Seasoned politicians must be reflecting in envy on last Friday's appointment of Elizabeth Warren to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), by President Obama.
Her base of supporters became huge once progressive organizations like Bold Progressives, Public Citizen and other advocacy groups -- along with numerous bloggers and hard-working Americans -- got behind her. Over 200,000 let their voices be heard through letters and phone calls, accompanied by a robust letters-to-the-editor campaign. And finally, in his so-far uneven presidency, President Obama responded.
All of these factors made him do it. How reminiscent of those dark days of the Great Depression, when FDR said "make me do it," and he did, changing course on the economy when pressured by the voices of the people. This is a huge win for Progressives, who proved once again that People Power matters and can indeed create change. It was "an uprising among Warren's legion of supporters," according to the Boston Globe, that pressed President Obama to come on board with the most progressive option on the table.
Three years ago Elizabeth Warren proposed the CFPB, but the timing was wrong. How things have changed since then. Last Friday she resigned as the head of the congressional oversight panel for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), her work as the panel watchdog ending as the program concluded its mission. As the architect of the CFPB, Warren will construct this brave new consumer protection agency from the bottom up, allowing her to groom her choice to run the agency. She will be given all of the tools necessary to make CFPB work the way it must. Warren has been given the president's assurance on this, as they appear to be in agreement on the importance of this mission and its goals. It must be assumed that Republicans will now come roaring in with their shiny new "populist" persona and protest about how TARP bailed out the financial and auto industries while leaving the American public to sink in a swamp of bankruptcies, foreclosures, unpaid credit cards and monumental job losses to discredit Warren and throw a monkey wrench into the new agency.
And let us not overlook TARP's considerable contribution to the national debt. Some of that money has been paid back, but a considerable amount has not, and may take years to recover. Yet the banks and other financial institutions are virtually bursting at the seams with profits, which they will not pump into loans to get the economy back on track. Loans equals jobs, people! Instead, the financial "wizards" on Wall Street are rewarding themselves for all their "good" work with bonuses that are fatter than ever.
Warren will have her work cut of for her, dealing with the same amoral, greedy crowd that helped put us in this mess in the first place. Of course, the Right will be speaking with forked tongues out of both sides of their Republican mouths on this issue, since Wall Street is where a large amount of their campaign donations come from. Aside from the fact that the Republicans created the financial meltdown that spread worldwide. Sharp criticism has also come from the Left about bailing out the financial sector instead of Main Street, but without pointing a finger at Elizabeth Warren, as she was not the architect of TARP.
Warren's bosses will be the President and Tim Geithner, with whom she will have a close working relationship with as her superior. It is here that the sledding may well get rocky, as Geithner has repeatedly shown himself to be an ardent supporter of Wall Street over Main Street, but we will have to give him some benefit of the doubt in the interest of seeing CFPB succeed.
Elizabeth Warren is emerging as a modern day Joan of Arc, coming to the aid of the middle class and downtrodden to set them free from tyranny and the grip of greedy, rapacious, tyrants. In this modern day equivalent of medieval France, it is Wall Street who behaves as if they are running fiefdoms. One of Warren's primary missions will be to end the predatory lending practices on credit cards, mortgages and student loans, along with other loan instruments. She will continue to be a loud voice for the consumer. The playing field must be leveled and the consumer better informed before making life-altering decisions on financial matters. No more 32-page documents that are only understood by lawyers when a loan is made or a credit card is applied for. Warren's passion for the rights of the consumer was on full display this week when she attended a hearing on the new financial reform legislation in Barney Frank's House Financial Services Committee. Her disgust was clearly on display for the flimflam artists who created the mess from which we are still digging out, a process that will take years if not decades.
Clearly Wall Street will be put on notice that things will be changing in support of consumers. They are worried that their happy days of out-of-control gambling and financial scams may be a song of the past. And such colorful expressions like buying a "pig in a poke" and "buyer beware" will disappear from business jargon. They have cause to worry on The Street as regulation and oversight are peeking over the horizon.
Our heroine, Ms. Warren, comes from pioneer stock, with a grandmother named Hannie Reed who crossed the prairie to join the Oklahoma land rush, and a father who worked as a janitor. What a truly American story, as Elizabeth went on to become a Harvard Law Professor and expert on finance and bankruptcy law, writing and coauthoring four books on finance. She also got to know a young Harvard law student by the name of Barack Obama. A story for filmmakers one day, as the story is incomplete and yet to be written.
There are those dissatisfied with the president for not going through a confirmation process in the Senate with Elizabeth Warren. His concerns were real about getting the needed 60 votes to override the filibuster that was certain to come from the Republicans. Additionally, the endless hearings and the impending midterm elections threatened to drag her confirmation process into the New Year, a delay we just could not afford. And let us not forget that those hearings would have taken place in the Senate Finance Committee with outgoing Senator Chris Dodd presiding, with his tepid "support" for Warren. Could there be a slight conflict of interest with Dodd's wife having worked in the financial industry as an outside director for an AIG-owned company, and he the recipient of significant campaign donations from AIG? But Dodd will be gone, retiring soon and off to his own six to seven-figure paycheck in the world he once regulated. Warren has also said she did not want to commit to a five-year term that confirmation through the Senate would mandate.
And so a new day begins as Elizabeth Warren sets to work at her new post bringing sanity and fair play to consumers.
Good luck Elizabeth, the hopes of our nation are with you!