Bloomberg this morning posts a really good profile of Elizabeth Warren, who, despite much of the press’s dismissal of her earlier this year, has become one of the most influential people in Washington. Her Consumer Financial Protection Agency is very likely to become law soon, and it’s quite possible she could be picked to head it.
This has the once all-powerful, now just all-but-all-powerful banking industry sputtering:
If Congress creates the watchdog, the director should have “a working knowledge of how financial institutions operate,” said Scott Talbott, the financial roundtable’s chief lobbyist.
Translation: The industry wants somebody it can regulatory-capture. You know, like I said yesterday about Josh Tyrangiel taking over at BusinessWeek, Someone who’s not been schooled (and blinkered) in “this is how it’s done” is more likely to see problems in how it’s done. Warren infuriates the press’s Church of the Savvy, as Jay Rosen calls it, that says “you can’t do that”—play between the 40 yard lines.
Bloomberg doesn’t buy into that and I’ve seen a loosening in the derision of the press toward Warren as it’s become clear how influential she has been—remember that Bloomberg story recently opening with President Obama asking if Larry Summers and Tim Geithner had read Warren? Bloomberg adds here that she pow-wows with Barney Frank, head of the key House Financial Services Committee, twice a week on the CFPA legislation.
There’s some really sweet color in this story, too. Warren, like me, is an Okie, so in her Wall Street internship “At first, she said she thought she was being made fun of as a rookie from the sticks” (I can sympathize):
“I got out my little notebook, and the senior partner started talking about frozen pork belly futures,” Warren said, recalling an early meeting. “How dumb do they think I am? I wasn’t going to fall for it because I am a sophisticated person. It finally occurs to me that he is serious, and that there is a market for pork bellies.”
Reporters Mark Pittman and Bob Ivry correctly use the term “populism,” unlike so many others in the press, in referring to Warren’s ideas. Basically, it’s prioritizing the interests of the vast majority of the population, left and right—“We were out in Colorado at a hearing for rural finance and people came up to her,” Silvers said. “That wasn’t exactly Obama country out there, if you know what I mean”—over the narrower interests of the entrenched elite. Also: common sense.
“Credit cards are like snakes: Handle ‘em long enough and one will bite you,” she said. “You have to remember what are incomes to banks are outgoes to families.”
“I made a decision at the beginning that the experts wrecked this economy and the public has a right to know what’s going on,” she said. “It’s our economy on the line and the experts can’t be trusted. I want everyone to be part of the solution to how we want to change our economic world. If it’s risky or makes me look stupid to someone, so be it.”
And you just have to step back and admire this:
Warren, who graduated from high school at 16 and said she prefers Coors Light beer over iced tea.Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum.