Elizabeth Warren

  • April 15, 2013

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Despite the lofty rhetoric to the contrary, the Obama administration has failed to help the scores of Americans thrown out of their homes because of rampant foreclosure fraud. The administration instead chose to try to put a sheen of due diligence on a federal effort to get to the bottom of what David Dayen for Salon calls “the largest consumer fraud in the history of the United States.”

    With the nation’s economy still hobbled by high unemployment and a growing gap between the superwealthy and everyone else, the U.S. Treasury Department recently revealed a pathetic settlement with some of the shady bankers behind the criminal foreclosure schemes that fails to provide little if any help to the millions of victims of the tawdry financial machinations. Part of the problem, as Dayen reports, centers on the fact that the federal government allowed consultants hired by banks to conduct so-called independent reviews of millions of foreclosures. The consultants, Dayen continues, made millions and only completed a tiny portion of “independent reviews” requested by scores of aggrieved homeowners. When the Treasury settled with the bankers it announced the “vast majority" of borrowers  – 3.4 million -- will receive paltry sums, like $300 or less.

    But the Treasury Department’s Office of Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) likely didn’t expect U.S. Senators to dig much into the obviously overblown and flawed review of the millions of foreclosure victims. And they likely were not expecting Elizabeth Warren, one of the nation’s most recognizable and passionate spokespersons on behalf of the middle class, to be holding a U.S. Senate seat and a committee position to zero in on their woefully or intentionally inept handling of the foreclosure crisis. 

    But last week, Sen. Warren (D-Mass.), former Harvard Law School Professor, longtime consumer rights advocate and driving force behind the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau did just that. And it was not the first time the senator has used her platform to highlight the federal government’s bungling of the foreclosure crisis. Last week, as TPM’s Sahil Kapur reported Warren has in just a few months in the Senate “seized opportunities to highlight questionable banking practices an ostensibly lax regulatory response, a chamber frequently criticized for its coziness with Wall Street.”

    During a subcommittee hearing Warren, who as Dayen notes has “a grass-roots army of enthusiastic supporters” and “makes headlines crossing the street,” blasted the OCC regulators for “withholding information they said they possessed about improper foreclosures or other abusive financial practices from victims of those practices seeking recourse in court,” Kapur reported.

    The regulators told Warren they had not made a decision about what information they will make public about criminal foreclosures.

    “So you have made a decision to protect the banks but not a decision to tell the families who were illegally foreclosed against?” Warren asked the regulators.

  • October 11, 2011

    by Jeremy Leaming

    As Occupy Wall Street continues to spread from city to city and garner backers from Union leaders to the head of Washington’s largest progressive nonprofit, an important and long overdue focus is shifting to the efforts of the nation’s super wealthy to keep things just the way they are.

    In a piece for The Huffington Post, Dean Baker, of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, laments the stranglehold the status quo has on Washington, where austerity measures are all of sudden the obsession of many conservative politicians, and incessant talk of cutting Social Security and Medicare rules the day.

    While conservative talking heads bemoan the growing gap between the nation’s top one percent and everyone else as class warfare, Baker notes that the only redistribution of wealth occurring in this country is that which helps those within the top one percent.

    Baker concludes:

    In short, we have an economic system that, even when it is working, has been rigged to redistribute income to the rich. And we have a political system that at a time of immense economic distress is more focused on undercutting the means of support for working families than fixing the economy. It is hard to understand why everyone is not occupying Wall Street.

    As noted on this blog numerous times, Columbia Business School Professor Joseph E. Stiglitz wrote earlier in the year about the power of the country’s top 1 percent and its efforts to hold the status quo. He argued that the top one percent is seriously out of touch with the rest of the country, and it appreciates a government that can only push policy that furthers its interests.

    But such action has created the current economic morass, one that doesn’t bother many conservative pundits or is not understood by them.

  • September 23, 2011

    by Jeremy Leaming

    The yawning gap between the nation’s super wealthy and everyone else is likely the widest it has been since the 1920s. And, as TPM reported recently, Fox’s talking head Brit Hume asked “who cares?”

    Obviously many right-wingers do not care. But history is replete, as Columbia University Professor Joseph E. Stiglitz noted earlier this year in a piece for Vanity Fair, with stories of crumbling societies where the wealthy few ignored the plight of the many.

    “The top 1 percent,” Stiglitz wrote, “have the best houses, the best educations, the best doctors, and the best lifestyles, but there is one thing money doesn’t seem to have bought: an understanding that their fate is bound up with how the other 99 percent live. Throughout history, this is something that the top 1 percent eventually do learn. Too late.”

    So as Hume smirks at the growing inequality gap and his colleague Bill O’Reilly claims the discussion of income inequality annoys him, more and more Americans are catching onto the fact that right-wing economic policies pushed for decades are doing nothing for the country except making a tiny few much wealthier. Our infrastructure is eroding, and numerous states, as noted in this piece by The New York Times, are cutting already meager safety nets for the less fortunate. Such cuts are swelling the ranks of the poor and especially shoving larger numbers of children into poverty. According to an Annie E. Casey Foundation report, cited by The Times, by 2009 “about 2.4 million more children’s families lived below the poverty line than in 200, an increase of 18 percent.”  

    The Census Bureau reported earlier this month that the number of people in poverty is at its highest in more than 50 years. Just last year, the Census Bureau reported that another 2.6 million people fell into poverty. A press release announcing the Bureau’s findings, states, “The nation’s official poverty rate in 2010 was 15.1 percent, up from 14.3 percent in 2009 – the third consecutive annual increase in the poverty rate. There were 46.2 million people in poverty in 2010, up from 43.6 million in 2009 – the fourth consecutive annual increase and the largest number in the 52 years of which poverty estimates have been published.”

    Beyond irking knee-jerk pundits, talk of economic inequality also elicits typical cries of “class warfare,” from some congressional lawmakers, as The Times’ Paul Krugman writes, noting Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan who bemoaned as “class warfare,” President Obama’s recent comments that the wealthy in the country pay too little in taxes, and that more should be asked of this group.

    Krugman dismantles the class warfare rhetoric, writing that “it’s people like Mr. Ryan, who want to exempt the very rich from bearing any of the burden of making our finances sustainable, who are waging class war.”

    Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard professor who helped launch the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and is now running for the U.S. Senate, also forcefully countered the right-wing’s take on economic inequality.

    Warren (pictured), who detailed her idea for a consumer protection agency at the 2009 ACS National Convention, said earlier this week, “There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there, good for you. But I want to be clear, you moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers, the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for.”

  • July 18, 2011

    President Obama has nominated former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray to lead the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The nomination ends calls from some for Obama to recess appoint Elizabeth Warren, who faced hostile questions and criticism from Senate Republicans during several hearings on the agency she helped to spearhead.

  • July 15, 2011

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Elizabeth Warren underwent her third hearing before the House Oversight Committee yesterday, fielding hostile questions and criticism for four hours about the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, “which begins work in a week and still has no permanent leader in place,” The Washington Post reports.

    “It was a hard fight to get this agency passed into law," said Warren, who is overseeing the agency’s launch in her role as special advisor to the president. "I thought once [Dodd-Frank] passed, this kind of fighting would be over… Obviously, I did not fully understand the politics of the situation."

    The politics of the situation is that Republicans are using procedural tactics that are “purposely hidden, layered and complicated” to block Warren's nomination to head the agency because she was “too successful in building an efficient, consumer-oriented agency,” writes Catholic University clinical assistant law professor Victor Williams in The Huffington Post.

    But, he asserts, President Obama has clear constitutional authority to respond to these tactics by installing Warren as the agency’s director via recess appointment, even though House Republicans have pushed the Senate into holding pro forma sessions in order to prevent the three-day recess that they believe is required for such an appointment.

    “As I detailed in a prior post, in a 2010 National Law Journal op-ed, and most recently, in a July 4, 2011, Connecticut Law Tribune commentary, there is no three day minimum recess requirement needed to trigger the Executive's recess appointment authority,” Williams writes, citing several appellate court opinions. “…News reporters, analysts, and others continue to do great disservice by repeating the obstructionists' false assertion that the Senate's pro forma sessions trump the Executive's constitutional recess appointment authority.”

    David Arkush, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch, also argues that Republicans can’t block a recess appointment by Obama, though by different reasoning. He explains in a letter he sent to Obama in June that the Constitution permits the president to adjourn both houses of Congress if the Senate wants to adjourn but the House won’t permit it (and, he adds the minority of Republicans in the Senate can't force an adjournment).

    “The use of this ‘adjournment power’ would be particularly appropriate if the House prevents Senate adjournment in a bid to interfere with the appointment of certain public officials, a matter that the Constitution explicitly assigns to the President and the Senate,” the letter states.

    Watch video of Warren discussing her idea for the Consumer Financial Protection Agency at the 2009 ACS National Convention below.