Posts Tagged ‘Elizabeth Warren’

Monopoly power and what to do about it

July 2, 2016

The trouble with the U.S. economy is monopoly power.

Concentrated business power means less consumer choice, less opportunity for entrepreneurs and greater concentration of wealth.

Senator Elizabeth Warren

Senator Elizabeth Warren

Senator Elizabeth Warren described the problem very well in a speech on Wednesday.  If you care about this issue, I strongly recommend that you click on the first link below.

She noted that five banks have been designated as “too big to fail” by the Federal Reserve Board and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

But that situation is not limited to the banking industry.  Four airlines (down from nine in the past 10 years) control 80 percent of all airline seats.  If American, Delta, United or Southwest were to be in danger of ceasing operations, could there be any doubt that the government would want to keep them flying at all costs?

There’s another problem with concentration in the transportation industry, and that is the incentive to abandon small and remote communities and concentrate services in a few hubs.   The second article linked below describes how concentration in the airline, railroad and trucking industries has harmed small cities in the Heartland.  “Flyover country” wasn’t always flyover country.

Concentration means less consumer choice.  Warren pointed out that more than half of Americans who with Internet or cable television service use Comcast.  Yet, she said, a third of U.S. citizens who theoretically have access to high-speed Internet service can’t afford it.   Americans pay more than Europeans for Internet service and get worse service.

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Home ownership and middle-class black people

October 1, 2015

I sometimes hear white friends wonder why so few poor native-born African Americans have been able to rise into the middle class, compared to poor immigrants.  Senator Elizabeth Warren, in a speech last Sunday, said that one reason is the policies of the federal government on home ownership.

For most middle class families in America, buying a home is the number one way to build wealth. 

It’s a retirement plan — pay off the house and live on Social Security.  

An investment option — mortgage the house to start a business.

Senator Elizabeth Warren

Senator Elizabeth Warren

It’s a way to help the kids get through college, a safety net if someone gets really sick, and, if all goes well and Grandma and Grandpa can hang on to the house until they die, it’s a way to give the next generation a boost — extra money to move the family up the ladder.

For much of the 20th Century, that’s how it worked for generation after generation of white Americans — but not black Americans. 

Entire legal structures were created to prevent African Americans from building economic security through home ownership.  Legally-enforced segregation.  Restrictive deeds.  Redlining.  Land contracts.

Coming out of the Great Depression, America built a middle class, but systematic discrimination kept most African-American families from being part of it.

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Who will benefit from the TPP?

March 30, 2015

Senator Elizabeth Warren pointed out the worst aspect of the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, which is the Investor-State Dispute Settlement.

ISDS allows investors (but not workers, consumers or citizens) to appeal a nation’s laws and regulations to a private corporate-friendly arbitration panel.   Such panels already exist under NAFTA and other trade treaties.  As Warren pointed out:

The use of ISDS is on the rise around the globe. From 1959 to 2002, there were fewer than 100 ISDS claims worldwide. But in 2012 alone, there were 58 cases.

Recent cases include a French company that sued Egypt because Egypt raised its minimum wage, a Swedish company that sued Germany because Germany decided to phase out nuclear power after Japan’s Fukushima disaster, and a Dutch company that sued the Czech Republic because the Czechs didn’t bail out a bank that the company partially owned.

U.S. corporations have also gotten in on the action: Philip Morris is trying to use ISDS to stop Uruguay from implementing new tobacco regulations intended to cut smoking rates.

via The Washington Post.

The Trans Pacific Partnership is a proposed trade agreement between the United States, Canada, Mexico, Japan, Australia and seven other Pacific Rim countries—not including China.

Only a couple of its provisions have to do with reducing trade barriers among member nations.  Most have to do with imposing uniform rules about intellectual property, corporate regulation and other topics.

What’s in the TPP drafts is a secret.  Jim Hightower noted that the Obama administration has imposed a gag order on members of Congress who’ve been briefed on its contents, and Congress has submitted to this.

But thanks to Wikileaks, we know that the TPP negotiators intend to enact a strong USDS rule.

Of course if the administration drops USDS at the last minute, that doesn’t mean that the rest of the TPP is okay.  Congress at the very least should be given all the time it needs to analyze this complex and suspect agreement before it votes.

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Citi’s open door in Washington

December 18, 2014

imrs

Senator Elizabeth Warren recently complained about Citigroup’s influence on the congressional budget and legislative process.   This chart from the Washington Post shows Citi has a strong voice in the executive branch as well.  So do Goldman Sachs and other big Wall Street firms.

Welfare for big banks gets bipartisan support

December 15, 2014

Conservatives are opposed to government welfare, and liberals are opposed to big business, so you would think that one thing they would be able to agree on is opposition to government welfare for big business.

But Democrats and Republicans in Congress are just the opposite.  They just enacted a budget bill stuffed with benefits for big business, including a provision that allows big banks to gamble on  with government-insured deposits.

Senator Elizabeth Warren, in a speech recorded in the video above, told how Citicorp leveraged its influence in Congress and the executive branch to bring this about.

Letting a bank such as Citicorp put insured deposits into inherently risky speculations, such as swaps and derivatives, is the equivalent of me wanting to bet my saving Las Vegas casinos and expecting the government to compensate me for my losses.

This is not was federal deposit insurance was intended to do.   Deposit insurance was intended to cover normal banking activity in the real economy, such as home mortgages, auto insurance loans and business loans.

Federal deposit insurance never was intended to cover swaps and derivatives, which are just bets on which way the markets will go.  They are not backed by real collateral and they do not contribute to the real economy.

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Something to ponder

November 22, 2014

Twenty-five years ago, Rick Perry was a Democrat and Elizabeth Warren was a Republican.

via GOPLifer.

Troubled Democrats: Links & comments 11/15/14

October 15, 2014

Elizabeth Warren on Barack Obama: “They protected Wall Street.  Not families who were losing their homes.  Not people who lost their jobs.  And it happened over and over.”  An interview by Thomas Frank for Salon.

Senator Elizabeth Warren is not as hard on President Obama as this headline would indicate.  And she is right to say that we the people can’t expect a President to change the nation for the better all by himself.   Change requires a strong political movement, operating at all levels of government, with the power to reward its friends and defeat its enemies.

Are Democratic Leaders Already “Tea Partying” the Progressives? by “Gaius Publius” for Down With Tyranny.

The right wing of the Democratic Party would rather stay in control than win elections.

Jack Trammell (D) throws the working class under the bus in Virginia’s District 7 by “Lambert Strether” for Corrente.

In the race in House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s old district, the Tea Party Republican is more anti-Wall Street than the Democrat.

Centrists’ clueless obsession: Why do so many want to cut Social Security? by Jim Newell for Salon.

Here’s how to draw a sharp contrast with Republicans by Greg Sargent for The Washington Post.

Democratic Senator Mark Begich of Alaska, campaigning for re-election, advocates expansion of Social Security.  It is the most popular of the New Deal programs.  Why do so many Democrats, including President Obama, want to undermine it?

Rogue donors not ready for Hillary? by Kenneth P. Vogel for Politico.

The voters’ Presidential primaries are more than a year away.  But the big money primaries have already begun.  Some rich donors are on the side of working people, but working people shouldn’t count on rich people to represent their interests.

Voter ID Laws, Republican Voter Suppression Needs to Stop by Alec MacGillis for The New Republic.

The main thing that is keeping Democrats in office is the policies and tactics of Republicans.   The GOP is permanently alienating minorities and young people by trying to discourage them from voting.  Which means the Democrats don’t have to do much to benefit minorities and youth to get their votes.

The unbreakable rule about insiders

May 13, 2014

In the spring of 2009, Elizabeth Warren, then chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel on the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), was taken to lunch by Larry Summers, then director of the National Economic Council and a top adviser to President Obama.

Summers, … … she recalls, told her that she had a choice to make. She could be an insider or an outsider, but if she was going to be an insider she needed to understand one unbreakable rule about insiders: “They don’t criticize other insiders.”

The quote is from a review of Senator Warren’s autobiography, A Fighting Chance, by Jill Lepore in the New Yorker.  The whole review is well worth reading. Click on Reading Elizabeth Warren to read it.

Hillary Clinton tells financiers she’s on their side

December 17, 2013

Hillary Clinton recently addressed a meeting of Wall Street financiers, which was set up by Goldman Sachs, to tell them that she’s on their side, Politico magazine reported.

Clinton offered a message that the collected plutocrats found reassuring, according to accounts offered by several attendees, declaring that the banker-bashing so popular within both political parties was unproductive and indeed foolish.

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton

Striking a soothing note on the global financial crisis, she told the audience, in effect: We all got into this mess together, and we’re all going to have to work together to get out of it. 

What the bankers heard her to say was just what they would hope for from a prospective presidential candidate: Beating up the finance industry isn’t going to improve the economy—it needs to stop.

And indeed Goldman’s Tim O’Neill, who heads the bank’s asset management business, introduced Clinton by saying how courageous she was for speaking at the bank.  (Brave, perhaps, but also well-compensated: Clinton’s minimum fee for paid remarks is $200,000).

Certainly, Clinton offered the money men—and, yes, they are mostly men—at Goldman’s HQ a bit of a morale boost.  “It was like, ‘Here’s someone who doesn’t want to vilify us but wants to get business back in the game,’” said an attendee. “Like, maybe here’s someone who can lead us out of the wilderness.”

Clinton’s remarks were hardly a sweeping absolution for the sins of Wall Street, whose leaders she courted assiduously for financial support over a decade, as a senator and a presidential candidate in 2008.   But they did register as a repudiation of some of the angry anti-Wall Street rhetoric emanating from liberals rallying behind the likes of Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).

And perhaps even more than that, Clinton’s presence offered a glimpse to a future in which Wall Street might repair its frayed political relationships.

via POLITICO Magazine.

I would have thought that the Wall Street financial community would be highly pleased with President Barack Obama.  His administration has bailed out the Wall Street banks from their bad investments, and held them harmless.  It continued the TARP bailouts and supported Federal Reserve chair Ben Bernanke’s policy of pumping money into the banking system by buying up toxic assets.

The Obama administration has refrained from prosecution of financial fraud in the wake of the Wall Street collapse, in sharp contrast to the many prosecutions of savings and loan officers in the administration the elder George H.W. Bush.   It has declined to investigate illegal mortgage foreclosures or to give meaningful relief to under-water mortgage debtors.

But, according to Politico, the Wall Street community is miffed at Obama, partly because of the imposition of the so-called Volcker rule, which limits speculative investments with money covered by government guarantees, and also because Obama fails to manifest camaraderie or respond to their wishes.  That is why they give Obama “only” $6 million in the last election, compared to the $16 million he got in 2008.

On the Republican side, the Politico reporters wrote, Wall Street’s favorite is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.  But the financiers also like Florida Senator Marco Rubio, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, Ohio Senator Rob Portman, and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.

What the article shows is that money still talks louder than public opinion.  The popular positions—breaking up the “too big to fail” banks, prosecuting financial fraud—are the underdog positions in Washington.

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I hope Elizabeth Warren runs for President

November 13, 2013

I admire Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and hope that she runs for President in 2016.  She is one of the few people in Washington who is willing to stand up to Wall Street and defend the American middle class.

After my disappointment with Barack Obama after 2008, I thought I might never again vote for a Democrat or, for that matter, a Republican for national office.  But I might be tempted to vote for Elizabeth Warren.

Right now Warren says that she does not intend to run for President, and she supports Hillary Clinton, the apparent front-runner.  Clinton has the advantage in name recognition, in support from the Democratic Party establishment, and in fund-raising, much of it from Wall Street financiers such as Goldman Sachs that Elizabeth Warren wants to bring to account.

But Peter Beinart, writing in the New Republic, thinks that Warren may run anyway, even if she doesn’t have a realistic chance, just to advocate for financial reform.

He pointed out that she wouldn’t have run for the Senate from Massachusetts if the Obama administration had been serious about giving the new Consumer Financial Protection Board the power to prevent financial fraud, she wouldn’t have run for office in the first place.  It is possible to care more about the issues than your personal ambition.

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Why is the TPP draft treaty such a big secret?

June 20, 2013

President Obama in his last State of the Union address said that he hopes to see the United States ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, an proposed treaty among at least 12 nations on both sides of the Pacific that would set rules of what members governments could and couldn’t do in regard to financial regulation, intellectual property rights and much else.

But the Obama administration refuses to disclose precisely what is in the draft treaty or what the United States is asking for.  That’s classified information.

That is to say, the classification system, whose original stated purpose was to make it a crime to disclose military secrets to foreign enemies, is being used to make it a crime to reveal the government’s proposed trade treaty to the American public.

Government bodies have held closed and secret meetings from time immemorial, and journalists and legislators have found out about them as best they could.  But making it a crime to reveal what goes on in those meetings has historically been regarded as unconstitutional.

At some point, of course, the text of the treaty will have to be disclosed.  The Obama administration’s intent seems to be to keep everything secret until the last moment, and thus rush the treaty through Congress on a “fast track” vote with a minimum of discussion.

Senator Elizabeth Warren, the outspoken Massachusetts Democrat, courageously voted against Michael Froman to be U.S. trade representatives because of his refusal to answer simple questions about the TPP.  Here’s what she said about it.

Senator Elizabeth Warren

Senator Elizabeth Warren

I have heard the argument that transparency would undermine the Trade Representative’s policy to complete the trade agreement because public opposition would be significant.  In other words, if people knew what was going on, they would stop it.  This argument is exactly backwards.  If transparency would lead to widespread public opposition to a trade agreement, then that trade agreement should not be the policy of the United States.

I believe in transparency and democracy, and I think the U.S. Trade Representative should too.

I asked the President’s nominee to be Trade Representative — Michael Froman – three questions: First, would he commit to releasing the composite bracketed text? Or second, if not, would he commit to releasing just a scrubbed version of the bracketed text that made anonymous which country proposed which provision. (Note: Even the Bush Administration put out the scrubbed version during negotiations around the Free Trade Area of the Americas agreement.)

Third, I asked Mr. Froman if he would provide more transparency behind what information is made to the trade office’s outside advisers.  Currently, there are about 600 outside advisers that have access to sensitive information, and the roster includes a wide diversity of industry representatives and some labor and NGO representatives too. But there is no transparency around who gets what information and whether they all see the same things, and I think that’s a real problem.

Mr. Froman’s response was clear: No, no, no.

via naked capitalism.

The outside advisers, by the way, reportedly include 500 representatives of industry and finance, and 100 from all other groups; they, too, are sworn to secrecy.  Senators and Representatives have been forbidden to share what little they know even with their own staffs.  Recently Rep. Alan Grayson, an outspoken Florida Democrat, was allowed to see a version of the draft treaty.

Rep. Alan Grayson

Rep. Alan Grayson

Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) told HuffPost on Monday that he viewed an edited version of the negotiation texts last week, but that secrecy policies at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative created scheduling difficulties that delayed his access for nearly six weeks.

The Obama administration has barred any Congressional staffers from reviewing the full negotiation text and prohibited members of Congress from discussing the specific terms of the text with trade experts and reporters.  Staffers on some committees are granted access to portions of the text under their committee’s jurisdiction.

“This, more than anything, shows the abuse of the classified information system,” Grayson told HuffPost.  “They maintain that the text is classified information.  And I get clearance because I’m a member of Congress, but now they tell me that they don’t want me to talk to anybody about it because if I did, I’d be releasing classified information.”

[snip]

“What I saw was nothing that could possibly justify the secrecy that surrounds it,” Grayson said, referring to the draft Trans-Pacific deal.  “It is ironic in a way that the government thinks it’s alright to have a record of every single call that an American makes, but not alright for an American citizen to know what sovereign powers the government is negotiating away.”

via Huffington Post.

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That seems wrong to me, too

March 2, 2013

warren

Hat tip to jobsanger.

Why Elizabeth Warren belongs in the Senate

August 15, 2012

Elizabeth Warren, as the appointed chair of the Congressional Oversight Committee on the Troubled Asset Relief Program, asked questions that needed to be asked.  In September, 2009, she asked Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner where the TARP money went, and why the bailed-out banks didn’t have to accept stringent conditions that were imposed on the bailed-out automobile companies.  You can see his response on the video above.

If Warren wins election as Senator from Massachusetts this November, she will be able to continue to ask the questions that need to be asked.

Click on The Woman Who Knew Too Much for a profile of Elizabeth Warren in Vanity Fair magazine.

Click on Congressional Oversight Panel for the archive of its reports on TARP.

Elizabeth Warren on debt and taxes

October 11, 2011

Click on Elizabeth Warren and liberalism, twisting the ‘social contract’ for conservative Washington Post columnist George F. Will’s criticism of Elizabeth Warren.

Click on The conservative response to Elizabeth Warren for liberal Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent’s rebuttal of George F. Will.

Click on How George Will Misunderstands Both Warren and Liberalism for New Republic writer William Galston’s critique of George F. Will’s critique.

Elizabeth Warren for Senator?

July 19, 2011

President Obama over the weekend backed down on appointing Elizabeth Warren as chair of the new Consumer Finance Protection Bureau.

She would have been the most logical person to head the board, which was her idea.  She saw the financial crisis coming, and how the crisis was connected to predatory lending practices.  Predatory credit card and mortgage companies offered low interest rates to entice people to go into debt, then made up for the low interest income by large hidden penalties and fees.  This turned out to be bad for everyone.  Warren’s aim was to make financial marketing transparent, so that people know what they’re paying and so that they can compare financial products and make intelligent choices.  No reasonable person could object to that, except those who profit from the bad existing system.

From her standpoint, it may have been for the best that she didn’t get the job.  Republicans in Congress, and the Wall Street faction in the Obama administration would have done their best to thwart her, and I don’t think she would have got support from President Obama.  If not for her popularity and the need to appease public opinion, I don’t think he would have proposed her in the first place.

I would have expected President Obama to give her token support through the 2012 elections, and then for her to resign in frustration in 2013 or 2014.

Now she has a new opportunity—the chance to run for Senator from Massachusetts in 2012.  Some Massachusetts Democrats are getting up a nominating petition.  She hasn’t said what she will do.

I hope she decides to run, and I hope she wins.   She would be a voice for reason and justice in the Senate.

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