Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Will the Real Elizabeth Warren Please Stand Up

In a recurring phenomenon since Rupert Murdoch purchased the Wall Street Journal, today's paper features offsetting portraits of a fairly unambiguous lefty, in this instance Harvard Law Professor Elizabeth Warren, President Obama's unofficial Czarina at the newly created (by the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial overhaul) Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  Creation of such a bureau has been the leitmotif of her career's work in academe; it is her brainchild.  

In a Page 1 puff piece co-authored by Victoria McGrane and Maya Jackson Randall, Professor Warren's migration from being the "scourge of Wall Street," to a pro-industry strait-shooter interested in learning from those she has campaigned to regulate throughout her career, is detailed down to the number and color of push pins on a wall map in the new bureau's offices used to keep track of her meetings with bankers.  We are apparently dealing with another miraculous conversion from big government ideology to free market appreciation following the 2010 elections.

Suffice it to say that she's just a swell person who is earning respect, and clearly winning over at least smaller community banking institutions whose help will be needed to blunt those mean and stupid Republicans who are already trying to cut her budget.  Technically, it's not her budget yet.  In what is standard operating procedure for this Administration, President Obama appointed her as a special advisor in charge of setting up and staffing the agency, thereby enabling her to establish and operate her fiefdom while sidestepping Senate confirmation.  The bureaucracy's official director will be proposed for confirmation in July.  Noman suspects that articles like the aforementioned are intended to soften opposition to her nomination at that time.  Noman also assumes that the Journal Staff's influx of panting feminists and assorted New-York-Times-types to write these sops is a gambit to win over that paper's readers as the mother ship descends into rank parochialism.

Meanwhile, back at the traditional, and serious part of the Journal, Review & Outlook observes that Ms. Warren is busy converting the consumer bureau into a political tool for allocating credit.  She has sent (along with state Attorneys General) a proposed 27-page foreclosure settlement to banks "that would, among other things, force mortgage servicers to submit to the bureau's permanent regulatory oversight; impose vast new reporting and administrative burdens; mandate the reduction of borrowers' mortgage principal amounts in certain circumstances; and force servicers to perform 'duties to communities,' such as preventing urban blight."  Not bad for a "special assistant" who unofficially runs a brand new agency that lacks statutory authority to deal with matters she's addressing.  The hubristic, progressive spirit is apparently alive and well despite some writers' cheerleading assurances to the contrary.  The principle so apt for following the Administration's forays into soft totalitarianism, is also a utile hermeneutic for following its escapades in the "news": watch what they do, not what they say.  

Noman doesn't doubt Warren's good intentions.  He is troubled, however, by her apparent inability to view providers of capital for consumer and investment purposes as anything but predators, and borrowers of other people's money as anything but victims.  Her outlook bears all the markings of that black-and-white world that liberals live in, and that they ceaselessly seek to institutionalize in government entities.  Noman is also appalled at her, and the President's, bull-in-the-china-shop efforts to reign in perceived abuses--all without a scintilla of doubt about their course, or suspicion that their ministrations might prove to be a cure worse than the illness.

Noman takes her point about financial documents being too complex to read.  He also notes that it is her party, and profession, that fosters a business environment so litigious as to make it necessary to produce documents of such mind-numbing complexity.  

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