Saturday, September 8, 2012

Quote of the Day (Elizabeth Warren, on the ‘Rigged’ Socio-Political System)

“People feel like the system is rigged against them. And here's the painful part: they're right. The system is rigged. Look around. Oil companies guzzle down billions in subsidies. Billionaires pay lower tax rates than their secretaries. Wall Street CEOs—the same ones who wrecked our economy and destroyed millions of jobs—still strut around Congress, no shame, demanding favors, and acting like we should thank them.”—Elizabeth Warren, Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate from Massachusetts, Address to the Democratic National Convention (reproduced on the Huffington Post), September 5, 2012

Lord knows, Elizabeth Warren isn’t perfect. Becoming the heroine of a Doonesbury series strip this week—well, I’m afraid it’s not going to cut much ice with the electorate. (Fat lot of good that Garry Trudeau’s support meant for John Anderson back in 1980.)

And that whole unsubstantiated claim that she’s 1/32 Cherokee—who knows if it’s true or not? If not, it was a stupid gilding of the lily, for the minor advancement of her academic career.

But if the latter is the worst that the libertarian conservative blogger Glenn Reynolds ("Instapundit") and the Republicans of Massachusetts can come up with against her—well, frankly, they should be laughed out of the place for incompetent opposition research.

Talk all you want about the President, Michelle Obama, or Bill Clinton (still reminding us of what New York Daily News columnist Mike Lupica calls “the greatness he had in him" before the Lewinsky affair ruined his legacy). But for my money, nobody reminded us better of how we got into the current economic mess in the first place—and of the sheer shamelessness of those responsible—than Warren.

With a background in the Army National Guard, Scott Brown might have more of the common touch than his opponent for the Massachusetts seat in the U.S. Senate race this year, Harvard Law academic Warren. But it’s not hard to tell at all which of the two is the genuine populist.

If I have any real beef with Barack Obama, it’s that, nearly four years after the near-financial panic brought on by the “Wall Street CEOs” decried by Warren, his administration never took a hammer to thse who brought global markets to the brink and then expected help from the taxpayer. (For that matter, I wish he had gone to the mat when Republicans sought to deny her the chance to lead the agency she helped create, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.)

Even so, those on the left are wrong who say there is really no difference between the candidates on this issue. Mitt Romney’s economic adviser Glenn Hubbard has already told the Wall Street Journal that, if elected, the Republican nominee will either break up the agency or move it outside the Federal Reserve.

I have plenty of problems with the Obama administration and the general thrust of the Democratic Party (e.g., its stance on abortion). But this fall, instead of bellyaching, as the Romney campaign loves to do, about how long it’s taken America’s economic engine to start up again, I’ll ask who was driving the American economy in September 2008 when it went into the ditch. I’ll think of friends who went under since then at the hands of banks—and of which party wants to continue to reward the financial institutions' recklessness and malfeasance. I’ll wonder if other friends or relatives—or even I myself—might be at risk if I vote for the party that’s placed all its bets on “the rigged system.”

Then I’ll vote against the party that wants to give profit-intoxicated Wall Street the key to the family car and risk taking us all over the cliff with them once again. And I'll only regret that I couldn't keep voting against them till they learn their lesson.

(Photo of Elizabeth Warren taken at a discussion of the work of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau with community bankers at the ICBA conference in San Diego, March 2011; source: Community Banks Roundtable)

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