Elizabeth Warren’s Selective Outrage
I made the mistake of checking my newsfeed only to witness that paragon of Potemkin progress, Elizabeth Warren, indignantly shaming the CEO of Wells Fargo over the bank’s recent cross-selling scandal.
Say what you will about the senior Senator from Massachusetts, love her or hate her, but waking up to an Elizabeth Warren harangue is about as pleasant as a throbbing hangover without the consolation of a previous night’s revelry.
Yet, the crucial distinction is not private vs. public. After all, business often serves the public while government often serves private interests.
Despite having the moral high ground (Wells Fargo did, indeed, defraud their customers), Senator Warren’s presentation came across as effective yet priggish. This is the Elizabeth Warren many progressives have come to know and love. When one progressive writer recently described Warren (and I believe with loving intentions) as a “moral drill bit,” he wasn’t far off from describing her as a useful tool.
A Veritable Swiss Army Knife
I happily welcome this metaphor. Warren is, indeed, a tool – a passionate tool for the populist left, an unwitting tool for government cronyism, a conscious tool of Hillary Clinton, and a devoted tool for the civic religion that is statism.
Though Warren may “speak truth to power” to Wall Street, she often turns mute on some of the worst abuses of government. Like most statists, she sees the speck in her brother’s private eye while failing to see the beam in her own public eye. A whole manner of sins, it seems, are forgiven once one is “serving the public” in government.
Yet, the crucial distinction between government and business is not private vs. public. After all, business often serves the public while government often serves private interests. The crucial difference between government and the so-called private sector is impunity – the ability to assault, kill, and defraud without consequence. The more government and business become intermingled, the more the law becomes a tool of privilege for private and public players alike rather than a defensive measure for the equal liberty and dignity of all.
Elizabeth Warren and those of her ilk seem to think the remedy to crony capitalism is to further empower the very source of such abuses in the first place – state power. When they express righteous indignation in the face Wall Street executives’ impunity but turn a blind eye to the state’s own, it is nothing more than hypocrisy.
Given their incessant prattling and absurd demands, we might as well start calling the whole damn Congress the “Knights Who Say Ni!”
Impunity is impunity is impunity, yet sadly there are plenty of hypocrites on Capitol Hill who damn private actors for actions that are par for the course, or even encouraged, in the public arena. However, among this recent bunch of public servants, Elizabeth Warren takes the cake. Her presentations are not only hypocritical and sanctimonious but boldly so.
As warranted as Senator Warren’s dressing down of Wells Fargo’s CEO was, let us consider this “moral drill bit” in terms of both her style and substance.
Warren’s “Progressive” Political Stylings
Warren always seems one monosyllabic utterance away from sounding exactly like a Michael Palin character in a famous Monty Python film. Almost without fail, after asking the Wells Fargo CEO each of her questions, Warren allowed little to no time for answers. No, her committee time would be used for a hectoring lecture come hell or high water. The folks back home expect nothing less, and to be fair, such an approach is not unique to Elizabeth Warren.
Leading questions and political grandstanding are a mainstay at congressional hearings no matter the party affiliation of the inquisitor. Given their incessant prattling and absurd demands, we might as well start calling the whole damn Congress the “Knights Who Say Ni!” If only we could get them to shut-up by simply saying “it.”
That said, Elizabeth Warren has largely proven herself first among equals when it comes to displays of high dudgeon. She needles the Wall Street elite like no one else, and her star has risen accordingly among progressive populists. The more she pooh-poohs the rising stock prices of corrupt bankers, the higher her own political stock rises.
One may say Elizabeth Warren is the left’s version of Donald Trump more than Bernie Sanders ever was. She is notoriously gifted at marshaling invective, outrage, suspicion, and resentment against not only corrupt bankers but a whole class of people – entrepreneurs – who, according to Warren, somehow become rich and successful en masse by not cooperating with others or serving the needs of society.
No, in Warren’s mind, the only way to “pay it forward” to society is to serve the state:
“There is nobody in this country who got rich on their own. Nobody. You built a factory out there – good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory… Now look. You built a factory and it turned into something terrific or a great idea – God bless! Keep a hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”
This consistent schtick has now earned Warren a spot in the progressive political big leagues. According to Benjamin Wallace-Wells in his piece for The New Yorker (the same piece that “lovingly” compared her to a tool,) Elizabeth Warren has been tapped as the “Democratic Party’s insult comic” for her effective belittling of Trump.
Yet, Warren must be careful of hypocrisy by her own progressive standards. By taking on Trump, she is coming to the aid of Hillary Clinton who is much too cozy with Wall Street for most progressives’ liking. In fact, as Warren was lambasting Wells Fargo’s CEO, she forgot to mention the ties of her chosen presidential candidate to the very same bank:
Wells Fargo, both the bank and its foundation, have given generously to the Clinton Foundation over the years. The bank has given between $10,001 and $25,000, and the foundation has given between $100,001 To $250,000. In 2011, former President Bill Clinton gave a speech to Wells Fargo for $200,000.
Of course, one may forgive Elizabeth Warren for doing the best she can to choose the lesser of two evils in the corrupt world of presidential politics, but even forgetting this shallow game of guilt by association with the Clintons, Warren’s hypocrisy still stands based on her own flawed political theory.
Impunity for Me and Not for Thee
So, why was Elizabeth Warren so upset at Wells Fargo anyway?
“The lender opened more than 2 million accounts that consumers may not have known about, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said in a statement Thursday. Wells Fargo,