Sunday, October 12, 2014
EXCLUSIVE: 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 and over”
“There has not been nearly enough change,” she tells Salon, taking on Obama failures, lobbyists, tuition. So 2016?
The following snippets were curated from a Salon.Com interview by Thomas Frank.
Q: I want to start by talking about a line that you’re famous for, from your speech at the Democratic National Convention two years ago: “The system is rigged.” You said exactly what was on millions of people’s minds. I wonder, now that you’re in D.C. and you’re in the Senate, and you have a chance to see things close up, do you still feel that way? And: Is there a way to fix the system without getting the Supreme Court to overturn Citizens United or some huge structural change like that? How can we fix it?
A: That’s the question that lies at the heart of whether our democracy will survive. The system is rigged. And now that I’ve been in Washington and seen it up close and personal, I just see new ways in which that happens. But we have to stop and back up, and you have to kind of get the right diagnosis of the problem, to see how it is that—it goes well beyond campaign contributions. That’s a huge part of it. But it’s more than that. It’s the armies of lobbyists and lawyers who are always at the table, who are always there to make sure that in every decision that gets made, their clients’ tender fannies are well protected. And when that happens — not just once, not just twice, but thousands of times a week — the system just gradually tilts further and further. There is no one at the table…I shouldn’t say there’s no one. I don’t want to overstate. You don’t have to go into hyperbole. But there are very few people at the decision-making table to argue for minimum-wage workers. Very few people.
[ … ]
Q: In some ways that’s exactly the problem. When I talk to people, they often say Democrats aren’t the party of working people at all. And they talk about NAFTA and deregulating Wall Street, and they say, look at these guys, they won’t prosecute the financial industry. They say, Democrats talk a good game, but they’re always on the side of the elite at the end of the day. What do you say to these people?
A: We’re the only ones fighting back. Right now, on financial reform, the Republicans are trying to roll back the financial reforms of Dodd-Frank. In fact, Mitch McConnell has announced that if he gets the majority in the Senate, his first objective is to repeal healthcare and his second is to roll back the financial reforms, and in particular to target the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — the one agency that’s out there for American families, the one that has returned more than four billion dollars to families who got cheated by big financial institutions. That’s in just three years.
So, Democrats have not done all that they should, but at least we’re out there fighting for the right things. We’re fighting and I think trying to pull in the right direction. So if the question is, hold us to a higher standard, man, I’m there. You’re right. [If] you want to criticize and say, “you should do more!,” the answer is: Yes, we should! You bet! We should be stronger. We should be tougher. But understand the difference between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party right now. It’s pulling as hard and fast as it can in the opposite direction.
[ … ]
Q: Here’s the penultimate question: everything you’re saying are issues that have been important to me most of my adult life. In 2008, I thought I had a candidate who was going to address these things. Right? Barack Obama. Today, my friends and I are pretty disappointed with what he’s done. I wonder if you feel he has been forthright enough on these subjects. And I also wonder if you think that someone can take any of this stuff on without being president. You know, there are a lot of good politicians in America who have their heart in the right place. But they’re not the president. Well anyhow. You understand my frustration…
I understand your frustration, Tom and, actually, I talk about this in the book. When I think about the president, for me, it’s about both halves. If Barack Obama had not been president of the United States we would not have a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Period. I’m completely convinced of that. And I go through the details in the book, and I could tell them to you. But he was the one who refused to throw the agency under the bus and made sure that his team kept the agency alive and on the table. Now there was a lot of other stuff that also had to happen for it to happen. But if he hadn’t been there, we wouldn’t have gotten the agency. At the same time, he picked his economic team and when the going got tough, his economic team picked Wall Street.
Q: You might say, “always.” Just about every time they had to compromise, they compromised in the direction of Wall Street.
A: That’s right. They protected Wall Street. Not families who were losing their homes. Not people who lost their jobs. Not young people who were struggling to get an education. And it happened over and over and over. So I see both of those things and they both matter.
While there is nothing inherently and immediately wrong or incorrect about what Senator Warren said, I find the sensational headline and how blame is assigned less than tasteful.
Many former Obama alums, whether high-level officials or people who ended up being officials-in-waiting and whose appointments were foiled by the Republican machine, should know better than to blame the hand that fed.
While it is true that many, if not all of President Obama’s appointees protected the Wall Street bankers, where were the indignant, equalizing Democrats in Congress? After all, they had the power, if not to outright impose, then certainly to pull policy makers to the left. That tug of war never happened. In fact, if any pulling was done, it was to the right, as was the case with healthcare. We should have gotten Universal Healthcare. We didn’t. We should have gotten more stimulus. We didn’t. Wall Street should have been given less and made to do far more. It didn’t.
As far as I recall, Ms. Warren was present during all of this, on the other side of DC, in or near the White House.
I still like her a damned sight better than the “presumptive nominee,” but interviews like these don’t help.
Curated from www.salon.com