This week has been a rocky one between progressive Democrats and the White House, with Robert Gibbs’ misguided comments mocking those he called the “professional left” in their frustration over White House policies. Comments which differed somewhat from those made by President Obama himself to progressives last month in an address at Netroots Nation in Las Vegas. While the President said he understood the frustration, his observations were hardly similar to those of Gibbs’ which seemed more suited to the right and Republicans. More astounding, the comments seemed to suggest that the frustration lies only with those Gibbs considers the “professional left,” not with the general public. If that’s true, it’s a staggering point to miss, and one that certainly won’t improve in another upcoming battle: the aftermath of FinReg.
One very popular person in the middle of the financial crisis right now, and also an extremely well received speaker at Netroots Nation last month, is Elizabeth Warren. If there was any doubt in your mind who progressives would choose to be in charge of getting the country out of its financial mess and put the necessary regulations in place to do so, you would have known had you heard her speak there three weeks ago.
Elizabeth Warren at Netroots Nation 2010
Wednesday there were rumors floating around that Elizabeth Warren was about to be nominated or appointed to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Yesterday there was even more speculation when Warren was spotted at the White House. While that may have given hope to many who want President Obama to appoint Warren now and feel she’s the most qualified choice, sadly that wasn’t the reason for her visit.
Warren was at the White House because the Congressional Oversight Panel which she heads released a report that said the $700 billion bank bailout was actually more beneficial to foreign firms than it was for those in the U.S.:
The watchdog cited that the US bailout basically flooded money into as many banks as possible – including international ones – but other nations specifically targeted their rescue efforts towards their own domestic firms that had no US operations. “As a result, it appears likely that America’s financial rescue had a much greater impact internationally than other nations’ programs had on the United States,” the panel said. “This outcome was likely inevitable given the structure of the TARP, but if the US government had gathered more information about which countries’ institutions would most benefit from some of its actions, it might have been able to ask those countries to share the pain of rescue.”
You don’t have to spend much time listening to Ms. Warren to appreciate her knowledge of how we got into the financial crisis, and her ideas of what to do about it going forward. I became aware of that long before seeing her speak at Netroots Nation, and every time I’ve listened to what she has to say I learn something more. One distinct quality she has for someone so knowledgeable is her ability to relate to everyday people, to be able to take a complicated financial concept and whittle it down into something, say a “simple consumer” can understand. She humanizes the numbers, while others would tell us “just trust us” or “sign here, no questions.” (Hmm, where have we heard that one before?) She knows us and where we’re coming from. What a concept, huh?
President Obama used a metaphor a while back that was pretty accurate. So much so that I’ve heard he’s using it again in speeches around the country. I’m sure you’ll recall, it went something like this:
“They were in charge for eight years and they drove the car into a ditch. Now after we’ve been digging our way out, they say they want the keys back. They can’t have the keys back, they don’t know how to drive!”
As far as the financial hurdles ahead of us go (for the “professional left” and otherwise), yesterday when I read: “Elizabeth Warren was seen leaving the White House today.” I thought: “I sure hope they gave her those keys.”
If there’s any hope of steering ourselves away from another financial cliff, President Obama needs to give her the keys. NOW.
Elizabeth Warren knows how to drive.
You can watch Elizabeth Warren’s keynote: BUILDING A PROGRESSIVE ECONOMIC VISION – from Netroots Nation 2010 here.
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