Monday, January 31, 2011

Where in the World is Elizabeth Warren? (see update*)

Not only didn't she have a date for the State of the Union Prom last week, she didn't even get an invite. Consumer Financial Protection Agency founder and director pro-tem Elizabeth Warren was a no-show at the event, which was nothing less than a love-fest celebration of Big Business. Her presence might have ruffled some corporate feathers, and that would have taken the pep right out of the pep rally. I can't imagine Ms. Warren refusing to show up out of pique or protest over the night's theme. I can easily imagine, though, somebody at the White House subtly hinting that her presence might be a little...well - awkward for Big Boss Obama. Could that someone have been new chief of staff William Daley, late of JP Morgan Chase? That would be the same JP Morgan Chase which Warren recently took to task for the usurious mortgage rates it's been charging military families. JPM Chase is now trying to right its wrongs. Other than a terse statement to that effect, neither it nor Daley has had any comment. Of course, Daley has been sure to let us know he no longer has any interest, ties, conflicts of interest whatsoever with JPMC - that particular Big Bank revolving door has been slammed shut, by golly! He has been busily divesting himself of all his stocks and shares and quick as a wink, has pledged his allegiance to The American People. Uh huh.

But back to Warren. She's reportedly been interviewing replacements from among some State Attorneys General. They include failed Democratic senate candidate Martha Coakley of Massachusetts, who did such a bang-up job campaigning that she lost to the Tea Party in an ultra-liberal state. Thankfully, Coakley has said she has no interest in protecting consumers at the federal level.

That's not to say Warren still won't get the permanent job herself. Despite lukewarm support from Obama (she supposedly wouldn't survive the Senate confirmation process) at least one former Republican enemy has gone from stone cold opposition to at least a chilly, grudging sort of acceptance. Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-TX), though critical of the consumer agency itself, praised Warren for being "intelligent and a good listener." She recently met with the subcommittee on financial services investigations he chairs, and Neugebauer applauded her push to make mortgage disclosure forms reader-friendly. He even went on to say that while she wouldn't be his first choice as permanent agency head, neither would she be his last. Of course, as a member of the lower House, he has no say in the final confirmation.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth Warren must still answer directly to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, recently named as one of the enablers of the financial collapse of 2008 in his capacity as chairman of the New York Fed. Geithner has made no bones about his lukewarmness toward Warren either.

As an aside, the Obama Administration seems to be trying to relegate Warren to the Circle of Wives of Powerful Men. She has joined Holly Petraeus, wife of David the General, in advocating for military families victimized by payday lenders and other financial predators. That ties in nicely with First Lady Michelle Obama's own outreach to the military, including her recent high-profile appearance on "Oprah." These fine ladies are latter-day Florence Nightingale-like celebrity social workers to the troops. They're also being used as tools to mythologize the wars into necessary battles for freedom, rather than the mercenary imperialistic enterprises they are in reality.

That said, I have absolutely nothing against military families - as a matter of fact, I think our soldiers are being treated abysmally both in terms of their meager salaries and the soul-killing endless deployments in useless wars. There is a shameful lack of cognitive rehabilitation treatment for their many brain injuries. A recent study showed more of them commit suicide than are killed in combat.

But to channel a federal consumer protection agency chief's efforts into such a narrow niche just seems like a PR ploy and a convenient way of keeping her out of the hair of the banksters - the oligarchs who are screwing 330 million of the rest of us, with unfettered and still- unregulated gusto, each and every day. If the Administration's tactic is to compartmentalize her in such a way that the public at large will cheer her efforts at helping those who "keep us safe", it seems to be working. I haven't heard many people ask, "Gee, whatever happened to Elizabeth Warren?" I've read one or two puff pieces about how great it is that she and the General's wife have forged such a noble partnership, though. It was, perhaps, her own idea to embrace the military to make her agency more Republican-friendly. (I don't buy that theory myself). She is not getting anywhere near Goldman Sachs, that's for sure.And the JPMorgan Chase mini-scandal was just one of those serendipitous, temporary embarrassments to the corporate-friendly executive branch.

Despite the Administration's obvious efforts to subdue and marginalize her, Elizabeth Warren is not going away. If there is any justice in the world, and if the United States has a prayer of survival, she will soon, by popular demand, be our first woman Treasury Secretary. Then she can run for President in four or so years, and win by a landslide.

*UPDATE 2/8/11 - See my Blog List at the bottom of the page for a link to the Consumer Financial Protection Agency's new website and blog. Now we know where in the world to find Elizabeth Warren!


Anne Lavoie said...

Maybe she was asked to take the position she has in an effort to control her, and to limit her exposure nationally. She can only get so much attention and media exposure now that she is being handled by the administration.

Jon Huntsman is another example. He was offered the position of ambassador to China which removed him from the national spotlight. He too is a very capable and credible competitor for Obama, but is limited in what he can say.

Hillary gets the spotlight but is not free to express herself independent of the administration. I miss hearing her tell it like it is concerning domestic politics!

I see a pattern: Control the strongest competitors by taking them on board and stifling their voices. Lets hope Elizabeth Warren plays her cards right. I agree, she would make a great first woman President.

Metro Journalist said...

I agree with Anne. I think Elizabeth Warren is smart enough to know that she will not succeed because proponents of market forces will make sure she won't. She needs to walk a fine line to the primaries that many Democrats are demanding because they know that Obama is most probably a one-term deal.

Marie Burns said...

Elizabeth Warren doesn't hold a Cabinet-level position. As noted, she reports to Li'l Timmy. Therefore, it wouldn't be likely that she would be invited to the SOTU. On the other hand, since everybody knew there would be a few empty Supremes seats, it wouldn't have been untoward to let her snuggle up to Anthony Kennedy or John Roberts. Maybe she could have explained something about the real world to them during applause breaks when the Supremes are just sitting there, as no-show Supreme Sam Alito noted, "like potted plants."

The Constant Weader

turnipseed said...

Hey, I really, REALLY like EW, and while I can see her as Treasury Secretary, I cannot, in any way, see her as Prez. I would surely vote for her, but I cannot see that she has any of the rather negative ego qualities that it takes to even consider running.

It is, indeed, sad to see her marginalized, though. The mere fact the the right despises her is ample evidence of her value to the people.

Perhaps when things settle down in Egypt, and if all goes well and they transition to a real democracy (one of their own making), then we can all go there and take a course in establishing it here.

Anonymous said...

Just finished a three-day project and, tired and bleary-eyed, stumbled over to Garcia's blog.
The comment on Warren was fantastic, and so sharply written. It was as good as the best cup of strong coffee.
Why the Times doesn't hire Garcia as a columnist is a mystery.
Thanks for keeping at this, Karen. When you're good, which is virtually always, you're red-hot.
eva c.

Karen Garcia said...

Thanks for all your sharp comments. My Elizabeth Warren for president idea is most likely pie in the sky, but it's fun to escape reality, right?

Hal Horvath said...

"Then she can run for President in four or so years, and win by a landslide. "

ah, an unexpectedly optimistic ending. Nice.

Anonymous said...

Americans prefer Sarah Palin. And they'll get the consequences they deserve.

Anonymous said...

Thrilled to find your blog, fantastic, keep it up! Nice to know I wasn't the only one wondering what happened to EW, why torture is ok, why the banks still aren't being regulated.... And, am I wrong, or has there been not one single conviction of financial wrongdoing too come out of the derivative crash mess?