Taking on the jackals

Alden Graves

Everything that Sen. Elizabeth Warren has to say is worth listening to, but the following is worth quoting in its entirety. It is worth framing. It is worth carving in stone. And, with the elections looming in November, these words are worth remembering.

"Paul Ryan looks around, sees three unemployed workers for every job opening in America, and blames the people who can't find a job," she said.

"In 2008, this economy crashed, wiping out millions of jobs. Paul Ryan says don't blame Wall Street: The guys who made billions of dollars cheating American families; don't blame decades of deregulation that took the cops off the beat while the big banks looted the American economy. Don't blame the Republican Secretary of the Treasury, and the Republican president who set in motion a no-strings-attached bailout for the biggest banks. Nope. Paul Ryan says keep the monies flowing to the powerful corporations, keep their huge tax breaks, keep the special deals for the too-big-to-fail banks and put the blame on hardworking, play-by-the-rules Americans who lost their jobs.

That may be Paul Ryan's vision of how America works, but that is not our vision of this great country."

Why anyone not steeped in the denial (what's climate change?) that has become such an integral part of conservatism today or earning a couple of million dollars a year would not admire the sheer gutsiness of this remarkable woman is a mystery on a par with anything Agatha Christie ever wrote. No one tells it like it is quite like Elizabeth Warren. No one has better served the best interests of the overwhelming majority of lower and middle class people in this country. Her verbal assaults to the jugular of those responsible for plunging this country into the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression are not designed to spare any delicate sensibilities, a character trait very rare in jackals anyway. Her public statements don't mask her contempt, which is exactly what they deserve from all of us.

Other national politicians, as dependent upon huge monetary infusions from the Wall Street mob as Popeye was for his spinach, couch their language with dodgy preambles like "In retrospect, don't you think... ?" or "Looking back, was it wise... ?" Not Warren. You could almost see the beads of sweat break out on the foreheads of federal regulators when, in her first session on the Senate Banking Committee, she posed the same bare-bones basic question that had been on the minds of most Americans since the stench of too-big-to-fail first wafted across the landscape: "When was the last time you took a big Wall Street bank to trial?"

Anyone recently retuned from an extended stay in another galaxy might momentarily wonder what the answer was.

If Ronald Reagan, in all his deregulatory shining armor was the Sir Lancelot champion of the best interests of the big banks, Elizabeth Warren has proven to be their Elliot Ness. She is neither distracted nor much impressed with the eloquently framed excuses for what she so aptly terms "the looting of the American economy." Watching these Armani clad flim-flam experts testifying before various congressional hearings, most of us have absolutely no idea what they are talking about. It is painfully obvious that most of the politicians asking the questions have no idea what they are talking about. So, with a sagacious nod from the committee members and a cautionary word about refraining from similar behavior in the future - ah, whatever that bad behavior was - the jackals are unleashed upon us once again. They don't get off so easily under Warren's interrogation.

Republicans fought banking reforms specified in the Dodd-Frank bill with a fervor that matched the battle at the Little Big Horn. Yes, they all agreed, the industry needed reforming, but not with burdensome regulations that would make it difficult for the same thing to happen all over again. Lordy, Mr. Reagan would roll over in his grave. (And, indeed, does anyone really believe that Wall Street has changed all that much since the crash?)

Sen. Warren's Republican rival in 2012 chided her for probably not looking so hot if she took off all her clothes like he did for a magazine photo shoot. (So much for GOP depth, much less the Family Values thing.) That is roughly the same level of vacuous competition she is up against in Paul Ryan, who, assumedly because of his position on the House Budget Committee, now passes as the party's resident intellectual. His scorched earth budget, which keeps subsidies and exemptions to oil companies securely in place, would devastate middle class Americans. Nowhere are Republican priorities spelled out so succinctly as they are in Ryan's budget proposal for all the party's hollow palaver about universal embracement.

Timothy Geithner is a much sharper adversary than the hapless Ryan will ever be. You remember Mr. Geithner, he was the guy who fiddled as head of the New York Federal Reserve Bank while the world was catching fire around him. He thinks that Ms. Warren's populist stands betray an "Old Testament view" that unrestrained greed should be punished and that the irresponsible shouldn't be bailed out. If this is the direction that Geithner is going to take in discrediting Warren, I'm afraid he is going to have a mighty small army to back him up. Some Old Testament admonitions age pretty well.

Alden Graves is a Banner columnist.


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