You would think that the Republicans in the House would have better things to do than erupt in outrage over whether something is "advice" or a "recommendation." You would be wrong.
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With so many Americans out of work, working part-time or temp jobs that barely make ends meet, and in danger of having their homes foreclosed on, you would think that the Republicans in the House would have better things to do than erupt in outrage over whether something is "advice" or a "recommendation." But Reps. Spencer Bachus and Shelley Moore Capito are all worked up over this pressing matter. In one of the most ridiculous examples of a phony brouhaha I have ever witnessed (and I have worked in politics for more than 30 years), Bachus and Capito wrote a letter asking Elizabeth Warren to clarify whether she had merely offered advice and expertise, or whether she actually had the temerity to make recommendations on the state AGs-big banks talks.

Our very democracy clearly hangs in the balance.

Just because this incident made me curious, I looked up the definition of the two words. It turns out that the Merriam-Webster definition of "advice" is a "recommendation regarding a decision or course of conduct." Wow, that is a big difference. Congressman and Congresswoman, I am so glad you are taking the point on asking these tough questions and exposing these major scandals.

Seriously, it is really troubling that these guys in Congress don't have better things to do. Bachus is the chair of an important committee, one that theoretically is supposed to have oversight over the American banking industry. Given its role in the wrecking of the world economy in recent years, you would think that having the job of providing oversight would keep one a little bit busy. Instead, we get burning issues like this:

"You repeatedly declined to acknowledge that the (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau), 'a division of Treasury,' had participated in foreclosure settlement negotiations, responding only that the CFPB had provided 'advice' and 'expertise' to Federal and State officials involved in the negotiations ... But according to the CFPB Settlement Presentation, the CFPB did more than provide advice: it recommended the goals and provided a detailed framework for the structure of the settlement."

Wow, that is investigative rigor (or perhaps rigor mortis) at its best. Later the letter goes on to express deep concern that the CFPB presentation (a slideshow this is all based on) offered suggestions for monetary penalties. Now they've caught her in the act: not only giving recommendations but suggestions as well. The outrage! The ignominy!

Bachus and Capito need to get a life. Even in the sometimes absurd world of D.C. parsing and phony fights, this is just plain dumb. Elizabeth Warren is doing exactly what she should do as an adviser to the President and Secretary of Treasury: she is weighing on the issues that matter to consumers and homeowners in dealing with the mess the Wall Street bankers have made of the economy. If Bachus and Moore spent their time investigating banks like they should, they might actually unearth something that matters.

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