition to serious reform.
“‘We continue to believe that Mr. Weiss is an extremely well-qualified individual, who is committed to the policy goals of this Administration and firmly supports the Administration’s policies on fostering economic growth and supporting our middle class. We are pleased that he has accepted the role of counselor to the Treasury secretary.’”
The administration continues its policy of never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity to openly side with the American people (all of them, not simply “our middle class”) and demand the end of the corrupt culture of Wall Street. Warren has given Obama a priceless opportunity for a “do over.” No one expects Obama to do the right thing on the appointment, but Warren is doing the right thing by giving Obama a new the chance to do the right thing.