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article imageOp-Ed: Herding the liberal sheep into the Democratic fold

By Ken Hanly     Nov 23, 2014 in Politics
Washington - The United States is a two-party system consisting of Republicans and Democrats. While other parties exist, and independents as well, they do not have sufficient funds or support to challenge the two main parties.
The Democrats are supported by most in the US who consider themselves liberal or leftist. Most of these supporters are well aware of the fact that Wall Street has a huge influence on policy through donations and lobbying even when the Democrats are in power. Many liberal policies were not implemented even when the Democrats controlled both houses of Congress, for example the long-promised closure of Guantanamo Bay. In order to prevent liberals and leftists from leaving the Democrat fold, shepherds or shepherdesses are needed to herd them back into the fold rather than leaving and perhaps even forming another party. Elizabeth Warren can be seen as playing this role and doing an excellent job.
In a recent article in the Huffington Post, "Enough is Enough, The President's Latest Wall Street Nominee", Warren lambastes Obama's choice of Antonio Weiss as his nominee to serve as Under Secretary for Domestic Finance within the Treasury Department. He would be responsible for overseeing Dodd-Frank implementation, and also a wide range of banking and economic policy-making, including protection of consumers.
Warren points out that Weiss is head of global investment banking at the large financial institution Lazard. Weiss has worked most of his two decades with Lazard on international mergers and acquisitions. Indeed he spent 8 years living in Paris. Warren claims his experience is in no way related to domestic finance, regulatory issues, or consumer protection.
Warren points out also the Weiss has been involved through Lazard in corporate inversions whereby foreign companies, as Warren puts it: Basically, a bunch of companies have decided that all the regular tax loopholes they get to exploit aren't enough, so they have begun taking advantage of an even bigger loophole that allows them to maintain their operations in America but claim foreign citizenship and cut their U.S. taxes even more. No one is fooled by the bland words "corporate inversion." These companies renounce their American citizenship and turn their backs on this country simply to boost their profits.
Warren claims that Lazard has been involved in three of the four last major corporate inversions. Weiss worked on the deal which saw Burger King purchase Tim Horton's and then moving the headquarters to Canada to claim Canadian ownership and cut its tax bill. Lazard even moved its own headquarters to Bermuda in 2005 to take advantage of a tax loophole. The loophole was closed shortly afterwards. Even officials at the Treasury Dept. during the Bush administration found what Lazard was doing objectionable.
The White House has said that Mr. Weiss was not involved in the tax side of the Burger King deal. Warren rightly replies surely when she claims that the entire deal was designed to improve Burger King's tax situation. The White House also claims that Weiss is personally opposed to inversions. This has never caused him to criticize Lazard for what they have done or to refuse to help them with inversions.
While Wall Street frets about Obama's policies Warren points out that the Obama administration has been filled with many representatives of large financial institutions, including Citigroup. Three of the last four Treasury secretaries serving under Democratic presidents held high-paying jobs at Citigroup before joining the government including former CEO Robert Rubin. As Warren points out, the influence of Goldman Sachs in Washington is well documented: It seems that every few weeks, another Goldman Sachs executive goes to work for a government agency, with bankers landing in positions of power at the Treasury Department, the Federal Reserve, and pulling the levers of the massive trillion-dollar federal bailout. At the same time, the bank, which announced on Tuesday that it was hiring former Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Arthur Levitt, has received $10 billion in TARP funds. Warren also notes the huge number of lobbyists working for just the six largest US banks: According to a report by the Institute for America's Future, by the following year, the six biggest banks employed 243 lobbyists who once worked in the federal government, including 33 who had worked as chiefs of staff for members of Congress and 54 who had worked as staffers for the banking oversight committees in the Senate or the House.
Warren's criticisms are quite apt. However, so far, she has refused to run herself to be the Democrat nominee for president. Instead she has long favored Hillary Clinton who arguably has a lot cosier relationship with Wall Street than Obama has at present. In an interview Warren said: "All all of the women — Democratic women I should say — of the Senate urged Hillary Clinton to run, and I hope she does. Hillary is terrific." Warren also one among several senators who signed a letter urging Clinton to run in 2016. Warren has the right rhetoric but makes the wrong move by supporting Hillary unless the aim is simply to act as a shepherdess to steer liberal and left support behind Hillary.
Hillary herself has praised and at times even adopted Warren populist rhetoric: “I love watching Elizabeth give it to those who deserve it,” Clinton said to cheers. But then, awkwardly, she appeared to try to out-Warren Warren—and perhaps build a bridge too far to the left—by uttering words she clearly did not believe: “Don’t let anyone tell you that it’s corporations and businesses that create jobs,” Clinton said, erroneously echoing a meme Warren made famous during an August 2011 speech at a home in Andover, Massachusetts. “You know that old theory, trickle-down economics? That has been tried, that has failed. It has failed rather spectacularly.”
She later noted that she had gone a bit overboard in claiming that corporations and businesses do not create jobs. Of course they not only create jobs if they think they will create more profit, they get rid of them for the same reason. Speaking to plutocrats for some reason Hillary changes her tune and tone:"But Clinton offered a message that the collected plutocrats found reassuring, according to accounts offered by several attendees, declaring that the banker-bashing so popular within both political parties was unproductive and indeed foolish. Striking a soothing note on the global financial crisis, she told the audience, in effect: We all got into this mess together, and we’re all going to have to work together to get out of it."
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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