By Adam Levitin, a Professor of Law at Georgetown Law School, who also recently served on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Consumer Advisory Board and was Special Counsel to the Congressional Oversight Panel for the Troubled Asset Relief Program
This is fundraising week for Naked Capitalism. If you planned to contribute and haven’t gotten to it yet, you can dispense with the preliminaries and do so here, right now.
A lot of Americans — right and left — are frustrated with what has happened to the middle class. The gap between the superrich and the rest of the country has widened, and it seems like everyone is having to work harder just to stay in place: wages have been stagnant, two-incomes are nearly mandatory (creating a subsidiary child care issue), and millions have lost their home equity in foreclosures. While there are a lot of people who bemoan the fate of the middle class, and even some want to do something about it, they don’t or can’t do the heavy lifting necessary to figure out why the system is broken and who wants to ensure it remains that way.
If progressives ever want to win the battle over finance and salvage the middle class, they’re going to have to understand finance. Unfortunately, too many progressive just don’t want to bother learning it. Finance is, apparently, not as sexy as thinking about topics like human rights or identity politics. Finance, after all is the world of the man, the world of the suits.
But when, on rare occasion Progressives do bother learning finance — well, that’s Elizabeth Warren in a nutshell. She understands the finance and is therefore able to explain what’s wrong with it. In plain English. So too with Yves, who is an intrepid guide, our Virgil in the economic Inferno. Naked Capitalism has made it a core part of its mission to clean out the Augean stables of the financial services industry.
I can’t underscore what a valuable public service this is. Not only does Yves help educate us and explain complex topics, but I’ve seen her posts repeatedly impact Congressional votes, whether by original content or by amplifying other blogs. And Yves’ recent work on private equity investments is making serious waves among investors.
What makes Yves’ voice particularly important and insightful is that she understands the connection between financial regulation and politics. Sadly, too many economics writers ignore politics, while political writers are scared of finance. Not so for Yves, who intrepidly sallies forth in both spaces.
While I don’t always agree with Yves’ politics, she understands the intersection of finance and politics, and that is where the fate of the middle class will be won or lost. Yves understands that the road to a just and fair financial system that creates stability and opportunity for the middle class rather than enriching the wealthy who are better positioned to cope with (and even profit from) a volatile economy runs through politics as much as through technical regulatory fixes.
She also understands that the game can be rigged against the middle class through all sorts of subtle ways, and that part of the rigging is not just technical rules, but also the larger intellectual capture that affects too many regulators and professionals. It’s no surprise that Yves has never flinched from calling out politicians, regulators, or even judges for perceived cowardice or cravenness. That fearlessness combined with acute insight makes Yves an incredibly important voice in the blogosphere. She will say that the emperor has no clothes, and we need to hear it.
Part of why Yves is able to speak truth to power is because she is not in anyone’s pocket. But blogging at the scale Yves does is not a self-supporting operation. It requires assistance from readers like you. If you think you learn from Yves and Naked Capitalism, if she’s helped you understand the world better, I urge you to contribute generously to the blog here, now. Especially if your name is Zuckerberg.