May 23, 2013
Alan Grayson Tells It Like It Is
Posted on Jul 21, 2011
Peter Scheer: This is Truthdig Radio. I’m Peter Scheer, and I’m joined in the studio by Robert Scheer, my boss and life coach. Dad, welcome to Truthdig Radio.
Robert Scheer: Yup.
Peter Scheer: We were speaking at the top of the show; we had a little bit of technical difficulties getting Alan Grayson on the line, so we were interrupted. But we’d like to come back to the discussion of your column, which I feel like is a really good—and I know I obviously have a bias here. But I think you write a lot about the economy, the Clinton administration, the Obama administration, the various officials, Timothy Geithner, Elizabeth Warren, et cetera, et cetera. But this column in particular, I think, really captures sort of the basic wrong of the Obama administration. And it was about how Elizabeth Warren, who conceived of the idea of a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and fought for it and won it and was working to create it, was not allowed to run that—was not even nominated to run that organization for fear of not winning confirmation. And I just want to read what I think is really the money quote from your column. Quote, “Obama’s refusal to take the fight to Senate Republicans by nominating Warren should be taken as the vital measure of the man. This gutless decision comes after the president populated his administration with the very people who created the financial meltdown.” Take it away.
Robert Scheer: Well you know, it’s crazy-making, really. First of all, the Republicans are worse than the Democrats; they don’t even want a consumer protection agency, they don’t even want a director. And the fellow, the former attorney general of Ohio, Richard …
Robert Scheer: Cordray, is not—he’s good; he’s a good guy, you know?—they’ll probably reject him as well. But Elizabeth Warren had become a symbol, just like Brooksley Born was in the Clinton administration, of being an incredibly informed person. These are two brilliant lawyers who really knew the stuff better than the old boys’ club of Greenspan and Geithner and Summers and all that; these are really sharp people, very well educated, leaders in their field, who had a moral conscience. And Brooksley Born warned Clinton, these derivatives are spiraling out of control; you’re servicing Wall Street; this is madness and we’re going to have a meltdown—and of course, we had a meltdown. And then Elizabeth Warren played that same role for Obama. Obama appointed all of these veterans of the Clinton administration and Wall Street, beginning with Lawrence Summers and Timothy Geithner and all that, to occupy the key positions. Gary Gensler, a former Goldman Sachs partner who has the key role now in the reregulation, who was the guy in the Clinton administration who defended radical deregulation. And yet one lone voice, Elizabeth Warren—brilliant, on the money, on the target, and she pushes for this consumer protection. And consumer protection, you see, is already defanged; it already has to report to the Treasury. It excludes—this is something that we were discussing earlier in the show, about usury and interest—there’s no limit on interest. You can charge a college kid 30, 40 percent interest on a student loan, on his credit card. There are not really any great teeth to this thing. The thing that was going to get something bigger was to have a public—a director that had some public presence, who sounded the alarm and said to the banks, hey, watch this cheating people with your fine print; give some protection, some transparency …
Peter Scheer: Someone you can trust, as well.
Robert Scheer: Yeah. We needed her there precisely because she was a thorn in their side. And what Obama did, he could have taken this fight—first of all, it’s amazing that you can appoint all these Wall Street sharks to key positions, and that’s not controversial in the Senate. Republicans and Democrats [said] oh yeah, yeah, we’ll sign off on that one, we’ll sign off on that one. You have this lone voice speaking for the average person, and that’s going to be controversial …
Peter Scheer: And is that even a confirmation fight those politicians want? Do they want to be against the person who’s out to protect the consumer?
Robert Scheer: Well, that’s why I think that Obama should have fought this good fight. And the problem with Obama—let’s cut to the chase here—is, you know, he turned down public financing when he ran. We all looked the other way, we—I put myself in a group that supported him. He then turned to Wall Street and had the biggest contributions from Wall Street. He needs them once again, yes. And so he plays the populist rhetoric, just like Bill Clinton did. But at the end of the day, Wall Street is getting the governance that they pay for. And that’s really what’s, sadly, at work here. Now, again, at the end of my column, once again—and people can say I’m naive—I’m holding out the hope that Obama will take the battle on, make sure this consumer agency at least has the attorney general from Ohio, who’s …
Peter Scheer: You’re right, who’s not … yeah, who’s not a bad guy.
Robert Scheer: … not a bad guy. But I say, this is not an auspicious beginning by throwing Elizabeth Warren off the boat. And you know, we have just got to face up to the fact. It’s just, again, I’d bring it back to that discussion of what Jesus would do, earlier in the show. I mean, the fact of the matter is there’s great suffering in this country. There’s 50 million Americans who have lost their homes, or are in imminent danger of losing their homes. We have an enormous number of people who are unemployed, way beyond the official statistics, and we have the banks that have been bailed out getting fatter and fatter, and more concentrated in power. And there’s no control over the $600 trillion market in derivatives, which is a time bomb that will explode in the future. And so you have this bizarre situation where we have a great pretense of democracy, and we have progressive-sounding Democrats taking on reactionary-sounding Republicans; but they all seem to want to do nothing to disturb the greed of Wall Street.
Peter Scheer: Let me just ask you, because we’re running—you have about 30 seconds here. But I just wonder, you write again and again about Brooksley Born and Elizabeth Warren being treated unfairly; is it a coincidence that they’re women?
Robert Scheer: No, it’s not. Both of these people—women—had to struggle against the male hierarchy in their colleges and in their professions; certainly in law, certainly doing business law. And … but, you know, one of the sad things is you can have a, come from a background of struggle, as both Clinton and Obama did, and then abandon the people you came from and succumb to a false notion of the meritocracy, which basically has serviced the elite. In the case of these two women—and I think being women helped, although with Hillary Clinton we haven’t seen a similar process—they have stuck to their guns; they are fighters, and they have a conscience. And it is really a shame that Elizabeth Warren has, as I say, been abandoned in the same way that Clinton abandoned Brooksley Born.
Peter Scheer: Well, we’ll have to leave it there. For more, check out the column, “Sorry Elizabeth, Wall Street Said No,” by Robert Scheer on Truthdig.com. That’s it for this week’s edition of Truthdig Radio. Find us next Wednesday at 2 or anytime online at Truthdig.com. Thanks to our guests, Alan Grayson, Dwayne “Mr. Fish” Booth, the Rev. Madison Shockley, professor Greg Carey and, of course, Robert Scheer. Thanks to our board op Jee, engineer Stan Misraje and Alan Minsky. For Kasia Anderson and the Scheer brothers, thanks for listening.
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