The more she’s written about, the more I admire Professor Warren. Today, she visited the Borg collective at its hive:
She never actually uttered “I come in peace,” but Elizabeth Warren, the Obama administration aide charged with setting up the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, might have felt like an alien visiting an anxious planet Wednesday when she went to the United States Chamber of Commerce.
“I do not consider myself in hostile territory right now because I believe we share a point of principle: competitive markets are good for consumers and for businesses,” Ms. Warren told about 300 executives at the chamber’s annual conference on capital markets. But, she added, “Markets don’t work in the way they are supposed to unless there are some well-enforced rules.” …
Regulation and competition are not, she said, mutually exclusive. “In fact, when done right, they support each other,” Ms. Warren said. “Are the Chamber’s members, as citizens or business owners and executives, in a better place today because the F.A.A. regulates air safety, because the states regulate insurance companies, because the federal government enforces antitrust statutes? Of course they are. And so is this country.”
The Borg and its servants, needless to say, were not impressed:
The disagreements between Ms. Warren and one of her chief critics, Representative Spencer Bachus, Republican of Alabama and chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, grew more heated hours after her address…
On Wednesday afternoon, Mr. Bachus released a seven-page document titled “Perspectives on Settlement Alternatives in Mortgage Servicing,” which, in a letter to Ms. Warren, he said demonstrated that she had a larger role than she had indicated to the committee. The letter was co-signed by Representative Shelley Moore Capito, Republican of West Virginia and chairwoman of the subcommittee on financial institutions and consumer credit.
Mr. Bachus, a consistent critic of both the consumer agency and Ms. Warren, filled that role again Wednesday when he addressed the Chamber of Commerce conference immediately before she spoke. Noting that he has introduced a bill to change the governance of the consumer bureau from a single director to a five-person, bipartisan commission, he characterized the powers given to the head of the consumer agency as unmatched in government.
Ms. Warren was followed by Thomas J. Donohue, president and chief executive of the chamber, who warned that the consumer agency could choke off economic growth in the United States. “If not used carefully, the C.F.P.B.’s tremendous power to go after bad actors could cause serious collateral damage to America’s job creators,” he said.
Professor Warren may show admirable discipline in reiterating her “cop on the beat” meme, but her
Robber Baron Republican opponents prefer their market-tested “OMG socialist finance-industry death panels!!!” approach. Last week’s hissy-fit from Mary Kissel, ex-Goldman Sachs, at the WSJ:
… Everyone knows that Ms. Warren and a handful of state attorneys general are driving this settlement to punish the banks and reward voters with mortgage principal writedowns, despite profound doubts among bank regulators at the Fed and the Comptroller of the Currency. Ms. Warren’s weak-little-bureau routine is belied by the fact that she is rolling over other regulators even before the bureau is formally up and running…
Ms. Warren’s media idolators are trying to shield her from Congressional oversight precisely because they understand her lack of accountability. They, too, want to punish the banks one more time and grab another $20 billion to redistribute to voters before 2012. The banks and clutch of AGs are right to resist, and Congress ought to put Ms. Warren’s unaccountable bureau under Treasury with an annual budget—or, better, put it entirely out of business.
Punishing banks and rewarding voters! Just imagine! Perhaps the squid-clouds of butt-hurt emanating from these weasels may finally choke even the Very Serious Persons given the authority to discuss the range of acceptable opinion (center-right to far-right, but not extremely far right). Timothy Noah, at Slate, on how the Republicans cleared Elizabeth Warren’s path:
I have no idea whether President Obama plans to nominate Elizabeth Warren as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. If you’d asked me a year ago whether he should, I’d have probably said no, on the grounds that she was too much of a lightning rod. Better to install somebody with a lower profile who can get confirmed, I’d have argued. And, besides (as I wrote in September), she had no real management experience.
Now I think Obama should nominate Warren. Partly that’s because Warren, in her six months as de facto CFPB director (ahem, I mean “special adviser to the secretary of the treasury and assistant to the president”) has demonstrated sufficient political and managerial skills (inasmuch as anyone can demonstrate such skills while running an agency that hasn’t actually done anything yet). But mostly it’s because Republicans have talked me into it…
Last week’s House oversight hearing was not unlike a Senate confirmation hearing; you might say it was a kind of dress rehearsal for Warren. I thought she handled the steady stream of Republican attacks with grace and common sense. Other coverage of the hearing reached the same conclusion. Warren has established herself as a known quantity and a capable administrator. It wouldn’t just be unfortunate for Obama to pass her over for director. It would be strategically unsound.
Today’s shenanigans reminded me very much of the stern, yet kindly, grandma telling a couple of spoilt five-year-olds that they could choose between chicken fingers or a hamburger with their salad, because “both cheese puffs and gummy bears” did not qualify as a balanced meal. To which the five-year-olds respond by throwing themselves into a full-metal tantrum, screaming they’re gonna call 911 and tell the policeman that the boo-boo where they hit the floor means she touched them inna bad place. The only way the five-year-olds win that argument is if some well-meaning third party gets nervous and offers a trip to Chuck E. Cheese as an alternative, because Grandma knows better than to take parenting lessons from five-year-olds.