Friday, April 29, 2011

Word Barfs and Dark Alleys

Fighting the Good Fight
 Acting Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Elizabeth Warren doesn't mince words.  Now that the agency is under attack by Republicans at the behest of their Wall Street backers, she is fighting back with a vengeance. If the banksters aren't confusing us with what she calls "word barfs in contracts" they're dragging us into dark alleys and sticking a knife in our ribs.  Watch this clip of Warren talking to Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show" earlier this week.

Despite huge popular support, Warren may even be in danger of losing her job as well as the whole bureau. According to a report from Reuters, there are still those within the Obama Administration who think she is too controversial a choice to lead the agency she created.  Translation: they're afraid of her and her growing citizen-backed power.  If Obama has any guts, he'll publicly come to her defense,  forget about a stupid Senate confirmation battle, and name her via a recess appointment  He is kind of in a sticky situation, now that he's running for re-election and trying to hypnotize people into thinking he's a born-again progressive.  Now is his chance to prove it, or at least make a good-faith effort at proving it.  He does know how to use the bully pulpit when he wants to.  Witness his impassioned speech castigating Paul Ryan's roadmap to perdition.  Although a recess appointment for Warren would be temporary, it would give her that much more time to dig in until a Senate confirmation is mandated in another year.

But all is not smooth in The White House. There is disagreement among Barack Obama's aides over whether it would be "wise" for him to take on a highly visible fight over either a recess appointment or a confirmation for Warren in the U.S. Senate.  Not surprisingly, she has run into some really nasty opposition  from Republicans who say she would be too confrontational toward the financial industry.  But there  are also some Democrats in the mix of foes.  Among them, reportedly, is Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who has been pointedly lukewarm toward her from the get-go.  Geithner, former chairman of the New York Fed, has long been viewed as a loyal friend of Wall Street. He has in several interviews damned her with faint praise, with nonchalant remarks to the effect of she is a fine woman... she would make a fine chairman... she is definitely on the short list.  But never a ringing endorsement, not by a long stretch.

So now, anonymous Administration sources are saying, the talk revolves around appointing an "associate" of Warren in yet another Obama Compromise, aka capitulation.But picking anyone other than Warren could be problematic and could lead to an immediate revolt from "The Base", according to Reuters

On the Republican side, there are two bills pending in the House of Representatives that aim to "defang" the agency, Warren says. The first, sponsored by Spencer Bachus (R-AL), chairman of the Financial Services Committee, would transform the CFPB leadership into a five-person board, thus diluting its power. The second, promulgated by Wisconsin Rep.Sean Duffy, would in turn make a bipartisan, separate agency approved by the same Financial Services Committee and Congress the regulator of Warren's agency. They are not even trying to hide their cynical collusion. 

Warren, a Harvard professor who headed a panel that investigated government bank bailouts during the financial crisis, has been mentioned as a possible candidate to challenge Massachusetts Republican Senator Scott Brown, who must seek re-election in 2012.  So far, though, Brown's poll numbers are looking good.  If I were advising Warren, I'd tell her to stay right where she is and fight.  We have her back.  Besides, the Obama administration would probably love nothing more than for her to resign and challenge Brown.... and just go away.  Elizabeth Warren has been around long enough to know how the game is played.  The fact that she's stuck it out this long in the cutthroat world of Inside the Beltway speaks volumes for her power and influence.

And the fact is that the powerful men who are lashing out at her are only serving to betray their own fears and insecurities. They are eminently vulnerable. 

P.S.  Thanks to Kate and Valerie for reminding me to cover this.

P.P.S.  Links in Comments don't work, (thanks again Valerie) so here is where to find the members of the House Financial Services Committee:

Update 4/30 --  The subcommittee hearings on the proposed legislation will be held on May 4 beginning at 10 a.m.  Details can be found here.


Valerie Long Tweedie said...


You are amazing! Great post!

I just looked up the members of the House Financial Services Committee. I would think that a call to a reps from our home states who are on the committee would help a little. And call the Prez - I even did it from Australia.

I think the key is forcing this issue out into the open and, as Kate suggested, supporting any groups that are organised to have Elizabeth Warren's back.

Anyone know of any groups other than BOLD Progressives? Any blogs getting the word out?

This is a chance for people to take a part in their democracy. Sometimes we feel that the only power we have is to vote. But we also have a voice - if we will make the effort to use it.

This is no time for apathy.


James Logan said...

OMG Karen, you STILL DON"T GET IT!! President Obama should NOT be wasting his energy on defending Elizabeth Warren.


You push him into a fight over her, and all your doing is giving conservatives more fodder to change the subject..."Oh, that black man is insulting us again, by calling us jerks just because we're acting like jerks!"

Look, your role in this 'report', as it were, is simple:Find and identify and publish the Republicans and Democrats seeking to remove Elizabeth Warren. Yes, I can do it and will...but YOU have the blog. YOU have peoples speak to them about the truth. Convincing people Barack's a 'born again progressive'. Um, the whole reason for the Progressive label was to setup a class of people who'd accept all possibilities, including some Republican ideas...that he didn't have a lot of Democratic ideas is not true...its a media falsehood that you are again allowing to fester. He's had plenty of Democratic ideas, but, with conservative Dems hamstringing him, forcing him to compromise and accept watered down legislation, and, an apathetic public that thinks the President just presses a button, things happen AND they don't have to worry about Congresspeople they vote for because, hey, its logical, my neighbor will vote the same ludicrous.

Seriously? You, in your presence of mind, actually think, that the people who supported making our first Black President release his long-form birth certificate, which was also an insult to the 'states rights' of Hawaii mind think these people will listen to President Obama because HE tells them to, or HE tells them she's the best for the job?

Are you kidding me?

Whatever your smoking, drop it, and pick up some pot...please!

James Logan said...

As for Valerie Long Tweetie:

"Anyone know of any groups other than BOLD Progressives? Any blogs getting the word out?

This is a chance for people to take a part in their democracy. Sometimes we feel that the only power we have is to vote. But we also have a voice - if we will make the effort to use it.

This is no time for apathy."

If there aren't any blogs, I'm nominating you to create one yourself. Make sure you link it properly NYT, HuffPo, Sardonicky, ConstantWeader, WinningProgressives...even if there are disagreements, you are all on the same side.

Kudos to you Valerie on a great comment. Please keep it up, the nation needs more people expressing this...

Karen Garcia said...

Hey James,
Please start your own blog. You seem to know so much. Thanks.

Valerie Long Tweedie said...

James, You give me too much credit!

First, it was Kate who located Bold Progressives and her suggestion to find and support groups backing the wonderful Ms. Warren - See the comment section of New York Princess Diaries - I just restated this for those who had moved on to the newest posting. Second, I am probably the most technologically challenged person responding to this blog. (I read it for months and didn't figure out how to make a comment until my husband intervened.) Doing my own blog is not within my skill set - by a mile.

However, I applaud your enthusiasm and hope you will "find, identify and publish the Republicans and Democrats seeking to remove Elizabeth Warren" quoting you back! I thought the same thing as I read the large list of reps on House Financial Services Committee; who on this list is going to try to knife Elizabeth Warren in the back?

I hope other readers will weigh in with suggestions as to how we can support one of the few uncaptured agencies in our government and the Champion of Main Street.

Kate Madison said...

Here is a paragraph from my last comment on "Obama's Enforcer.:

...."Let's GET OUT THERE and work our butts off. It is not too soon to start. ACT BLUE, BOLD Progressives, Democracy for America, MoveOn, FireDog Lake, Progressives United, Change.Org and several other good organizations are asking for our help now."

These progressive organizations ALL support Elizabeth Warren and if you Google them and go to their websites, they will tell you exactly what you can do! Or where to go for further information. Yes, Valerie, I too am "technically challenged," but The Google can really help!

Let's get going! Timmy Geithner makes me want to wretch. We need to get our progressive wings flying--and fast.

By the way, James Logan, forget HuffPo. Now that Ariana has sold out to AOL, she is one of the richest richies and does not truly have progressive interests at heart (if she ever did), else she would pay her bloggers. Do not listen to what people (or blogs)say: watch what they DO! This generally is true in life, I have found.

Valerie Long Tweedie said...

These organisations are all great. They do good work; I agree with their goals and I am eager to support them. I am not brushing that aside.

My concern today, however, is about this particular issue and why it isn't being given any attention by a group other than Bold Progressives, Jon Stewart and Sardonicky. I can call Obama and the reps on the House Financial Services Committee until I am blue in the face. They aren't worried about my little irritating phone call - believe me, I have made many! The point is that no one knows this battle is going to take place in a few days.

The reason I am stuck on this particular issue is it will be a financial government agency led by an ethical person who is not for sale; we don’t have many of those. This agency can make a difference and if it does, it could serve as a model for other government agencies and future legislation. This isn't only a progressive issue. People want regulatory agencies to do their job, otherwise, why have them? What we don’t realise is how hard it is to give these agencies the power to regulate with all this subterfuge going on.

Right now the Republicans are slinging mud at Ms Warren because most Main Street Republicans and Democrats are united in their hatred for the banking industry. They know if it is brought out in the open, there will be overwhelming support for the independence of a strong regulatory agency to stand up to the bankers. That is why the vote to stifle this agency is being kept quiet.

And I don’t agree with you, James, that Obama shouldn’t be expected to back up Elizabeth Warren and the independence of the Consumer Protection Bureau. He is supposed to be our LEADER. He shouldn’t be sitting around waiting for a cue from us to take a stand. And Karen is right; he is supposedly trying to win back his base. Well, sticking up for Elizabeth Warren would go a long way with those of us who are wishing we had voted for someone else in the Primary.

Kate Madison said...

All of the organizations I mentioned above are working to support Elizabeth Warren! I suggest you look them up, Valerie.

I agree with you that Obama should be supporting Ms. Warren with vigor. However, he will have to do it the way Washington does politics: he must sit down with Timmy Geither and tell him to get his ass in gear, get his staff in gear, and all of them get their asses up to the Hill to lobby for Elizabeth Warren. He may have done that, I don't know. But thus far, Geithner has seemed more to try to neuter Warren than to support her.

Rather that go to Obama, I suggest we all call Secretary Geithner at the Office the Secretary, U.S. Treasury. Ask to speak to his Chief of Staff or Assistant Secretary for Legislation. You will probably get a small time staffer. But you can say that you have not heard anything at all about Mr. Geithner's support for Ms. Warren, and you are concerned. And please let you know what he IS doing to support her. That should stir up some anxiety--especially if enough people call.

Kate Depoe

P.S.You can try email: www.Secretary,

Kate Madison said...

Here is an address, phone # and fax # for the U.S. Treasury Dept. A place to start:

Contact Us

Department of the Treasury
1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20220

General Information
(202) 622-2000
Fax: (202) 622-6415

Valerie Long Tweedie said...

Thanks for the info, Kate - good idea to contact the Tim Geithner's office as well. Not sure that he is concerned about my opinion but I won't pass up the chance to ask him what he is doing to support the Elizabeth Warren and the CFPB.

I checked out every single one of the progressive websites you mentioned and not one had anything about the upcoming vote or Elizabeth Warren specifically that I could find. I don't doubt they support her generally.

I was just making the point that this whole thing seems to have been driven underground, which suits the people trying to disempower the agency. I was hoping we could help keep it out in the light.

John said...

Here's what I just commented after Krugman's latest blog entry about "Bubbles." It would be great if he could weigh in on Warren's behalf:

On the business of financial regulation future --
Please write a column on the plight of watchdog whisperer Elizabeth Warren. Soon. Her new agency’s authorizing legislation is about to be amended away by Congress, and Wall Street is piling on without much sign of pushback. Secretary Geithner damns her with faint praise. Meanwhile, with respect to his own temporary appointee/nominee, President Obama … is … isn’t … well, you know. Unless voters are alerted through columns like yours, Warren may never be approved as the handler of a watchdog with teeth.

Jay Ottawa

BobN said...

I think James Logan makes some good points, and he seems to have struck a nerve. Go James! I'd modify your stance a tad tho: O needs to ask us (lead us, iow) to support her. He needs to get out in front of an issue, take it to the people. I do have a blog, btw, but it's not about politics.

Valerie Long Tweedie said...

Jay, I did the same thing on Krugman's blog and sent off an e-mail to Robert Reich. I also wrote to the CFPB and asked what they recommend we citizens do to support the agency and Elizabeth Warren in the upcoming week; said only Sardonicky and Jon Stewart were getting the word out. Not that Paul, Bob and Liz will get the message personally but maybe an assistant will be clued in enough to help.


Karen Garcia said...

I have posted a link to the CFPB under my Blogroll to the right. You can also post comments directly to Elizabeth Warren there.

John said...

OK, my pleadings for the CFPB are in the mail to Geithner, Reich and my two senators from NY. Thanks, Karen, for the link to the CFPB website. Citizen comments following their articles reveal there are lots of people who support Elizabeth Warren and her fledgling agency. I've posted a comment under the new Associate Director's introductory essay, "We Want to Hear from You" (April 26). Give her an earful.

Jay Ottawa

John said...

Days after my short post on the CFPB site, it was not published. While supportive of Elizabeth Warren, I had alluded to the timid support of Geithner and Obama. I wanted readers outside the CFPB to be aware.

Government websites may absorb flack, but they cannot amplify it by reprinting it on their own comment boards. Everything done by the CFPB, and by Warren herself, must be in the name of The Chief. The bar of obsequiousness required of government sites will not allow the less reverent among us to promote Warren and the CFPB on its own site with candid opinions.

When will Lenny Cohen again be able to declare, "Democracy is Comin' to the USA"?

Jay Ottawa

Karen Garcia said...

The CFPB website has likely been inundated with pro and con opinions, so they probably don't want the content to be targeted by the Republicans as bogus evidence that Warren is trying to take over the world. The GOP will probably try to say she is misusing government property, or planting comments supporting herself. Put nothing past them. btw, I was disappointed C-Span did not carry the hearing this morning -- it was Homeland Security on all three of its channels. Yuck! Make us all afraid of terrorists while they sneak our protections out the door.