Sunday, March 20, 2011

Who’s Afraid of the Big, Bad Alpha Female Wolf?...

Last Wednesday the U.S. House subcommittee on Financial Institutions And Consumer Credit met with Elizabeth Warren to begin the process that the conservative members hoped would lead to the taking down of both Elizabeth Warren and the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the only new agency of the Obama presidency.
Warren came to the Committee with 34 pages of detailed written answers to questions that had been previously submitted to her by the committee members.  (One wonders if anyone bothered to read Warren’s answers or to understand them.)  She then had to endure 2 1/2 hours of battering, hostile questions.  The questions to the brilliant Warren were so hostile that the NYTimes’s Talking Business Columnist Joe Nocera, called her a piñata, the object of the assault.
Warren was appointed to set up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that was created by the Dodd/Frank law.  She was the logical person to set up and staff this agency because she has focused her successful writing and distinguished teaching career on commercial and bankruptcy law.  She had also headed the Congressional Oversight Panel (COP) that was created by Congress to investigate the banking bailout money.  (Remember TARP--Troubled Assets Relief Program?)  By now, she knows the Beltway and its major players.
Warren is brilliant and articulate.  Nothing seems to phase her and she has a knack that all great teachers have, viz. the ability to make complex and arcane subjects crystal clear and even interesting.  
Warren was the perfect person to set up and staff this new agency.  She is also the perfect person to head the agency when it is up and running next July, but not if the bankers and conservative Republicans can help it.  As Joe Nocera put it:  [Here]
She may or may not be nominated by the president to serve as its first director when it goes live in July, but in the here and now she’s clearly running the joint.
And why do the banks and bankers hate her so?  According to Nocera:  [Here]
The big banks loathe Ms. Warren, who has made a career out of pointing out all the ways they gouge financial consumers — and whose primary goal is to make such gouging more difficult. So, naturally, the Republicans loathe her too. That she might someday run this bureau terrifies the banks. So, naturally, it terrifies the Republicans.
The banks and their Congressional allies have another, more recent gripe. Rather than waiting until July to start helping financial consumers, Ms. Warren has been trying to help them now.
Warren has been working with the states’ attorneys general who have come together to investigate the mortgage industry.  She’s given them ideas and suggestions which have no doubt been incorporated into a long (27 pages) outline of a possible settlement agreement with rules about how mortgage lenders and servicers must treat those in default.  This would include a requirement that banks try to modify the mortgages before they start foreclosures.  (The modifications will be paid for by penalties that would be exacted against the big banks.)
Is there any wonder that the big bankers hate Elizabeth Warren?  She’s been on to them from day one and she is much smarter than any two put together.  (Gouging the little guy doesn’t mean that you’re smart--just greedy.)
As Joe Nocera points out:  [Here]
It’s not just the House Republicans [who are afraid of Warren]. Already the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has reverted to form, becoming once again a captive of the banks it is supposed to regulate. (It has strenuously opposed the efforts of the A.G.’s to penalize the banks and reform the mortgage modification process...) The banks themselves act as if they have a God-given right to the profit they made precrisis, and owe the country nothing for the trouble they’ve put us all through. The Justice Department has essentially given up trying to make anyone accountable for the crisis. 
Yes, indeed, we certainly need Warren and we need a strong, active, pro-consumer CFPB.  Will Obama appoint her and stand firm with his Senate Democrats?  I wouldn’t bet on it--not the Obama we’ve seen recently.
Wouldn’t it be grand to be pleasantly surprised by Obama--just once?...

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