Sunday, November 30, 2014

Elizabeth Warren's Criticism of Obama's Bankers is Making the WaPo Editorial Board Very Nervous

On Friday, the New York Times did some editorializing in the Business section to defend Obama's nominee for deputy undersecretary to the Treasury for domestic finance, Democratic bundler and investment banker Antonio Weiss, from his liberal critics.

The debate about Weiss began with an op-ed by Elizabeth Warren in the Huffington Post a week and a half ago, entitled "Enough Is Enough: The President's Latest Wall Street Nominee." Warren criticized Weiss both for his lack of qualifications for the position itself and for the regulatory and cognitive capture reflected by the administration's nominees.

Since Warren stated her opposition to Weiss, Bernie Sanders and Dick Durbin have also gone on record opposing his nomination.

However, the opposition has taken a lot of elites by surprise, since they are used to seeing their friends on Wall Street get confirmed easily for job after job.

The Washington Post editorial board, in particular, is getting both nervous and angry, as shown in an editorial today: "An Obama nominee falls prey to a populist witch hunt."

Let's dissect the editorial.

The editorial board begins with a "history lesson."
IF THE history of American populism teaches anything, it is the importance of addressing the legitimate concerns of the lower and middle classes without engaging in illegitimate vilification of the well-to-do or anyone else. From Andrew Jackson to Huey Long, populists have given voice to the voiceless — but also have played on prejudice, stereotypes and resentment.
Because the Washington Post editorial board is the arbiter of which concerns are "legitimate" and which are not. 
It is true that populism (which is neither inherently democratic nor progressive--hence the need for modifiers when using it) can play on "prejudice, stereotypes, and resentment," but the "victims" about which the Washington Post are most concerned are the "well-to-do." And they are also the arbiters of which criticisms of the "well-to-do" are legitimate and which are not.
And when in American history have horrible things resulted from "vilification" of the rich? Do you remember when Obama spoke of the "fat cats" on Wall Street? A few bankers got their feelings hurt. It was a national tragedy.
Let's go on.
That is the lens through which to view the current flap over President Obama’s choice of Antonio Weiss to serve as undersecretary of Treasury for domestic finance, a senior position with broad responsibility over financial institutions, the federal debt, regulation and capital markets. The 48-year-old Mr. Weiss would bring much in the way of relevant experience to the job, having graduated from Harvard Business School and gone on to a successful career in finance, most recently as head of investment banking for the venerable Lazard firm. If there’s anything anomalous on paper about this appointment, it might be the fact that Mr. Obama has chosen a veteran of eight years in Lazard’s Paris office for a domestic finance job.
"The venerable Lazard firm." 

Somehow a degree from HBS and a career in global finance gives you the experience for a regulatory position in domestic finance. Rich people are just brilliant like that.
That is not the main concern of Mr. Weiss’s detractors within the populist wing of the Democratic Party, though. Led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), they criticize the symbolism of Mr. Weiss’s nomination, which, according to Ms. Warren, “tells people that whatever goes wrong in this economy, the Wall Street banks will be protected first.” Mr. Weiss stands accused of having played an advisory role in the recent merger between Burger King and the Canadian company Tim Hortons — a “tax inversion” deal allegedly driven by Burger King’s desire to escape U.S. corporate levies.
The WaPo editorial board seems to have missed the fact that this lack of experience with domestic finance was, in fact, one of the things Warren highlighted in demonstrating his inappropriateness for the position. 

He either played an advisory role or did not. The Washington Post can determine that. It does not need to use the modifier "accused."
To be sure, Mr. Weiss has reported assets of between $54 million and $203 million, and he has given tens of thousands of dollars to Mr. Obama’s campaigns while persuading others to give much more. This confirms that he, like other Obama nominees — say, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker — is wealthy and politically connected. Whether any of that or his advisory role in the Burger King deal should disqualify him is a very different question. To the extent we know anything about Mr. Weiss’s actual policy views, they seem consonant with Ms. Warren’s. For example, he is a co-author of a Center for American Progress tax reform paper that called for a more progressive system and $1.8 trillion in tax increases on upper-income Americans over 10 years.
He supports higher taxes on rich people. She supports higher taxes on rich people. It's like they're the same person!
The populists’ case against Mr. Weiss so far amounts to a grab-bag of symbolism and epithets, not a rationale. Nothing in his record suggests that his nomination is less than ordinarily worthy of the deference the Senate owes, or ought to owe, the president when staffing an administration. At the very least, Mr. Weiss deserves a fair hearing, in which he can publicly respond to the accusations against him, such as they are.
Other than that his job experience isn't relevant or that he was overseeing the tax avoidance schemes that Democrats have been criticizing lately.... 

And no one is stopping him from publicly responding. Warren wrote an op-ed in the Huffington Post. I'm sure he could, too, if he wanted. He might even be friends with Arianna Huffington.
If his critics are genuinely interested in judging him as an individual, rather than as a purported representative of a predatory class, a fair hearing is what they’ll give him. Anything less would be populism at its irrational worst.
The Washington Post editorial board will not have this criticism of the "venerable" men of Wall Street! 

This editorial just perfectly reflects the ideology of the soi-disant centrist "liberal" elites in Washington.

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