Elizabeth Warren Strikes Back as Citigroup Tries to Blackmail the Democratic Party

An unusual move by a thin-skinned too big to fail bank, Citigroup, to slap down the finance-skeptic faction of the Democratic party appears to be backfiring.

Reuters reported on Friday that Citigroup was making clear its displeasure with the way Elizabeth Warren had been calling to its overly-cozy relationship with the Administration by threatening to withhold its customary bribe, um, donation to the Democratic party:

Big Wall Street banks are so upset with U.S. Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren’s call for them to be broken up that some have discussed withholding campaign donations to Senate Democrats in symbolic protest, sources familiar with the discussions said.

Representatives from Citigroup, JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America, have met to discuss ways to urge Democrats, including Warren and Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, to soften their party’s tone toward Wall Street, sources familiar with the discussions said this week.

The story noted that the amount at issue was only $15,000 per bank, so this scheme is more a warning shot that a serious move, particularly since it is aimed at the Senate, and thus pointedly steers clear of the Big Finance stalwarts, the Clintons. But if you widen the frame a bit, there is more at stake here than you might think. Warren has declared war on the Wall Street wing of the Democratic party, including the powerful network of proteges and fundraisers affiliated with former Treasury secretary, former Goldman partner, and more recently, vice chairman of Citigroup Bob Rubin. One politically-savvy financial analyst calls this cadre “the Rubino crime syndicate”.

Warren fingered Citigroup’s extensive connections to the Executive branch when she fought the addition of a rider to a must-pass spending bill that would eliminate a Dodd Frank provisions to force banks to stop trading certain derivatives in taxpayer-backstopped entities (the so-called swaps pushout rule). As you’ll see below, not only did Warren have the bad taste to point out that the current Treasury secretary is a Citigroup alum, and that Sandy Weill, Citigroup chairman, had offered Timothy Geithner the opportunity to run the bank, she also said that Dodd Frank had come up short by not forcing Citigroup’s breakup. If you’ve not seen this speech, you need to watch it. You’ll understand why Citigroup is desperate to find a way to leash and collar Warren.

Even though Warren lost the swaps pushout rule battle, the ferocity of the fight, the attention it garnered, and her and her allies’ relentless focus on the bank tactic of using arcane-seeming provisions to shift risk onto the public, as well as their deep political connections, threw a wrench in the financiers’ plans. They’d hoped to roll what little post-crisis reform that took place by going after technical-seeming provisions that they assumed the dumb chump voter would never notice. Instead, Warren turned the tables by using the effort to inflict considerable public relations damage.

As much as the Warren attack might not seem like much of a victory, it’s important to understand what she and the other bank opponents are achieving. The banks count on the public not understanding and not caring about the more arcane aspects of finance, and furthermore assuming that bank reform is settled. On the political front, the power of the financiers doesn’t lie simply with their lavish campaign donations; it also lies in the perception that opposing them is a political death sentence.

And that is why Warren has become so dangerous to them. Remember that Obama brought her in to start up the CFPB in a classic “keep your enemies close” strategy. It’s a near certainty that they hoped to destroy her politically because she, as a Harvard academic with limited administrative experience, would flail about and fail in executing such a mammoth task. So they were stuck with her when she succeeded and was the obvious candidate to run the new agency. The Administration cast about for months trying to extricate itself from the mess it created, finally nominating Richard Cordray, a Warren hire at the CFPB, and enticing her with the bright shiny toy of a Senate seat.

The Administration (remember that Obama is still very much the party leader) again got too clever by half. It decided to exploit Warren as a major fundraiser. But that gave her an independent power base. And given the carnage in the Congressional midterms, the wisdom of following Democratic party dictates isn’t looking too hot for individual Congresscritters, unless they hail from conservative districts. The public is waking up to the party’s limousine liberalism, and voters who care about economic fairness are increasingly staying home on election days.

So given Warren’s ability to raise money on her own, the idea of getting the Democratic party to rein her in is sorely misguided. The real target would seem to be the other bank opponents, like Sherrod Brown and Jeff Merkley, and any other Senators or Representatives who might dare to oppose rule by Big Finance.

Warren struck back fast and hard, getting the attention of Bloomberg:

In a fundraising request (titled “Wall Street isn’t happy with us,”) Warren accused the banks of wanting Washington to puts its needs before Americans and “get a little public fanny-kissing for their money too.” The pitch argues that 2016 Democratic Senate candidates could lose $30,000 each, and asks for for help raising matching funds.

“The big banks have issued a threat, and it’s up to us to fight back,” Warren wrote.

If Citigroup, JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, and Bank of America wanted to give Warren—a skilled fundraiser—a chance to bolster her image as an anti-Wall Street progressive hero and raise a few thousands, they succeeded. What this won’t do is make it easier for Democrats to soften their tone toward Wall Street.

Cynics may say that these are just range wars, and that Warren is a progressive hood ornament for the Democratic party. While we’ve criticized her for her timid student loan proposal and for her falling in line with US adventurism abroad (save the proposed intervention in Syria, where Congress refused to back Obama), Warren is nevertheless is achieving something significant. Despite what Simon Johnson called a “quiet coup” by the banks, Warren is demonstrating that the major financial firms can be defeated. The perception that they are vulnerable is critical to building an effective opposition; one of the easiest ways to discourage dissent is to say, “Why bother? You’ll never win.” But Warren, to the chagrin of the Administration, made such a stink over the nomination of Lazard M&A star Antonio Weiss that he withdrew. We know of other one other pro-bank move the Administration planned to take where Warren and two Senate allies told them they’d have a fight if they went ahead. The Administration sat pat as a result.

So while these fights individually may not seem consequential, recognize that cumulatively, the banks are finding they are incurring more costs in trying to get their way, and are even sometimes getting their noses bloodied. While this is still a long way from seeing big bank executives prosecuted, that diminishment of bank power isn’t going to happen overnight, but through steady, persistent pressure on their many vulnerable points. If nothing else, it’s great sport watching big banks score own goals when trying to beat back Warren.

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  1. tawal

    Isn’t this collusion and don’t we have laws against that? Oh, yeah, I forgot. My Bad!?!?

  2. participant-observer-observed

    I wonder how many of the American public know the Citigroup shareholder status of Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal?

    Keep interfering in legislative affairs, Citigroup, and lets get more and more daylight exposing all the dark alley ways you have over there!

    How many DoD checks get processed through Citi to pay for the new Saudi front end to the US war economy? I bet that balance sheet is interesting, and may show that Citi has already moved its wares from the Dems into the Cheney/Halliburton/Xe (or whatever it is they call themselves now) camp. Must make the billions of HSBC cartel drug money look like monopoly game money! In that case, making a public show of crying over spilled milk is just hankering after more legislative give – aways and is more a call to GOP than dems.

    Aren’t we well into the oligarchy titan demigod wars? Prince bin Talal vs Rubin ? We have Ted Cruz’s wife on leave from Goldman. Where’s JR (Dallas fans)?

    1. nat scientist

      Not to mention the “sanctions” which pump up the jam for the “blessed” alternate route AKA economic warfare and Holy smoke.

    2. John

      Remember how the American taxpayer saved the majority of Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal ‘s fortune that was invested in Citigroup when we bailed out Wall Stree ? About 11 billion at the time.

      Then he went on the Charlie Rose Show about a year later after trillions of taxpayer money was extorted from us and given to Wall Street and said that America’s debt and deficit were unacceptable and “entitlements” needed to be cut.

      Every time he tours America since then he feels free to tell us that our debt and deficit are unacceptable and demand that the government do something about cutting “entitlements”

      1. different clue

        The Prince is also a major shareholder of Murdoch Incorporated ( whatever it is officially called). He accepts the anti Islamitic propaganda on Fox News as an acceptable tradeoff for all the No Such Thing As Global Warming propaganda on Fox News. Delaying counter-carbon action is very important to bin Talal making the most possible money on his oil ownership.

    3. Jim Haygood

      Citibank was a dynamic, rapidly-growing financial innovator … half a century ago. Lord, don’t we miss ol’ Wally Wriston.

      Now Citi and its peers resemble the U.S. steel industry in its latter days, when its only edge was government handouts and using political influence to crassly bend the rules in its favor.

      It didn’t work for Big Steel. It wouldn’t work for Big Banking, except that now the political corruption goes far deeper, and a banking cartel called the Federal Reserve has gotten itself installed as a quasi-governmental agency.

      Abolish the freaking Fed.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Um, that innovation under Wriston brought us the Latin American debt crisis. It was Wriston who said countries don’t go bankrupt.

      2. flora

        Wally Wriston? Why not Charlie Mitchell, “Sunshine Charley” from the 1920’s at National City Bank (later Citi)? Sen. Carter Glass – of Glass-Steagall regulation – said, “Mitchell more than any fifty men is responsible for this stock crash.” (1929 crash).
        Pretty devastating article about Citi in the April 2015 issue of Harper’s Magazine by Andrew Cockburn. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. Especially at Citi, aka National City Bank. Mr. Clinton, eliminating Glass-Steagall banking regulations, helped create the the current Citi monster.

    4. Phil Perspective

      I wonder how many of the American public know the Citigroup shareholder status of Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal?

      Isn’t he also Faux Noise’s second biggest shareholder behind Murdoch?

  3. cnchal

    The story noted that the amount at issue was only $15,000 per bank . . .

    The banks would like to bribe Democratic senators, and are only offering $15K each? That’s on a similar scale as Apple or Walmart paying it’s Chinese slaves $2.00 per day. The senators will need a much bigger bribe for the banks to be successful. The greed and the gall of the banks. They won’t share their stolen money with anyone.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      If there is one thing more galling than corrupt politicians, its cheap corrupt politicians. So many seem to be purchasable for ridiculously low amounts of cash. Say what you will about Asian or African kleptocrats, at least they know how much they are worth and ensure that if they make others billions, they expect billions in return too.

      1. Ned Ludd

        While in office, corporations give a taste to hook politicians. The luxurious lifestyle comes after a politician leaves office.

        After leaving (or being thrown) from office, politicians who were loyal to the wealthy get to fulfill all of their desires; which entices the next generation of political opportunists to put themselves up for sale. They become advisers or lobbyists, earning six figures per speech, while traveling around the world and vacationing at resorts under the guise of “ideas” conferences, which are simply venues to discuss new ways to fleece the rest of us.

        For the most talented, most ambitious, or most connected politicians; the media then works to erase their past misdeeds; giving them (or members of their family) the ability to enter elected office again, for a new cycle of deceive-betray-and-profit.

      2. bh2

        Huey Long once commented that an honest politician is one who, once bought, stays bought.

        Most do, regardless of party.

        The banksters fund all sides and could care less which side “wins”. Hence they always come out on the “winning” side.

      3. Praedor

        Part of the whole bribe package from banks and wall street is the promise of a lucrative career POST-government position. They bribe politicians directly with money and perks, but the biggie is the promise of a primo lobbyist position should they “retire” or lose an election.

  4. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

    The pathetic idea that Elizabeth Warren’s softball questioning of the BankerState’s absolute right to absolute rule is somehow seen as a glimmer of hope is…pathetic.
    Read your history books for real opposition that has been mounted in the past, Andrew Jackson, William Jennings Bryan.
    These are criminal enterprises and must continually be brought down by a (non-somnolent) population. Yes yes blah blah “oh oh but they perform a critical function in credit creation etc etc and if they failed it would be really disruptive” blah blah blah. It has become blatantly obvious to all but the infested presstitutes that their game of ever-expanding credit and new ways to steal from the poor is teetering as badly today as it was 7 years ago when they first began gifting money from taxpayers and savers to pay off their gambling debts.
    I know we’d like to have at least a little hope with someone like Warren but I think we all need to grow a pair (girls too), get mad, and start screaming and educating people about much much more radical solutions than just a kindly lady being a little impolite.

    1. ErnstThalmann

      Amen! And while she’s at it, maybe she might arrange to provide heath care for the many maimed Gazans she so conveniently and glibly glossed over when she literally ran away from questions concerning her support for Israeli barbarism last Summer. Warren has about as much moral courage as Hitlery.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      It’s spurious to compare what a President can to do what a Senator can accomplish; we were against Warren running for the Senate for that very reason. But she has made remarkably effective use of the very constrained bully pulpit a modern Senator commands.

      Rhetoric was more heated in the 19th century than now. And pray tell, what did William Jennings Bryan actually accomplish? Remarkably little. And unlike Warren, he spent his entire career in politics and had effective control of the Democratic party. It was Roosevelt, and not failed three time presidential candidate Byran, who broke up the trusts.

      Warren has repeatedly called for prosecutions of bankers. You can criticize her on other fronts, but you are really off base here.

      1. Code Name D

        I am not so sure.

        Politics, like war, has a lot of angels in operation. One may think they are taking the enemy on and holding their own, only to discover the real force has snuck past you and cut off your supply line.

        Today the political strategy is to not fall for the appearance of victory. I am not sure Warren has figured that out. Her speech here still makes it appear she thinks that Republicans and Democrats can still be reasoned with, hence her conciliatory tone.

        Where dose she think she can go with this? If she gets the provision pulled out… what has she actually won? It’s not like there aren’t already plenty of other provisions insure the banks won’t get bailed out already enshrined in policy. The very term “too big to fail” is predicated on the idea that we can not afford to let Citi Bank fail. So even if Warren is able to get all of these provisions removed, once City gets into trouble again, panic will rain in Congress and they will pass an emergency act granting just such power.

        The reason why reformers were firebrands in the 30s was because they understood the balance of power. When politicians are bought off, you can’t reason with them – but you can turn his political base against them for their decisions and cause them to lose re-election. And you don’t do that from the congressional podium, but by going directly to the people. You don’t so that by being calm and consolatory, but by pounding the podium and expressing the outrage that the events deserve.

        Sorry, but Warren is going after small fry and working for tiny victories. Her heart is in the right place, but her strategy is still too little, too late.

        1. hunkerdown

          The balance of power has shifted. Now that a Senator never really *needs* to see or set foot in their state again for any reason, they have six whole years to complete their grifting project and decamp. The act of voting cannot discipline a system, especially not one that depends on it for its legitimacy. Maybe the peasants get off on the whole fantasy of judgment day and the arrogance to believe their childish electoral games are actually an exercise of meaningful power, not just giving them a father without which most Americans are too scared to think independently, let alone venture out at night.

          Also, now that the political class has equated cheap pathos with deliberation and cheap ethos with common interest, the whole stupid, half-assed performance of caring on the part of the upper class depends on the willingness of the populace to suspend disbelief every time they venture out-of-doors and see something incongruous with their personal Matrix that they “earned” by “paying their dues”, which is only a gross euphemism for systematic hazing and, like any other scheme of deferred compensation you can’t enforce, religious nuttery.

        2. jo6pac

          I agree, just another blue dog and as I listen to Bobby D Hiway 61 well I just don’t see what’s happen here or do we what to look away?

        3. participant-observer-observed

          I believe that you are correct that we need to be skeptical of another Hopium-for-change delerium pipe smoke and mirrors show putting the electorate back to sleep, and that the populace must be engaged to make real change. Something must be learned from the Obama presidency on that front (Clinton 2.0 ‘used-car salesman,’ ‘go back to bed, kids, everything will be fine’ talk)

          But given an engaged populace (for the sake of argument, since we don’t have one), why not have Warren as bankster watch-dog too?

          Having a skeptical, watch-dog voting public and a senator both together is not to be discounted! (And throw in Alan Grayson too, for fearless watch dog track record)

          We cannot afford to wait around for 1-size fits all. Coalitions (L-R alliances in Nader-speak) have to be found to fight issue by issue, AND where they converge (War economy + Wall St together). Perhaps YOU can show E Warren where the Israeli+Saudi war economy implicates US banking and enlighten her!

          1. Code Name D

            I love this place because of questions like these.

            Let me go over these one at a time for both hunkerdown and participate-observer-observed.

            1) The balance of power has shifted?

            Has it? I am curious how you might present an argument for this assertion. I certainly do not see it. (As is my point, I must admit.)

            2) The act of voting cannot discipline a system.

            I completely agree with one caveat. The act of voting ALONE can not discipline a system. Voting can only place or remove certain people from power. But the system we have now is either random (where voters can not make informed decision on who or what they are voting for) or pointless (where the all of the options presented will produce the same outcome.)

            But I suspect you would agree that a substantive political sea-change can not be legitimate if it takes place without the consent of the governed. And voting is the only formal way of registering the will of the people. At some point, you must go to the polls.

            But an election is actually one of the later stages in the process. Delegitimizing the current system is among the first steps.

            3) Why not have Warren as backster watch-dog too?

            I actually agree with you. Why not have her as a watch-dog? Now show me how she is an effective watch-dog?

            I am not calling into question the quality of Warren’s intentions or even her competence. I am calling into question the soundness of her strategy, assuming that it can be argued that she actually has one.

            4) We cannot around to wait around for 1-sice fits all.

            I am going to assume you meant that we can not wait around for a singular savior. (Do correct me if I am reading that wrong.) I would agree actually. But then I wonder why it is that this seems to be our strategy most of the time, because right now there are plenty of people who are latching onto Warren for precisely this reason.

            But I have also come to suspect that change won’t come from grass-roots activism either. That strategy has had more than sufficient time to show results and thus far we have very little success we can point to.

            A real push for reform will likely require something between the two, involving the participation of singular leadership as well as an active popular movement to skeptically review such ideas and act on them. It is often said that the mark of a great leader is one who inspires, calls upon, and depends on the leadership of those he pretends to lead,

            I have great difficulty imagining Warren as being that kind of leader.

            1. hunkerdown

              A half-century ago, it was generally expected that a Representative would come back home to their district at the end of their official career and *resume* private life among WTP they represented. Now everyone’s a carpetbagger. Given the opportunities available to the legislator emeritus, WTP have nothing to compare with their offerings, and as they’ve been restructuring institutions, customs and laws to generally protect themselves from popular accountability in any way, we’ve neither carrot nor stick to keep honest people honest. In that sense, power has shifted away from popular voters, in that elected officials, especially at the Federal level, no longer see their district as home.

              As for the act of voting, fair cop; I should have been more specific and said that the act of voting for representation cannot discipline a system when the system itself isn’t strictly bound by it and doesn’t wish to be. A system of *direct* democracy is bound by the results of an honest vote; a representative government is bound by nothing more than its own will and the ratifying effect of turnout, and even then only loosely. In that way, I suspect we agree that the present power structure is uninterested in anything but whipping up turnout and rationalizing it as “just” consent of the governed. It seems to follow that the way to reject a system that expects and desires nothing more than this constrained participation is to deny it the satisfaction of that endorsement. It worked to deflate the narrative of “the acts of a democratically elected government” the right wing used to excuse Apartheid in South Africa, when the turnout to support that conceit failed to materialize.

            2. PGreen

              I’m curious as to whom you think might be that kind of leader. Not that I completely disagree with you, but I wonder if you aren’t romanticizing the role of the so-called charismatic leader. MLK, for example? As Chomsky wrote, “I’m sure he would have been the first to say that he was riding the wave of protest and activism that developed from the bottom, that began with– it goes way back– black kids insisting on going to schools.” I suspect that real change begins more at the grassroots than you give it credit for. This is not to say the quality of leadership isn’t important, but most real heroes (insofar as they exist) , IMO, never make it into the history books–except perhaps as a footnote.

      2. wbgonne

        Yes, the power of a president dwarfs the power of a senator, especially a first-term senator in the minority within a dysfunctional party. That is why Warren is in fact setting herself as the Democrats’ token progressive, to be tolerated to a point and used for branding purposes. Warren will be swamped by the party’s neoliberalism. Unless, as the Boston Globe surprisingly editorialized:

        Some of Warren’s admirers feel she’d be better off fighting for those causes in the Senate — but her opportunities to enact reforms there are shrinking, which should make a presidential run more attractive. As a member of the minority party in the Senate, her effectiveness is now much more limited than when she first won election, since Republicans control the legislative agenda. Democrats face an uphill challenge to reclaim the Senate in 2016 and face even slimmer prospects in the House. For the foreseeable future, the best pathway Warren and other Democrats have for implementing their agenda runs through the White House.

        Run for president or be the neoliberal Democrats progressive hood ornament. Your call, Senator Warren.

        1. Praedor

          I don’t mind her running for Prez but would strongly oppose her being subsumed into someone else’s campaign as VP as a consolation prize. Running for Prez, she would FORCE the discussion into areas that would otherwise be ignored, and she just might win. If she ran and lost, but then got absorbed into, say, the Hillary ticket as VP, her power, her voice is totally gone. As a VP she would be tightly leashed and shut up out of sight.

          So, she could run and force the conversation into the areas that need to be aired out. She might win. If she doesn’t win, then she should go right back to the senate where her power and voice would be greater (unless, perhaps, she were to be made Treasury Sec).

    3. Jagger

      For some real opposition, take a look at John Pym and the opposition parliament vs King Charles just prior to the English Civil War. Both the long parliament and the previous short parliament showed some real guts, including some going to jail for years and then many fighting a civil war with the hanging post looming if they lost. Fortunately for them, it ended with King Charles finally losing his head. Of course, I am not sure who would win an authoritarian contest between Cromwell and his fanatics or King Charles and his born to rule crew. Some of our early American founders were pretty heavily involved in that messy business on both sides.

    4. Adam Eran

      While I’ll second the notion that Warren’s “victory” is pretty weak tea, I’d suggest admiring someone besides Andrew Jackson. He’s the fellow responsible for the Trail of Tears genocidal Indian relocation (*after* the Georgia supreme court validated the Cherokees’ title to their land in Georgia).

      For bonus points, he paid off the entire national “debt” in 1835, for which the U.S. was rewarded with the panic of 1837, the worst of its seven Great Depressions. Such Depressions follow major “debt” reductions, so the praise for the “fiscally responsible” Clintons, who ended welfare as we know it, is at least misplaced too.

      1. susan the other

        The Saudis are the key. Together with the right wing Israelis, they are determined to create a war, however chronic it is, and luke-warm, to maintain control over the energy resources in the Middle East. The Gulf War has long since become an oxymoron because in siphoning off the money to perpetuate the war, the USA was impoverished. Just like the Cherokee had to be stripped of their land, the middle class became the goat. So busting up City is a red herring. Since our nation has been hollowed out by this modern imperialism, the only thing that will fix the mess is to assert national superiority over the clowns who can’t quite ever end a war. Nationalize the banks. And take control of the military as if we were a democracy.

        1. Ulysses

          “Nationalize the banks. And take control of the military as if we were a democracy.”

          If I thought someone could actually accomplish that simple 2 step program, he or she would have my vote for POTUS in a heartbeat!!

        2. hunkerdown

          Mandatory, universal military service is the most proven way of ensuring armies are subject to the will of their people, and not just the will of the bankers among them.

          1. Ian

            I’m all for a mandatory (roughly) 2 year civil or military service. I think it would empower citizens and create a much better society.

            1. Praedor

              I support it followed by mandatory annual drills, a Reserves Lite, whereby everyone refreshes their basic training/military skills. Otherwise it is wasted. You want people to be able to be grabbed up in a war and sent, quickly, into combat. If you rely on a simple draft AFTER the fact, too late. The fighting goes on and by the time the first grunts are spilling out of basic, the war-let is winding down. It takes too long to train someone from 0 to combat. Thus, mandatory service and regular refreshers so that when a war is fired up, in fairly short order parents, college kids, the sons and daughters of Wall Streeters, Wall Streeters themselves, Senator’s kids, the kids of the Prez, are off to fight.

      2. Yves Smith Post author

        Straw man. I never said Warren scored a major victory. I said she was creating the perception that the banks were vulnerable, which is an important shift given the power they wield in DC.

        And fer Chrissakes, she’s been a Senator for all of two years. Readers are comparing her to people who have had much longer careers in politics.

        1. susan the other

          You are right. I confess I want her to barnstorm the whole political scene. Because I see her as a very inspired person with an understanding of the whole situation which is beyond most of us. And because I fear that letting it go on with small fixes, is dangerous. But then it is a dangerous world.

          1. Code Name D

            What point are baby-steps when you are trying to compete with corporations that have a stride that spans the globe itself? Go big, or go home.

        2. Code Name D

          That is what is bothering me. She is showing the banks are venerable – when we have the argument that they are indispensable and can’t fail left in tact, or worse, may actually be true at this point. And the “venerability” of the banks is an elusion, a honey pot that they want her to go after. It makes her waster her time while they find a way to outflank her politically. I don’t think the banks are vulnerable in this way.

          She needs to undermine the authority of the banks to have power in congress before she can point out that the banks have too much power within congress.

          The average American knows intuitively that the banks are corrupt and have too much influence on congress. But they have few facts to support that intuition. When cooler heads prevail, the rational argument will currently side with the banks every time.

          Meanwhile, congress operates under the concusses that the bank’s power within congress is proper and justified. The banks are what create the money supply and jobs. They are responsible for growing the economy, a task that government is ill-suited to manage even with the best of intentions. I have seen nothing from Warrant to lead me to think she is skeptical of this dynamic, let alone critical.

          The secret to propaganda resides in the truth that remains undisclosed – not in the lies that they would have you believe. The fact that we have a revolving door between the administration and the banking industry is hardly undisclosed and is actually outside the point. Even if she did manage to lock down the revolving door, ideas and “economic theory” that favor the banks is already in place and well established in academic curricula.

          What she needs to go after are the consequences of the decisions that are made and the reasoning behind those decisions. Even the deliberative process for those decisions is a proper target. Who makes those decisions is and will continue to be a red haring.

          Comparing her with more established politicians is fair game when she is repeating their mistakes and repeating their narratives.

          1. FluffytheObeseCat

            “She is showing the banks are venerable”

            Actually that’s kind of what she refuting………
            More to the point, like Yves indicated, Warren’s borking of 3 rotten appointments is a big deal. She is a very junior senator, in a seniority-mad system. It’s a very nice start.

            1. lylo

              We’ll see, what with Democrats now being the minority and her votes actually mattering.
              That’s how it’s played, right? Everyone has their principles, then they have to vote, and it’s the voting that makes the party money. If you are vulnerable you can vote how your constituents want, until the party needs your vote to jam stuff through.
              Or am I the only one who notices?

              Seriously, I do hope that she sticks to her convictions. However I don’t expect that she will do so once she gains any real authority, and am absolutely shocked that anyone else does.

              1. Praedor

                The senate being Repub is likely to change in 2016. That election is the Democrats’ to lose as far as the senate is concerned. Be that as it may, it IS maddening how strongly some Dems come out when in minority but as soon as hit majority/power, its collapse and weak tea. Sen Harry Reid is case in point. NOW that he’s minority leader and retiring, he takes actual stands. While majority leader it was all pandering to the GOP to “try” and get the magic of “bipartisanship” back. Sacrifice everything just in the barest hope that the minority GOP would deign to vote with them on something. He could have truly fixed the filibuster (make it a REAL damned filibuster, damnit, the way it was intended: speaking all damn night and day if necessary), but no, he was a wet piece of toast…until now.

                1. wbgonne

                  I will be shocked if the Democrats retake the Senate in 2016. The demoralization within the Democratic Party is palpable and having Hillary rammed down the partisans’s throats is not helping. Unless the GOP runs a slate of obvious droolers (possible) I see little chance for the Democrats to flip 4 seats. If it’s Bush v. Clinton the turnout will be miserable and that helps the GOP and the incumbents.

        3. Praedor

          Fair enough. In addition to showing the banks ARE vulnerable and educating the people about their perfidy and corruption of the process (the very act of attempting to blackmail the Dems is truly shooting themselves in the face). She brings in accolades and support, this emboldens others to step up, others who thought they were too progressive or anti-establishment to run and win may also see it as encouragement.

          I want to see the progressive caucus stand together STRONGLY and LOUDLY. I want them to be willing to kill bills, whether offered up by Dems or Repubs, if they contain too much love for big banks, Wall Street, and corporations.

      3. FederalismForever

        @Adam Eran. One good thing about Andrew Jackson’s Indian removal policy (completely unforeseen by Jackson): It would make General Sherman’s march through Georgia near the end of the Civil War that much easier, as all of those pro-slavery tribes and their thousands of slaves had by then been relocated to Oklahoma, where their (mostly) pro-Confederacy tribal leaders would fight against the Union in a remote theater of the war. If General Sherman instead had to contend against these five tribes within Georgia, along with the other Confederate troops, would he have conquered Atlanta in time to rescue Lincoln’s re-election chances in 1864? (Of course, this topic is a non sequitur to a discussion of Jackson’s financial policies, but since you mentioned it . . . .)

    5. GuyFawkesLives

      Where were you when we were getting beaten up and maced in the streets? People successfully laughed like the banks wanted you to at Occupy Wall Street. And then once again the populace remains obedient.

      I think I need to begin building that guillotine in my front yard.

      1. lylo

        In all fairness, did you guys really see yourselves?
        I’m a bit of a hippy myself, but I sounded like Eric Cartman after going to the one in Cinci. “Consensus decision making”…… Ugh.
        And then, they walked past the headquarters of one of the largest banks in the country on a Sunday with nary a pause. Sure showed them! …..by chanting slogans for a moment at a few janitors………. Then hung out around a fountain listening to rich people talk about inequality. It seems like the only people serious were the ones at night, and they were exclusively focused on confrontation with police. Hilarious.
        Probably would have had a bit more support had Occupy started with your current idea instead of patchouli and drum circles.

        1. Praedor

          I’m all for guillotines and gallows but not if they come with patchouli and drum circles.

  5. Ulysses

    “Warren has repeatedly called for prosecutions of bankers.”

    I do agree that Elizabeth Warren is to be commended for her pushing back against the power of the banksters. Yet she could go much further than her vague calls for accountability of the “too big to jail” fraudsters.

    She could use her “bully pulpit” to outline specific crimes committed, by specific criminal banksters, and insist that there will be no business as usual until these named individuals are hauled into criminal court by the DOJ. Holding up legislation, appointments etc., is all well and good– but we have an intensely criminogenic atmosphere today on Wall Street, and we desperately need an Elliot Ness to start putting these fraudsters behind bars!!

    1. DanB

      Where Warren will go from here, if she’s not engaging in a Machiavellian veal pen ruse, is to openly challenge and expose Obama, the Clintons and the entire DLC corrupt enterprise. She’s my senator and when some friends and I met her in August 2011 we told her she’d one day have to face the contradiction between the real interests the Democratic Party serves -the 1%- and her commitment to average Americans. And I wish she’d knock off that “Middle class Americans” rhetoric that ignores the working poor and the dispossessed. On the other hand, maybe she’s sincere and is unconsciously playing the role of “the first pancake” of -dare I still hope?- a citizens awakening to the class loyalty inspired depradations of both parties.

    2. Carla

      “She could use her “bully pulpit” to outline specific crimes committed, by specific criminal banksters, and insist that there will be no business as usual until these named individuals are hauled into criminal court by the DOJ.”

      For that matter, Senators Sherrod Brown and Bernie Sanders could back her up. Wouldn’t kill ’em.

      1. Vatch

        Excellent point about Brown and Sanders, Carla. For those Naked Capitalism readers who live in Vermont or Ohio, here’s their contact information:

        Brown, Sherrod – (D – OH)
        713 Hart Senate Office Building
        Washington DC 20510
        (202) 224-2315
        Toll Free: 1-888-896-OHIO (6446) or
        Cincinnati: (513) 684-1021
        Cleveland: (216) 522-7272
        Columbus: (614) 469-2083
        Lorain: (440) 242-4100

        Sanders, Bernard – (I – VT)
        332 Dirksen Senate Office Building
        Washington DC 20510
        (202) 224-5141
        (800)-339-9834 (toll-free in Vermont) or
        (802) 862-0697 (calling in the Burlington area)

    3. Yves Smith Post author

      Are you crazy? If you want her to become irrelevant pronto and hand the banks a huge PR win, that’s just the way to do it.

      Warren has no subpoena powers and all of maybe a half a dozen staffers. She’d be accused of shooting from the hip, just making stuff up to raise money and get headlines, when Federal prosecutors and regulators, who have vastly more access to what really happened at the banks investigated for years and found virtually nothing criminal (the little they have involves money laundering).

      She’d become the new Joe McCarthy, circa July 1954.

      1. Code Name D

        Irrelevant in what regard? To the banks and politicians that they bought off perhaps. If she tried to take these accusations to a court of law, you might be right.

        But the court of public opinion is a different theater. Here she doesn’t have to bring chargers; all she really needs to do is demand answers to hard questions. It will be the justification the bank apologists that will do them in because they will completely believe the bat-crazy excuses they throw out. When they back-fire, they will change there tune with a completely new theory that will still not answer the original question yet still be crazier than the first.

      2. Ulysses

        “When Federal prosecutors and regulators, who have vastly more access to what really happened at the banks investigated for years and found virtually nothing criminal (the little they have involves money laundering).”

        And these prosecutors and regulators are honest??!??

        So you have just been pulling our leg all these years when you have written, again and again, that these banksters have committed all sorts of control fraud and other crimes? Now your tune has changed to “nothing to see here, move along, don’t make waves??!!” Please say it ain’t so!!

        1. jonboinAR

          Yeah, that didn’t quite make sense to me either. The message I have been getting from Yves for these several years has been that the regulators and government attorneys had never found anything prosecutable because they weren’t really interested in doing so. The reply above sounds like a changing of that tune to that there may be nothing illegal to find. If so, this would support Obama’s statement of several years ago to the same effect, which statement was roundly jeered by frequenters of this board and many others. But the Yves’ reply is probably just slightly carelessly worded, or I’m not understanding something.

          1. participant-observer-observed

            Go back and read Bill Black’s past years’ of comments comparing GFC to S&L investigations, prosecutions, and convictions.

            I recall that one significant factor is lack of prosecutor numbers. Don’t you remember the White House calling all of the state AGs down to trade in their pitchforks for apple pie crumbs from the WH linens? (Go back and read Harris or Schneiderman from 5 years ago vs now)

            Warren’s prospects re Wall St regulation are a matter of pragmatism and realism. Her work is a necessary but insufficient condition! She seems to understand her limitations and to make best use of what resources she has.

        2. Yves Smith Post author

          I am telling you what she would be accused of.

          Warren has NEVER been a prosecutor, and only advised on civil cases. She’s be shellacked so many different ways if she tried playing armchair prosecutor that it is not even funny. This is probably the single most destructive course of action that her opponents could dream up for her.

          I don’t understand how you don’t get that. It’s one thing for people who have secure perches (like Bill Black, by virtue of the UMKC not caring about his blogging, Charles Ferguson by virtue of being independently wealthy, and moi by virtue of having the internet equivalent of an old castle with a deep moat around it) to say particular banks and banksters should go to jail. A Senator is held to completely different standards of conduct. Warren would lose all her power and cred with remarkable speed if she went the route you suggest.

          As I said, look how rapid Joe McCarthys’s fall was. She’d be depicted as a power-mad leftist McCarthy and it would stick. Warren would not only be over politically, she’d permanently lose all her hard won reputation. I cannot believe that you don’t comprehend that.

          1. jonboinAR

            Okay I have it. Thanks so much for your time. Her position as Senator is such that she has to show a lot of deliberation. I understand what you’re saying.

          2. Ulysses

            ” I cannot believe that you don’t comprehend that.”

            I comprehend what you are saying perfectly well. You are correct that the enforcers of neoliberal orthodoxy would try to smear and destroy Sen. Warren in the manner you suggest.

            Yet your Joe McCarthy analogy seems very unconvincing to me. He was the Goliath going after all the alleged lefty Davids, very few of them with any real power in the U.S. The question that was posed to him– “have you no decency?”– resonated with people because he was an obvious bully.

            Very few, if any Americans cheered on McCarthy because they had suffered cruel material deprivations at the hands of lefty intellectuals, actors, etc. His support was ideological.

            Elizabeth Warren, in going after the bad-behaving billionaire MOTU, would be an obvious David against greedy Goliaths. The same greedy Goliaths that a large majority of Americans, on the right and left, correctly blame for their shocking decline in standards of living.

            Sure, bold calls for criminal prosecutions would shock and enrage the comfortable villagers inside the beltway or on the upper east side. Yet any change for the better in our nation today will have to afflict the comfortable in their islands of privilege, and start giving comfort to the afflicted in “flyover country.”

            1. Phil

              We’d all like to see a Queen in Shining Armor come out and slay the banking dragon with her sword, but it’s not going to work that way. It’s going to take determined policy changes that are driven by putting the right people in office, and changing the tenor of fatalism that appears to be taking over the American voter.

              One of the frustrating things about political action and serious policy change is that it usually drags out – it takes time – because deliberation and compromise is the name of the game. Warren would get a lot of press and best wishes from liberals and progressives, but she would burn herself out if she played too overt a hand. Warren is “getting the conversation going”; it’s up to you and me and everyone else to take whatever large or small actions we can (including the ballot, which has been far underused these last few decades) to make things more amenable to the Average citizen, and to those who need a break.

              What people fail to understand is that much of what the banks did was *legal*. How did that happen? We let it happen right under our noses. We weren’t paying attention; we were enjoying our “things” and “comfort zones”. The American voter has been apathetic. It happened because Americans have been living in within a learned, conditioned expectation that no matter how much our financial or any other institutions screw up, we’ll be OK. Americans have not been paying attention to detail – instead, they have been manipulated to focus on things like “family values”, and other lightweight garbage while the Plutocrats and far right have built up financial and policy-making infrastructure that serves them, respectively.

              It used used to be true in the 3-4 decades post WWII that America could screw up, and we would recover easily, but no longer.

      3. Ned Ludd

        I am trying to square all these articles about fraud and cover-ups with this surprising revelation that “virtually nothing criminal” occurred.

        Quelle Surprise! SEC Fails to Sanction Big Banks for Fraud

        Yet Another Obama Big Lie: Mortgage Fraud Investigation Not Even Staffed

        So Much for Schneiderman Being Tough on Wall Street

        Quelle Surprise! UBS Gets a Cost-of-Doing-Business Fine for “Epic” Libor Fraud (Updated)

        Fed Argues that Mortgage Abuses are Trade Secrets, Meaning Institutionalized Fraud

        Taibbi: Ex-JP Morgan Lawyer With Smoking Gun on Mortgage Fraud Stymied by Holder Cover-Up

        Wray: Timmy-Gate: Did Geithner Help Hide Lehman Fraud?

  6. JS Bach

    Until we elect a President who will appoint a US Attorney General who will prosecute criminal conduct by Wall Street, nothing will change. Neither Holder nor Loretta Lynch have pursued criminal prosecutions; fines by Wall Street are simply considered a cost of doing business passed along to the shareholders in the form of a temporary “hit” to the stock price.

  7. roadrider

    If the Dim-o-craps had any integrity they would have told the banksters to stick their campaign contributions where the sun doesn’t shine a long time ago.

    But, of course, they won’t.

  8. BudinPA

    Please tell me, who could have removed the push-out amendment from the CR bill before the vote but didn’t.

  9. craazyboy

    Time is money

    It’s the age of ZIRP. Politicians get ZIRP for their time-money.

    We must all tighten our belts for the good of the banking system.

  10. BudinPA

    Please tell me, who could have removed the push-out amendment from the CR bill but didn’t

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      IIRC, only five Senators voted against cloture, which was the vote that mattered. The threat was Warren filibustering a must-pass bill, so holding it up would have been a big deal.

  11. Henry Carraro

    Bless her heart. Elizabeth Warren makes a hell of case, but all of this is smoke and mirrors. Bailing out the banks again the next time will be impossible.

    The total U.S.A. debt is about 18 trillion dollars. But when you roll in unfunded liabilities like for example the one trillion in unfunded military retirement benefits for generals who can retire with 30% more annual income than the earned while on active duty. The Federal Reserve hiding trillions and trillions of fictitious bond sales to no one. Paying governments to buy worthless paper. There is over 75 trillion dollars in unfunded liabilities. Yeah with a capital “T”.

    But wait there is more.

    Last count there is nearly 625 trillion dollars in derivatives that are totally unfunded. Say what? The biggest banks are leveraged beyond my ability to fathom what could happen in case of a default. We the tax payers are liable to clean up this mess too. My question is how? And with what?

    The question I leave you with is how can the U.S.A. be responsible for nearly 800 trillion dollars in unfunded liabilities. How did we allow this to happen?

    1. Yves Smith Post author


      The derivatives number is notional, and not the economic value. And of the global banks that are major derivatives players, only about 1/3 are American. Most of that number is really plain vanilla stuff like interest rate swaps. It also includes huge markets that are exchange traded, like Treasury futures and S&P futures, which are not risks to the banks at all. If you want to worry, worry about the economic risk of credit default swaps or OTC energy derivatives.

      The US will never go bankrupt. It can create too much inflation. The banks most assuredly will be bailed out. Remember, the TARP made money!

  12. JEHR

    The story noted that the amount at issue was only $15,000 per bank, so this scheme is more a warning shot that [sic] a serious move, particularly since it is aimed at the Senate, and thus pointedly steers clear of the Big Finance stalwarts, the Clintons.

  13. Expat

    Warren is not a threat. She is the token populist. Obama can point to her to show how his administration and party are tough on banks. The banks can use her as their bogeyman and garner sympathy. The right can use her as a lightning rod and avoid having to address the issues.

    In short, Warren is perfect. The rest, however….

    1. TimmyB

      It is much too early to proclaim that Warren is “the token populist.” If more populist candidates get elected, and/or more elected officials embrace populism, Warren will never be a token. If she keeps up the fight, even if she is not joined by additional elected populists, she will still retain the power of her “bully pulpit” to shine a light on Wall Street wrongdoing. To become a token populist, she will need to shut her mouth and go along with the rest of the corporate Democrats. Frankly, I don’t see that happening.

      While Obama might be able to point out to the public that Warren is a fighting

      1. TimmyB

        While Obama might be able to point out to the public that Warren is a fighting Democrat, to the people who really rule this country, the big money doners, pointing to Warren doesn’t help at all. As this article highlights, Wall Street wants Warren neutered. If she were merely a token populist, instead of a real threat, Wall Street would have no need to neuter her. Token populists come already neutered.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Warren stymied the Administration on Antonio Weiss, and they pulled out all stops to try to get him, including repeated articles attacking Warren in the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Wall Street journal. She won a real David v. Goliath fight. And she and two other Senators stopped the Administration privately from another bank-boosting move that would have hurt large swathes of homeowners. I’m not at liberty to say more. But if I heard of one incident where a private talking-to stopped the Administration, there may be others. And more to the point, the fact that a mere tea and cookies conversation would make the Administration back down says they fear and respect her, and want to take her on only when they are confident they will win.

          I see her as systematically taking on bigger and bigger targets, demonstrating that she can do damage and moving up to bigger and more important issues.

          1. Oregoncharles

            WTF does this say about just how corrupt this administration is? That’s scary.

            Among other things, with scandals like that hiding in the wings, the 2016 election could be much worse for the Democrats than even I expected.

          2. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

            Yves I always appreciate it when you chime in. Yes Bryan didn’t accomplish much. Yes A. Jackson genocided some folks (to use a current idiom). But we are very far from the point when tiny incremental wins like Antonio Weiss can make any difference at all, we are at the “hair-on-fire” stage across the board and need some true firebrands not just to speak truth to power but to inflame, enrage, inspire, and overthrow. Our Constitution says it is our right and indeed our duty to overthrow tyranny…and that’s what this is by any definition of the term. The entire relationship between the citizen and the state is completely screwed up, we don’t need to tinker, we need to reboot. I would call America in 1969 a reboot: we stopped a war, we threw out a crook president, and we completely changed the society. We can do it again…and boy do we need to.

            1. hunkerdown

              Reboot! Great analogy. Now, we can talk about “advanced persistent threats” implanted in the BIOS…

            2. jonboinAR

              Warren doesn’t appear so far to be the firebrand type. Will it be enough for her to be dogged and incorruptible? As Yves seems to be suggesting, biting off a little at a time, but ina relentless fashion?

          3. Expat

            Meh. We’ll see. But based on the past thirty or so years, I will stick by my assessment. The powers that be on Wall Street and in Washington are not political or transient; they are entrenched, non-partisan, and systemic.
            Warren may be gnawing away at the great tree of “corruption” (How can we call it corruption when the system is designed that way?), but the bark is thick, the girth is large, and the roots go deep.
            There was nothing done to the banks after 2008. I fail to see any changes now when then is no visible crisis.

  14. Felix_47

    The Saudis and the Israelis figured out how cheap our politicians are long ago. I would love someone to investigate just how much mid east money was involved in the Citigroup meltdown and how much was saved for them. I suppose the bigger fees have to go to the conduits of these funds…..the Harvard/Yale lobbyist lawyers….who make money both ways. If one wants to know how the USG is going to do something simply figure out the course that would benefit Israeli and Saudi billionaires.

  15. DJG

    “The Administration (remember that Obama is still very much the party leader) again got too clever by half.” I recall reading an article that Obama originally favored breaking up Citi, but somehow, Tim Geithner ignored his wishes. This seems to be a self-exonerating story, too clever by half indeed. Poor Obama, all tactics, no strategy. That applies to the article posted today about TPP as well.

    1. Blurtman

      President Obama stated on the Leno show, a few months into his first term, having conducted absolutely no investigations, that the banks had committed no crimes. He is merely a tool.

  16. DJG

    “Rubino crime family”? Talk about too clever by half. “Rubin crime family” will do. Rectification of names. There is no ethnic propensity toward crime. (And as always these are the sort of stray data and little Rubino lapses that make me wonder what people are talking about when they talk “identity politics.”)

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Wow, are we being precious. The Mafia has a distinctive style of how it runs its crime operations. That’s why we had a whole series of Godfather movies, and lots of other about treatments in novels and movies.

      1. Fool

        Yeah but let’s face it: the Jewish financiers* are better than the Italian Mafia at this game. Consider this twee leverage-and-loot operation; good strategy but just a few billion short of the kind of leveraged buyout that would make it onto Dealbook. The Mafia’s style isn’t so distinctive — I believe Bill Moyers drew the comparison between financial advisory of IRA’s’ to protection rackets.

        The truth is, facetious Italian suffixes are socially acceptable. And yet, had you written the “Rubinowitz crime family”, by Monday morning David Brooks would place you on the neo-Nazi watchlist.

        *Jewish guy, so acceptable user of the term “Jewish financiers”

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Oh, I dunno. The scene in The Departed where Jack Nicholson crushes Leonardo DiCaprio’s hand and then throws cash at him to get it fixed is memorable. And it echoes Scorsese’s scene in the Godfather where Sonny smashed a photographer’s camera and then throws money on the ground.

          1. Fool

            With Wolf of Wall Street you’re practically getting the Jewish version to The Departed’s — Irish — and The Godfather’s — Italian — mafias. If I recall correctly, each among the trifecta enjoyed throwing money and cocaine around (maybe not the Corleones, at least with regards to the latter, they had respect). So yeah, not that distinctive (give-and-take). At the end of the day, I guess they all just appeal to that fantastical masculine impulse to throw money and cocaine around.

      2. DJG

        Ahh, it’s a witticism based on the mob’s management style. Maybe you should have cited “Bob ‘Meyer Lansky’ Rubin.”

      3. Alejandro

        Here’s an interesting POV;

        “…That is the real meaning of the mafia today and throughout the capitalist era, and it is not just limited to the Italian case: much the same can be said of the Mexican cartels and the Russian mob…”

        “…Given all this, if one compares the treatment of the mafia in modern American cinema with the treatment of the Ku Klux Klan, there is a striking difference. The KKK, although a Protestant organization, had much the same role in protecting the interests of southern landowners against the potential independent organization of the rural and even urban workforces in their specific region. Like the mafia, the KKK also claimed to be bound by the honor codes of their ancient genteel traditions in the style of Gone With the Wind. They too acted as intermediaries between state and society by terrorizing the producing population, and ultimately served the purpose of maintaining a particular order of property convenient to a small historical elite — including its racial dimension in America…”

        1. Fool

          ^ Possibly the worst explanation for the Mafia since that time Tony Soprano said “There is no mafia.”

          1. Alejandro

            Assuming you read the link, I presume that you can proffer a better “explanation”, independent of the one constructed for you by hollywood, hbo etc.?

            1. Fool

              So either I endorse what amounts to an idiotic analogy or simply I am incapable of developing a view that is independent of “hollywood, hbo etc.”? With logic like that I’m not surprised you would be impressed with such garbage.

              1. Alejandro

                “ I am incapable of developing a view that is independent of “hollywood, hbo etc.””

                Sandwiched between phatic verbosities, this jumps… but are you really?

  17. timbers

    Milton Friedman said a shift in intellectual view from one policy mostly universally accepted as “correct” towards another policy takes decades and happens slowly, but once it takes hold it becomes powerful. He notes the Socialist Party in America was the most influential party not because it held office but because other parties in power adopted a good part of it’s program, because that was the dominate view of intellectuals of the time.

    So Liz might be the early signs of that shift taking place now, and not just a Democratic Hood Ornament.

    If she is, the bad news we will all be dead in the long run before any of us derive much if any benefit from this shit. Which brings us to John Keynes.

  18. Chauncey Gardiner

    Thank you for the clip of Senator Warren’s speech and your related article. It is outrageous that Citigroup’s lobbyists slipped that provision into the Omnibus “Must Pass” spending bill at the last minute misleadingly titled “Prohibition Against Federal Government Bailouts of Swaps Entities” that once again puts the American people on the hook for bailing out the biggest banks on their speculative derivatives trades.

    Senator Warren’s observations about Citigroup’s grip over monetary and economic policy through their extensive network of former executives in the Executive branch of the U.S. government was enlightening to me. The amounts they have spent on lobbying, and the funds they have diverted to think tanks to influence public policy is particularly galling in light of the fact that Citigroup received over half a trillion dollars in bailout money under TARP, FDIC and the Fed. It is noteworthy that their constant lobbying pressure to pass legal loopholes has disappeared off the corporate media’s radar screens along with all the other accounting, legal and regulatory forbearances, waivers, and the hidden subsidies and transfers of wealth to them over the past seven years. When does the statute of limitations expire on fraud?

    I agree with Senator Warren regarding the need to pass the Brown-Kaufman amendment to the Dodd-Frank Act. It is clear that they have too much concentrated political power. That Citi and the other TBTFs are holding the entire country hostage is simply unacceptable.

  19. Fool

    I don’t really understand the conflation of Obama with the Democrat “base” of limousine liberals. The limousine liberals hate Obama. For all you know, he’s played a part in empowering Warren’s ascent.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Huh? Obama’s New York City fundraiser have all been at the homes of private equity firm partners, the epitome of limousine liberals.

      1. Fool

        I grew up at the very core of limousine liberalism — and, if I were to guess, among the highest concentration of private equity firm partners’ homes — and in my experience the dissatisfaction with Obama is almost unanimous (among people who voted for him). It’s ironic that you would use his ties to the PE industry as an example: in theory, they should love him!…given how cheap credit is — for them to buy — and how high the public market is — for them to sell. But again, my impression is otherwise…

        What I find more interesting though is the vague terms with which this sentiment among the limousine liberal class is articulated, e.g. “he does nothing,” “he let me down,” and so forth. So the right we know hates him, the neoliberals don’t like him, and NC’s linkfeed — which I arrive at daily — indicates to me that the left doesn’t like him as well. It wouldn’t be so strange if he wasn’t doing an OK job, at least in superficial terms (buoyant stock market, reduced unemployment, etc.).

        Perhaps come 2016- we’ll have better perspective on his legacy. In any case, the ubiquitous dissatisfaction with Obama is odd, if unprecedented (indeed, at least the Carter administration was quantifiably bad). Personally, I have no read on Obama; put differently, where his ideological motives lie. However, I do think that for the President of the United States, in 2015, a transparently leftist agenda (gov’t spending, progressive tax reform, etc.) would preclude the ability to get anything done. The tragedy of politics, in my view, is the paradox in which a politician cannot genuinely serve the people’s interests and achieve them while at the same time acquire the accolades for having done so. That is to say: she cannot remain a politician! For that reason, I’m not quite as ready as you are to so definitively write Obama off as a neoliberal tool.

        1. Ned Ludd

          An illuminating anecdote from Ron Suskind, about all the Wall Street people whinging about Obama.

          Jon Stewart: We keep hearing that Wall Street guys hate Obama. And my sense is, “Why?” They’ve had it as good as anybody in this country over these past 2½ years, probably better. What’s their beef, in this?


          Ron Suskind: It’s interesting. I asked the same question. I talked to a senior Wall Street guy and said, “What gives with this thing with Obama? You know, you’re after him, he’s anti-business. You know, god! – he couldn’t have done more. He basically opened the federal purse for you guys. He saved your skin… And he says, “No no! You see, of course he’s not anti-business. But when we say he’s anti-business he just ends up doing more for us. So we’re going to keep saying it.”

          1. wbgonne

            Exactly! Just as with the frackers suing Obama for enacting regulations that Obama let the frackers write. The layers of deception are several because we are dealing with masters of deception.

            And someone suggesting Obama is not a neoliberal?! Good grief. So much for credibility.

            1. Fool

              Well it’s self-deception, if anything — but why wouldn’t Clinton have been subject to the same treatment in his second term?

              1. wbgonne

                why wouldn’t Clinton have been subject to the same treatment in his second term?

                If you are asking why Obama is less popular than Bill Clinton was at the end of his presidency I think there are numerous reasons. First, the times were different and most Democrats didn’t even realize what Clinton was doing to the party when he sold it to Wall Street. People get it now. Second, while it may have been a mirage, Main Street appeared to be doing a lot better under Clinton than under Obama. Third, we are in far more desperate straits now on nearly every front. Fourth, there is latent racism. Fifth, Obama is not a natural politician like Bill Clinton.

                1. Fool

                  I was mainly referring to Obama’s standing among the socioeconomic elite, so his concessions to the Street would theoretically work in his favor. Whether we “appear” worse today or are in more desperate straits is speculative, if true; the same goes for the idea that he’s not a “natural politician” like Bill Clinton. How else to explain to ascent of a first term senator? No politician has ever been as smooth/slick as Bill so the comparison seems unfair.

                  The best explanation (Occams Razor?) seems to be the latent racism one, inasmuch as we’re all latent racists, i.e. social actors within a context of racial identity. Put differently, as a smarter man said, Race Matters. It seems to me that within that context we’ve projected something unique on Obama by which we’ve been let down.

                  1. ohmyheck

                    The only thing latent here is your Obot-Obotiness.

                    We’ve all been through the white-privilege/”your a racist no matter what” Moebius strip, lose-lose game before.

                    Tim Wise’s website is thataway…

                    1. Fool

                      We’ve all been through the “post-racial” phase as well. David Brooks’ column is thataway…

                    2. Fool

                      My Obotiness — I won’t bother looking that up — is probably why no one likes Obama. Just as you suggested.

                  2. wbgonne

                    There is nothing speculative about the evisceration of the American middle class, nor about the fact that the Shock Doctrine is now aimed squarely at the American people. Wealth disparity is worse than ever in American history and the American political system has collapsed as a vehicle for representative democracy. This is Obama’s legacy of betrayal and neoliberalism.

                    Why do the socioeconomic elites shun Obama nonetheless? To the extent that is so, you were answered already: it is kabuki on the professional level (the Rich are insatiable) and the result of Obama’s poor interpersonal skills (that’s what I meant by Obama lacking Bill Clinton’s political skill) on the personal level.

                    But really. If you still don’t recognize that Obama is a neoliberal ideologue pretending to be a progressive then these are wasted words. Obama is a living lie and the country is going to shit under his reign. That’s why no one likes him. There’s Occam’s Razor for you.

                    1. Fool

                      I didn’t say anything about the “evisceration of the middle class,” or any speculation thereof, so I’m confused by the straw man. Not to mention, the middle class was in decline since before Clinton. (I mean, yeah, higher rates of homeownership or whatever, but we know how that turned out.)

                      And, lol, “poor interpersonal skills”? The man is President, not a cab driver; his whole career is essentially about channeling his “ideas” — irrespective of their merit — in such a way that’s palatable to a number of parties…donors, Democrat elites, voters, etc.. If anything, we overrated Obama the Intellectual when all along he was Obama the Seducer.

                      I haven’t asserted whether he’s progressive or neoliberal, only that your grievances — along with, ironically, the class of people with whom you claim he is aligned — are articulated in wishy-washy terms.

                    2. ohmyheck


                      We just don’t get it, don’t you see? We are just a couple of delusional, white-privileged, David Brookes-spouting, racism-denialists.

                      Because generalizations.

                      Oh, and it is our fault that we do not appreciate Dear Leader, because “It seems to me (fool) that within that context we’ve projected something unique on Obama by which we’ve been let down.”

                      Really. Us Hoi-Polloi, even after 6+ years, will simply never be capable of grasping the nuanced brilliance of our President.

                      It takes a special kind of intellect to see how truly remarkable Obama is, one which we sadly seem to lack. “Sigh”…

                      And who else but a “fool” could possibly, after 6 years, buy into anything this deplorable administration has wrought, and then come here to “guide” us into seeing the wrongness of our ways.

                      Hey, at least this is a better Obot than the last bunch that showed up.

                2. Chris in Paris

                  Clinton also became much more popular due to the resentment the majority felt after the impeachment fiasco.

                  1. wbgonne

                    Excellent point. Bill Clinton was a masterful politician and used that impeachment resentment as a sword and a shield. The Clintons have been playing the victim card ever since. Unfortunately for Hillary, she lacks Bill’s political skill (and she isn’t president) so her claims of victimhood usually fall flat.

              2. Ned Ludd

                People were enthusiastic about Wall Street during Clinton’s second term, seeing it as a way to get rich by investing in tech stocks.

                Then the markets fell, and companies like Enron, WorldCom, Tyco, and Arthur Andersen fell, leading to fraud and criminal misdeeds being discovered. When the larger financial collapse came later, in 2008, partisan Democrats rounded up votes for Obama under the delusion that he would send Wall Street people to jail; or at the very least break up Wall Street banks and restore strict regulations.

                Obama had leverage over Wall Street (to shake them down for campaign cash, or to break them up for personal popularity), and he let the heads of 13 major banks know that they were indebted to him.

                “Be careful how you make those statements, gentlemen. The public isn’t buying that,” [Obama] said. “My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks.”

                It was an attention grabber, no doubt, especially that carefully chosen last word.

                But then Obama’s flat tone turned to one of support, even sympathy. “You guys have an acute public relations problem that’s turning into a political problem,” he said. “And I want to help. But you need to show that you get that this is a crisis and that everyone has to make some sacrifices.”

                “My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks.” That statement is an implied threat. Consequently, Wall Street CEOs applied their own counter-pressure, while also holding onto lingering resentment for being threatened (even though it turned out to be a completely empty threat).

                1. wbgonne

                  Yes, that was one of most telling moments recounted in Suskind’s book. As for Obama’s unpopularity with the economic elites, Obama isn’t liked and that matters. He isn’t trusted either and that also matters. But I think you hit it on the head at the start: the bigshots sized Obama up early, probably at that “pitchforks” meeting, and decided he was weak and could be rolled. And that’s what they commenced doing. No one respects a fool.

                  1. Fool

                    That’s an interesting point, and Suskind’s book would probably answer the question I raised. Be that as it may, because the financial industry is essentially the epicenter of the “neoliberal order” — to use the term of art — wouldn’t the industry’s ongoing clash with Obama for almost the entirety of his time in office suggest that perhaps he’s not a neoliberal tool?

                    1. Vatch

                      That’s what they want us to believe. But the financial industry gave $78 million to Obama in the 2008 election cycle, and “only” $64 million to McCain. Of course, in 2012, the financial industry had one of their own, Mitt Romney, a private equity guy, as their candidate, so that time they gave a lot more to him than to Obama. See:



                      Big finance is quite satisfied with Obama. But they can get even more concessions from him if they pretend to be angry — it’s a successful example of beltway kabuki.

    2. Ned Ludd

      Money Chooses Sides

      In a barn-burning, record-smashing fund-raising campaign season, Barack Obama tapped a new breed of Manhattan donors and won the expectations game.

      — By John Heilemann, Published Oct 24, 2007, in New York

  20. pelham

    The fact that a bank would come out — publicly — and threaten to refrain from bribing Democratic senators suggests that it believes (perhaps correctly) that our mainstream political culture is so far gone that it’s literally safe and acceptable to make such an admission. Even worse, Citi apparently thinks that the public will go a big step further and sympathize with it. Maybe Citi believes that the absence of its contribution to a Senate campaign will raise questions in the public mind, that the broad public will think that if a big, prestigious institution like Citi is holding back on a donation, then maybe the candidate and the party are a little sketchy after all. Better to stick with Citi-approved Republicans.

    On the face of it, it appears Citi’s announcement is an own goal. But it’s hard to believe they didn’t do some focus groups on this.

    But to respond effectively, every Dem and his or her dog should be howling WE DON’T WANT YOUR STINKIN’ MONEY — not just Elizabeth Warren. Where’s the indignation?

    1. hunkerdown

      “Your money’s no good here” is the antithesis of neoliberalism, i.e. the modern Democratic Party. Remember, some Black people couldn’t dine out over a half century ago because of the concept that everything isn’t for sale to everyone, therefore, those who have money now should be able to buy their way into anything. Perfectly logical!

    2. FluffytheObeseCat

      ” Citi apparently thinks that the public will go a big step further and sympathize with it.”

      Not exactly. Citi thinks that the few people who are aware of it are in the bag for them. They think that the vast majority of struggling nobodies out in flyover will never hear about it, or will receive so little coherent information that they’ll go all ruminant, chew their cud, and forget about it before a week goes by.

      This is what will happen actually. No one — not even MSNBC & certainly not NPR — is reporting consistently on these issues. That’s why Warren’s populist grandstanding is dangerous to Lords of Finance. She actually gets coverage. The kind of coverage that may resonate among overworked, under-informed average people in Tulsa, OK, Bend, OR, El Paso, TX, Anaheim, CA. All at the same time. For extended periods of time. Like, long enough to impact an election.

      My biggest issue is that there is only one of her. We could use about 6 reps or senators with her kind of popularity. The political newsmedia isn’t capable of following more than that; they are reliably less curious than the ‘public’ they purport to cater to. They have all the breadth and depth of attention of a 13 year old girl with a One Direction crush.

  21. thom

    Pure fascism — the merger of corporation and state (Mussolini) is not good enough for Citi and the Rubino Crime Syndicate.

    They have 96, 97 of the 100 Senators, and all but three or four House members and the Fed and Treasury and the Supreme Court but that is Just Not Enough. They gotta have it all.

    They just gotta have it all.

    Pure fascism strikes any form of dissonance let alone dissent, wipes it out, exterminates it. That is why there are no more than three or four independent-minded, critically thinking, non-ideological US senators.

    Authentic democracy would require more. Ten or 15? Maybe 34? It is too bad that Congressman Paul is no longer Congressman Paul.

    Democracy should rule capitalism but capitalism should NEVER rule democracy.

    1. hunkerdown

      With due respect, you’re fighting about five wars ago. Authentic democracy, by definition, requires that *final* say lay in the hands of the people. If in some system the people en masse are not the final deciders, then you, sir or madam, are committing violence against democracy itself by equating Potemkin popular suffrage with the ability to produce facts on the ground. Authentic democracy requires that the three branches of government be *subordinate* to the people; mere accountability has been proven ineffective when a single six-year term, sold to the right people, more than pays for any losses or embarrassment from the plebes who no longer provide you with any utility (watch Sen. Reid on trade promotion authority to see this in action). It’s such an infantilizing conceit that choosing one’s sovereign master by committee is *self-rule* in any meaningful fashion that I’m surprised people still want to be seen falling for it.

      What’s more, you should consider tokenism, classical conditioning and diminishing returns in your analysis. Tokenism is more or less a dishonest signal on the part of a group of approval or participation of some selected out-group. Classical conditioning finds that intermittent reward is more effective in conditioning the desired response to a stimulus than predictable reward or non-reward. In light of those, just what advantage would *being seen* owning the lot be? The engine that starts, lopes and shudders to a halt is more “fixable”, and thus subjectively more worthy of time, effort and attention, than the one that won’t even turn over. Thus, they are best served by a system that delivers the outcomes that suit their interests and pretends to respond to the efforts and interests of others while doing so in fact to the minimum extent possible. Hence the portrayal of a functioning representative government via distractions such as the culture war and affiliated kayfabe.

      Finally, we should be able to read our labels for meaning and not just slap Mr. Yuk on everything. Roger Griffin’s three traits of fascism: “(i) the rebirth myth, (ii) populist ultra-nationalism and (iii) the myth of decadence”. Liberalism seems to negate all three of those traits: an evangelical myth that merely uttering the (for those properly indoctrinated) “self-evidently” correct answer will unlock and coalesce stunted potentials, more flowering than rebirth; anti-populist (i.e. anti-democratic) globalism under the public-private partnership; and the broad veneration of carefully circumscribed deviance (not dissent!) from tradition for its own sake. The “managed” mob rule of the creative class might arguably count as a form of faux-populist ultranationalism, but I’m not nearly convinced yet.

      1. Rostale

        We don’t have democracy, what we have is the threat of democracy, which TPTB have been working assiduously to eliminate.

  22. Patrick

    “$15,000 per bank”
    Sounds like a good incentive for Democrats to break up the banks….

  23. Chris Grimley

    Actually, Bryan was worse than that. For becoming Secretary of State he sold out to the banker interests promoting Woodrow Wilson. The banker interests also provided the money for Roosevelt against Taft (who was against a Federal Reserve) to split the Republican vote. This put their puppet, Wilson, into the White House under the careful tutelage of banker Colonel House.

    I suspect the Secretary of State position was also a sop to Hillary Clinton for being gentle with Obama,

  24. sluggeaux

    Where on earth do these corporate-media toadies come up with this $15,000 number? Persons listing “Goldman Sachs” as their employer donated over $1,000,000 to Obama’s campaign in the 2008 cycle alone. JPM Chase and CitiGroup were right up there as well. Does anybody think that these bank employees are donating their “own” money?

    This attack on Warren (a moderate) is simply another outrage of Inverted Totalitarianism.

  25. BEast

    Is it just me, or does anybody else’s video-play glitch (skip and go soundless) just when she says, “they have too much political power” (around timestamp 7:30)?

    (Note to moderator: I have changed my handle from BE to BEast because the former was too difficult to search.)

  26. Jay

    I recall Warren proposed “helping” college students by allowing them to borrow for a discounted rate if the term was short, say less than 90 days, and the student pledged collateral like us treasury securities.

  27. Paula

    Warren is not the leader of the resistance, she is the mockingjay. She’s holding open space waiting for the resistance to get its legs and stand the F up.

  28. TG

    Is Elizabeth Warren on our side? Maybe. But there are some worrying signs.

    We need to beware of the “Obama Effect”: after 8 years of Dubya we were desperate for an alternative, and here came Obama telling us everything that we wanted to hear – and it was all a lie, and Obama was scum. Con artists routinely target the needy…

    Maybe Warren IS OK, but maybe it’s an act. I don’t know for sure – and isn’t that the big problem here? The corporate press is so stage-managed, and politicians so duplicitous, that the public has no idea what it is really voting for. But things to worry about:

    1. Warren has not been tarred by the corporate press as far right/a racist/a marxist/quixotic/iconoclastic etc. Real threats to the powers-that-be do NOT get glowing press coverage in the corporate press.

    2. Apparently Obama likes Warren and has encouraged her to run for president? VERY bad sign.

    3. OK the big banks voiced public displeasure in withholding some chump change from the democrats. The big players don’t telegraph their moves in public. They do it all in private meetings. If they were REALLY pissed at the Democrats, they would not have to do it indirectly via a show in the mainstream media, they’d just meet with the main Democrats and tell them. This seems fishy.

    No I don’t have an answer either. But after getting played by Obama we should be cautious. I suggest that breaking up the big media monopolies (Thank you, Bill Clinton) might be a higher priority even than reigning in Wall Street. Internet bloggers are fine, but they don’t have the resources to do more than comment on what the corporate press writes, and ultimately this means that they have to play on the enemy’s terms…

  29. RBHoughton

    One of the delights of this end of a long life has been the way women now appear in decision-making and provocative jobs. In the David and Goliath struggle between a handful of principled legislators and the preponderance of commercially-minded ‘what’s in it for me’ representatives and their non-voting constituents, Warren stands out.

    Is there space on the hustings for principles? Can we demand a candidate declare himself and insist he stand down when / if he resiles. That would be a progressive and non-revolutionary step in the right direction.

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