Elizabeth Warren won’t run for president, even though New Hampshire Democrats are planning to draft her.
The senior Massachusetts senator spoke with her fellow scorner of Tim Geithner, Sheila Bair, the former Federal Deposit Insurance (FDIC) chairperson about key economic issues in an interview for Fortune magazine .
Their acquaintance is of some vintage. Bair knew Warren from her Harvard days, and they have worked in the same areas: Bair steered the FDIC during the 2008 crisis. It was a time when Wall Street partied with derivatives like someone else was picking up the tab (and indeed, someone else was: taxpayers). Warren is still speaking out against “Wall Street giveaways,” as she did in a Facebook post yesterday . She also twice led remarkable rebellions against Republican lawmakers who sought to make current laws friendlier to Wall Street. Even if the first was ultimately unsuccessful , the second, launched on short notice, went spectacularly well . In another recent show of influence, she pushed back against Obama’s decision to appoint Antonio Weiss as the Under Secretary for Domestic Finance, and won.
Warren, like many members of Congress, is a millionaire, with over $6m at last count . But her views are strictly populist: her outrage was directed against key sections of Congress’s spending bill in December. The bill proposed repealing parts of Dodd-Frank to keep banks from using federally insured deposits for making risky bets on derivatives.
Warren’s success in fending off Republicans in the first few days of this Congress means people are already talking about her political ambitions. She took pains today to quash such speculation – at least in the short term. Her other observations follow.
She is ‘madder than hops’ about Dodd-Frank repeals
Warren tells Bair: “I’m madder than hops about repealing the section of Dodd-Frank that is designed to lower risks in exactly the area where the big banks got into trouble.” Warren is displeased with how the debate over the spending bill panned out.
Warren isn’t anti-business
Bair gives Warren a pro-business stamp of approval: “I must profess that the Elizabeth Warren I know respects business and the role it plays in jobs and wealth creation.”
Warren agrees. Surprisingly, she says she is on the same side as investment banks that don’t have federal deposit insurance, who they tell her in private are displeased with the Dodd-Frank repeals.
“I have talked to a lot of nonbank financial players – investment banks, hedge funds –they have to compete for capital on their own.”
It may seem rich for Warren to go against big banks only to support investment banks – two of which, Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns, went under due to their risk-taking – but it’s a good indicator to some on Wall Street that Warren listens to some of them.
Elizabeth Warren’s favorite president is …
Warren’s focus, despite her pro-some-business stance, seems to be strongly on making changes to corporate America and Wall Street. Bair and Warren talk about Wall Street sympathisers in the government who they battled with during the crisis on such things as mortgages: “I’d say look what’s happening to families struggling with their mortgages and their response would be “the banks’ balance sheets can take it,” Warren says.
The senior senator’s favorite president is not Obama – ouch for the White House – but Teddy “trust buster” Roosevelt. Warren alludes to her law school education and emphasizes that price competition isn’t the only reason monopolies are dangerous. Instead, she sides with Roosevelt who broke down powerful trusts because of their overwhelming political power.
It isn’t anything today’s Congress will recognise, in an environment where Citigroup lobbyists are writing the bills that pass in Congress.
But she won’t run for president
“No” is all Warren will say to Bair’s question about the presidency in 2016. And her firm refusal has done nothing to affect progressive activists from meeting in New Hampshire to plan the “Run, Warren, Run” campaign to persuade her to seek the Democratic nomination in 2016.
Besides, this doesn’t rule out other higher positions in politics. After all, Bair didn’t ask Warren about the possibility of Clinton-Warren 2016, of which there are hopeful murmurs and is a prospect even Paul Krugman has put his money on .
However, if she was a dictator she would:
While Warren shoots down any talk of her presidential ambitions, she has more than a few ideas for how the country could be better-run. “First, invest far more in education,” she says. Education – from college to student loans – has been Warren’s pet topic. Also, Warren single-handedly brought the student debt crisis into the spotlight and has pushed several bills in Congress to push for refinancing student loans.
“Second, rebuild our infrastructure”
Research is the third thing America needs, she says: “I’d invest in research.”
Warren may not run for President but she has advice for someone who did. She tells Obama: get out and fight for America’s families and be clear what you are fighting for.
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