Paul Krugman called it “The War on Elizabeth Warren.” Yves Smith wrote about “The Elizabeth Warren Rorschach Test.” There’s no doubt that the insightful Harvard professor turned administration official, tapped first to chair the Congressional Oversight Panel into the bank bailouts, drives conservatives a little wild. And nothing drives them wilder than the prospect of her heading up a Consumer Financial Protection Agency that might actually protect consumers.
Smith notes their attacks are largely out of proportion to the real power that Warren wields. Though Republicans spent over two hours attacking Warren when she appeared before Congress last week, Smith points out that Warren’s chances of actually being named to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau are skinny.
And then there’s the question of the bureau's power itself. If you dream of a bureau head in a sharp suit who will track down and incarcerate mortgage bundlers and fraudulent foreclosers—dream again. There’s no chance in hell that even Wonderful Warren will be to the banksters what Elliot Ness was to Al Capone.
After all, this is an administration gearing up for a re-election fight expected to cost a billion—with a B—dollars. Thanks to Citizens United, big business can throw some seriously big money around, and Obama has money worries enough. Way enough to stifle any likely pre-election moves on billionaires. Even if he had the inclination.
I have to wonder, too, if there’s an element of sexism in the reactions to Warren. After all, there aren’t a lot of women in high places in Obama’s economic team—and it was mostly women, you’ll remember, who warned and were ignored before the financial crisis first hit.
Nonetheless Krugman seems to think that the unhinged attacks on Warren are a perfect opportunity—another—to debate over who’s responsible for breaking the economy. The administration may not have the guts for it, but groups like US Uncut, National People’s Action and BanksterUSA just might.
We may not have an Elizabeth Ness with a federal bureau at her back, but we do have popular protest—from Wisconsin to Ohio to Indiana and back. Maybe we can have the conversation without them.
The F Word is a regular commentary by Laura Flanders, the host of GRITtv and editor of At The Tea Party, out now from OR Books. GRITtv broadcasts weekdays on DISH Network and DIRECTv, on cable, and online at GRITtv.org and TheNation.com. Follow GRITtv or GRITlaura on Twitter and be our friend on Facebook.