Friday, November 28, 2014

Interesting Definition of "Liberal" You Got There, New York Times

This morning, the New York Times had an article about Obama's nominee for under secretary of the Treasury for domestic finance, Antonio Weiss: "Liberal Treasury Nominee’s Wall St. Prowess May Be a Vulnerability."

You probably read Elizabeth Warren's op-ed stating her opposition to Weiss last week. Let me excerpt it to refresh your memory on this "liberal" nominee:
So who is Antonio Weiss? He's the head of global investment banking for the financial giant Lazard. He has spent the last 20 years of his career at Lazard -- most of it advising on international mergers and acquisitions.
That raises the first issue. Weiss has spent most of his career working on international transactions -- from 2001 to 2009 he lived and worked in Paris -- and now he's being asked to run domestic finance at Treasury. Neither his background nor his professional experience makes him qualified to oversee consumer protection and domestic regulatory functions at the Treasury. As someone who has spent my career focused on domestic economic issues, including a stint of my own at the Treasury Department, I know how important these issues are and how much the people in Treasury can shape policies. I also know that there are a lot of people who have spent their careers focused on these issues, and Weiss isn't one of them.
The second issue is corporate inversions. Basically, a bunch of companies have decided that all the regular tax loopholes they get to exploit aren't enough, so they have begun taking advantage of an even bigger loophole that allows them to maintain their operations in America but claim foreign citizenship and cut their U.S. taxes even more. No one is fooled by the bland words "corporate inversion." These companies renounce their American citizenship and turn their backs on this country simply to boost their profits.
One of the biggest and most public corporate inversions last summer was the deal cut by Burger King to slash its tax bill by purchasing the Canadian company Tim Hortons and then "inverting" the American company to Canadian ownership. And Weiss was right there, working on Burger King's tax deal. Weiss' work wasn't unusual for Lazard. That firm has helped put together three of the last four major corporate inversions that have been announced in the U.S. And like those old Hair Club commercials used to say, Lazard isn't just the President of the Corporate Loopholes Club -- it's also a client.
Lazard moved its own headquarters from the United States to Bermuda in 2005 to take advantage of a particularly slimy tax loophole that was closed shortly afterwards. Even the Treasury Department under the Bush administration found Lazard's practices objectionable.
The White House and Treasury have strongly denounced inversions, and rightly so. But they undercut their own position by advancing Mr. Weiss. Already Senator Grassley has denounced the move as hypocritical, and Senator Durbin has expressed his opposition to the nomination over the inversion issue. The Independent Community Bankers of America, which represents smaller banks from across the country, has opposed the nomination as well -- only the second time in thirty years that they have publicly opposed a presidential nomination.
She then goes on to criticize Obama for filling his cabinet with Wall Street executives:
The over-representation of Wall Street banks in senior government positions sends a bad message. It tells people that one -- and only one -- point of view will dominate economic policymaking. It tells people that whatever goes wrong in this economy, the Wall Street banks will be protected first. That's yet another advantage that Wall Street just doesn't need.
Bernie Sanders has also publicly opposed Weiss's nomination:
“The Wall Street crash of 2008, caused by the greed and illegal behavior of major financial institutions, created the worst recession in modern history. We need an economic team at the White House which will hold Wall Street accountable and fight for the needs of working families, not more Wall Street executives,” Sanders said. “The American people are disgusted with Wall Street bankers who find loopholes in the tax code to help profitable companies shelter profits in offshore tax havens in order to avoid paying their fair share of U.S. taxes. We need economists in government who have a history of helping to create jobs, not helping corporations avoid taxes."
DealBook's Andrew Ross Sorkin, who is a mouthpiece for Wall Street, criticized Elizabeth Warren for opposing Weiss earlier this week. 
And now the New York Times is editorializing in its Business section to defend Weiss from attacks from the liberal wing of the Democratic Party.

You see, Weiss is clearly "liberal" because he's given a lot of money to the Democratic Party and once wrote a white paper calling for higher taxes on the rich. Progressives are making a big deal out of nothing, implies the New York Times.
In 2012, Antonio F. Weiss took his 15-year-old son, Nico, from the gilded aerie of their Manhattan apartment on Central Park West to Cleveland to canvass for President Obama’s re-election. Mr. Weiss, 48, was also the co-author of a white paper calling for higher taxes on the rich and has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Democratic Party.
Here's the New York Times parroting the view of the bankers:
If the Elizabeth Warren wing of the party can bring Mr. Weiss down, they say, prominent financiers may no longer play a significant role in Democratic administrations, which have turned to them since the Clinton years to bolster their business bona fides.
Prominent financiers not wanting to be in Democratic administrations? That's a bad thing, why? And here's the New York Times further trying to lay out the "liberal" case for Weiss:
Moreover, Mr. Weiss’s defenders in and out of the administration say he is being caricatured as a rapacious banker when he is more Daddy Warbucks than Gordon Gekko. He combines financial expertise with an unquestioned liberal outlook and an intellectual panache that led to his becoming publisher of The Paris Review.
Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress, a Democratic research and advocacy group, recalled Mr. Weiss working on an economic policy paper for her organization that called for sharply higher taxes on the wealthy, an overhaul of the corporate tax code that would raise revenue for deficit reduction and changes to the individual tax code to make it more progressive.
Gene B. Sperling, a former senior economic policy maker in the Obama and Clinton White Houses, said: “He has a good progressive heart. He has hardheaded practical business experience.”
Tanden and Sperling were both vocal champions of the administration's turn toward austerity. The Center for American Progress is good on a number of issues, but they still raise money from Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, and Bank of America--and the impact on its policies shows. Sperling is one of the most avid supporters of cutting social insurance programs in the administration. 

But never mind all that. The New York Times thinks that Weiss is just the man for the job.

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