Thursday, September 16, 2010

What I Don't Get About the Opposition to Elizabeth Warren

Okay, so Obama just appointed Elizabeth Warren to set up the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which makes her the interim head of the agency, or something ... it's all still kind of confusing. She really deserves to be named to the job outright. What's the hold up? King Richard III had a lame leg and didn't do this much foot-dragging.

Ah, she may not be confirmable by the Senate, says Chris Dodd, head of the Senate Banking Committee. Why not? This too is a bit hazy; Senators can be maddeningly elusive when they don't want to discuss something. But the case against Warren seems to boil down to:

1. Lack of experience/qualifications.

This line of argument quickly falls apart though. She hasn't been knitting doilies in Dubuque and teaching night classes in creative writing for the last decade. She is (1) a bankruptcy law professor at Harvard who has "written several books over the years focusing on how debt, predatory lending and bankruptcy affect average middle-class Americans" (Bloomberg News) (2) the head of the TARP oversight committee, who in that position became intimately familiar with the mechanics of the massive bailout of the financial sector and the shenanigans that led to the financial crisis (3) (and here's the kicker) the person who argued in a 2007 article for the creation of an agency just like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

2. Lack of objectiveness/not friendly enough to banks

This seems to be the real line of argument. Just listen to Senator Shelby of Alabama, from the Bloomberg story quoted above:
Shelby said he “would like to see a more objective person in that job. Elizabeth Warren, obviously, is not an objective person when it comes to the consumer issues.”
So Warren is perceived as too aggressive an advocate for consumers. She's not "bank-friendly" enough. (The banking sector has vigorously lobbied against her.)

Now think hard about this second point. Because it's the main reason the Senate would shoot down her candidacy, it's the point the Republicans are preparing to rally around, it's what has Dodd quaking with fear apparently ... and it's COMPLETE BULLSHIT. I'll show you why:

Say we're going to create a Dog Protection Bureau. Because, it so happens, there's a class of people who aren't always nice to dogs. These are rich, powerful people. They can afford to hire high-priced lobbyists to represent their interests in Congress (unlike the dogs). Sometimes, they abuse dogs in some reprehensible fashion and get away with it.

Now I'm not saying all these people are always horribly bad to dogs. Some of them may just steal a few milk bones here and there, or maybe they're making dog toys out of substances that aren't carcinogenic exactly, but that still cause mouth sores and runny eyes and nuisance stuff.

So we need to appoint someone to head the Dog Protection Bureau. We find a person who's an excellent, unquestioned advocate for dogs, float her candidacy, and the U.S. Senate says, "Eh, I don't think she's confirmable. She's not objective enough. She's too pro-dog."

To which a sane, logical person might respond: So what the hell are you creating the Dog Protection Bureau for? To be an impartial judicial arbiter on all matters dog, trying to see both viewpoints: the need to protect dogs and the need to abuse them/kick them around a little, for whatever reason? And if so, why are you calling it the Dog Protection Bureau? Why not call it the Dog Issues Administrative Court or something?

But if you are trying to protect dogs, you should welcome a strong advocate for dogs.

And if you are trying to protect consumers, you should welcome a strong advocate for consumers.

What am I missing here? Senate Republicans and Democrats, can you fill me in?