Beltway Bound: Is Warren Ready for Washington?
After months of speculation, President Obama tapped Harvard law professor and consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren to oversee the creation of a new financial consumer protection bureau.
No doubt, she has her work cut out for her, as she repurposes the myriad federal offices that currently manage financial oversight. Her bigger challenge, however, may be wading through the mud that will inevitably be slung her way.
Hopes are high, especially among liberals, that Warren can get the job done.
If the consumer protection bureau works as intended, it could potentially restore a modicum of power to us, the hapless consumers, who have been duped into bad loans by greedy banks and credit card companies and their nefarious fine print.
The question is whether the political heft of the current Administration is enough to get her changes enacted, or whether she will be hamstrung by financial industry saboteurs, who dislike the idea of a federal watchdog looking over their shoulders, and who dislike Warren doing the looking even more.
Some Senators are already crying foul because she was not presented to the Senate for approval. But with 200 appointees currently awaiting approval, and a contentious battle to get her appointed looming, Obama circumvented the process by naming her an adviser, rather than the head of the bureau. This move is slightly less sneaky than making her a recess appointee, but it also may lead to more opposition and less Congressional backing.
Having Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner as her new boss will be no picnic either. The two have a history of being at odds with each other on financial policy. While chairing the Congressional Oversight Committee on TARP in 2009, she took Geithner to task for catering to the bank lobby and failing to protect consumers, saying in her opening statement:
“People are angry because they are paying for programs that haven't been fully explained and that have no apparent benefit for their families or the economy as a whole, but still seem to leave enough cash in the system for lavish bonuses and golf outings.”
Warren is no shrinking violet and no stranger to opposition. She is committed to her mission to create a consumer protection body that has real power to exact change. The road ahead for her and this new bureau will be full of blocks, hazards and dead ends along the way. A word of advice Ms. Warren: wear a helmet.