The attacks on Elizabeth Warren, alongside Republican plans to orchestrate a government shut-down present the Obama administration and Congressional Democrats with a real opportunity to re-take control of the political narrative surrounding the economy.
As Paul Krugman points out, the attacks on Warren are baseless and nonsensical. House Republicans whipped themselves up into a frenzy at the though that Warren had overstepped her authority in helping state attorneys general put together a proposed settlement with mortgage services in the multi-state foreclosure fraud scandal. The narrative, coming from House Republicans, is that the financial crisis was a result of an overly-intrusive federal regulatory scheme and Warren represents another out-of-control bureaucrat who must be reigned in.
Reigning in Warren of course means killing off the new consumer protection agency and encouraging Wall Street to keep on with fraudulent business practices. Millions of Americans remain out of work and the Republicans took time for a Congressional hearing on whether or not Washington had gone too far in helping citizens who had fallen prey to abusive lending and flat-out-fraud.
As if that dithering were not enough, a supra-majority of Senators have now written a letter to President Obama pleading with the President to get involved in serious debt-reduction negotiations. Ezra Klein points to the obvious problem here. If there are enough Senators who allege to have a plan on deficit reduction to withstand a veto, why are they writing letters instead of legislation? What exactly do they need the President for?
The answer is nothing. If these Republican Senators and conservative Democrats were truly serious about decreasing the deficit they would be doing. Instead, they are creating a fall-guy for their own inaction- a way to tell voters “gee we wish we could have gotten something done, but the President was in our way.” Except he’s not. It’s Congressional Kabuki.
Unfortunately we’ve seen no indication that the Obama administration has the ability to pounce on a pretty clear message of protecting the interests of Wall Street and continued fiscal mismanagement currently projected by the GOP. Why not remains one of the great political mysteries of the moment.
photo courtesy of David Shankbone 2010 via Flickr