POLITICS

Surprise! Donald Trump Is Wrong About Elizabeth Warren

Ask Larry Summers if she gets things done.

Elizabeth Warren has been rallying the progressive Twittersphere against Donald Trump, and the budding fascist isn't happy about it. He's now telling his legion of nationalists that Warren hasn't accomplished anything in the Senate -- a remark that sounds plausible only if you don't pay attention to the Senate.

Warren is loathed by congressional Republicans and is a persistent thorn in the side of Wall Street-friendly Democrats (and yes, this is a significant portion of the party's caucus). But it's hard to argue that she doesn't get things done. Her critics, in fact, are aggrieved by her Senate tenure precisely because she does get things done.

The Federal Reserve Chair is the single most powerful economic post in American government. The person who holds that position has tremendous influence over the direction of the economy and is imbued with broad regulatory authority over the nation's financial system. When President Barack Obama wanted to appoint Larry Summers to that post in 2013, Warren galvanized opposition to the appointment on the grounds that Summers had a long history of supporting bank deregulation. A team of Senate Democrats including Warren blocked his nomination, and Obama named Janet Yellen to the job instead. Warren prevented investment banker Anthony Weiss from getting a Treasury post a year later (he's stuck in an advisory role instead of holding an undersecretary job).

When Fed General Counsel Scott Alvarez spouted deregulatory views at a banking conference, Warren forced Yellen to distance herself from the agency's top lawyer at a public hearing. Alvarez -- long viewed as a Wall Street-friendly influence at the central bank-- has been much quieter since.

Warren was the chief congressional advocate for a new Obama rule requiring investment advisors to manage their funds in the best interests of their clients. Republicans and many Democrats balked at the rule amid pressure from Wall Street, which wanted to let managers steer clients into investments that just happened to offer perks for the financial advisers. Warren humiliated opponents of the rule by highlighting the conflicts of interest inherent in the present system and the related dodgy business practices. The rule is now law.

Warren secured her most notable legislative achievement before she actually joined the Senate. As an academic, she conceived of a new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that would centralize the disparate consumer regulatory powers of the federal government in one agency and focus exclusively on financial practices involving households. Since several agencies had just botched the subprime mortgage crisis, Warren reasoned that they weren't taking consumer protection seriously and that a new agency without other responsibilities would.

Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) didn't want the agency. He preferred requiring the existing regulators to adopt more stringent rules. Warren lobbied House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and President Obama, and won. When the CFPB was established, she was tapped to set up the agency. The CFPB has since returned over $10 billion in ill-gotten gains to millions of consumers, targeting credit card rip-offs, payday lending scams and other practices. The agency has just given consumers the right to file class-action lawsuits against banks, upending the power dynamic between banks and their customers. Banks had previously forced consumers to resolve their complaints outside of court in arbitration -- a process that almost always favored the banks. Thanks to the CFPB's new rule, consumers can band together to file cases, making it much more financially plausible to recoup money lost over a wrong $20 or $200 charge.

Warren didn't do any of this by herself, of course. That's not how politics works. But pretending she wasn't a key player would be, well, goofy.

Editor's note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liarrampant xenophoberacistmisogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims -- 1.6 billion members of an entire religion -- from entering the U.S.

 
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