Elizabeth Warren’s new job

By Felix Salmon
September 17, 2010
introduced to the public by Barack Obama in the White House Rose Garden.

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Elizabeth Warren had a conference call with left-wing bloggers this afternoon, just after being introduced to the public by Barack Obama in the White House Rose Garden. She said that she first started talking to Barack Obama about a consumer financial protection agency in December 2006 — before even her Democracy article came out.

As of Monday, when she moves in to her new office and already has lunch scheduled with Tim Geithner, Warren is going to be a fully-fledged member of the White House economic team, meeting with the president and the rest of his economic advisors on a regular basis. Yes, her portfolio will specifically be consumer protection, but she’ll be able to advise in any area where she feels she can add value.

She was also clear that she has the authority to get the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau up and running as quickly as she can — to hire people, set the budget, and so forth. She wouldn’t be drawn on the question of appointing a director, or whether she has any desire to return to Harvard. But she was clear that she was excited “to make this shift from being on the outside to being on the inside”.

She also talked a lot about being “willing to fight back on behalf middle-class families”. Her vision for the CFPB is very focused on the middle class: there was no mention, for instance, of the unbanked or of yesterday’s poverty numbers. You can be sure they would have featured much more prominently had Michael Barr got the nod.

So the message was clear: The CFPB is Warren’s baby, she’s in control, and she has the explicit support of Obama to get cracking at full speed. I reckon she’ll start off with a lot of momentum, and that it’s going to be pretty much impossible to stop her once she gets started. For the time being, it seems, the question of who will be appointed director and when is a moot one. It’s going to have to be addressed at some point before the end of Obama’s first term in office, but I’m not holding my breath: it could be a long while yet.


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The emotion surrounding this move is yet another example of this country’s insistence on grossly misinterpreting Obama’s relative centrism.


Posted by colinsj | Report as abusive

This is the worst of both worlds:

- Elizabeth Warren will not be the appointed head of CFPB.

- Elizabeth Warren will be the unofficial, unappointed, head of CFPB.

The policy of nominating an easily nominate-able figurehead, while reserving the true power to an non-nominated, non-elected position is bad governing form. What is the point of having a nomination in the first place?

I’d much prefer the president nominate Elizabeth Warren, even if she gets rejected by Congress.

Posted by ReuterReader76 | Report as abusive

let us hope that this is not the volcker-ization of EW.

that said, GO LIZ!!!!

Posted by arrgh | Report as abusive

Yes, by all means, we need more:


academics excited to wield political power. They have done so well so far, we need far more that have a clear-eyed ideological view of the world unclouded by the vagaries of business experience. It’s even more exciting that she holds private conference-calls with left-wing bloggers. GO LIZ!

Posted by Publius | Report as abusive

I think it’s a sign of the times when one of the biggest things going for Ms Warren is that she being derided by players from the right. I will agree however that the form of this appointment is really an end-around congressional approval, but that can be seen in two ways: 1) that the administration really wants to get moving on this fast and doesn’t want to wait through Republican obstanance (for the sake of obstanance as opposed to real objections) or; 2) it’s a political move to protect Obama from having an appointment blocked before the November elections.

Either way, good for Ms Warren (and hopefully Americans) but done in the usual politically slimy way… sigh. Do these guys NEVER learn?

Posted by CDN_finance | Report as abusive

“willing to fight back on behalf middle-class families”

WhyTF would she highlight that she’d be willing to fight for them? That’s just coded politician talk. Or does she mean she’s going to eliminate the higher cost loan products that the less fortunate depend upon?

I have extremely low hopes that this person, this bureau, and this whole concept is going to significantly benefit anyone beyond the those employed by the bureaucracy it creates.

Posted by mattmc | Report as abusive

Warren’s got everything it takes to be effective. And she has the most special of all qualities: Common sense.

Posted by Beezer | Report as abusive