Elizabeth Warren: “The system is rigged.” Yes. Yes, it is.
posted at 2:01 pm on September 6, 2012 by Erika Johnsen
I just can’t hold my peace on self-styled champion of financial reform Elizabeth Warren’s speech at the DNC Wednesday night — it pains me far too deeply. Behold, this is what intellectually cheap populism looks like, in all its utterly vapid glory.
Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren railed against an enterprise system “rigged” against the middle class and cast Mitt Romney as siding with special interests who have set the rules.
Warren, a leading proponent of overhauling the financial services industry, portrayed herself and President Obama as the allies of ordinary Americans and Romney as a champion of corporate America seeing no difference between multinational firms and families.
“No, Gov. Romney, corporations are not people. People have hearts, they have kids, they get jobs, they get sick, they cry, they dance. They live, they love, and they die. And that matters,” she said to rising applause. “That matters because we don’t run this country for corporations, we run it for people. And that’s why we need Barack Obama.” …
She did not mention Brown in her remarks but she mentioned “middle class” eight times in a not-so-subtle bid to tell voters that despite her Ivy-League pedigree, she is one of them. …
Warren blamed oil companies and investment banks for creating an economy that caters to their bottom lines instead of average prosperity.
There is so much material here, I don’t even know where to begin, so I’ll just pick out a few key lines and go from there.
“We fought to level the playing field before. About a century ago when corrosive greed threatened our economy and our way of life…” Greed. Oh, greed. You call it greed, I call it rational self-interest; but whatever you want to call it, one thing is certain: The profit motive, which all human beings share, by the way, is the driving force behind everything we have. Individuals trying to provide for themselves and for their families are what continually creates prosperity, a.k.a., economic growth, and an individual’s personal wealth is an indicator of how successful they’ve been in providing a good or service upon which other people voluntarily place a lot of value. How do corporations become corporations, Ms. Warren? I might patronize the hair salon or the car wash once a month or so, and these small businesses are important, to be sure. But “oil companies” and “investment banks” have so much money because I use their services every single day. I drive to work and accrue interest in my savings account all time time, just like most Americans do — and these are all voluntary, mutually beneficial transactions. And what’s more, these large corporations also provide huge numbers of jobs as well as government revenue. Please get off your high horse and quit acting like the life choices of the CEO of the oil company are somehow ignoble compared to those of the hair stylist.
“The Republican vision is clear — ‘I got mine. The rest of you are on your own.’ Republicans say they don’t believe in government. Sure, they do. They believe in government to help themselves and their powerful friends.” Uhm, why yes actually, I am just on my way to play poker with the corporate emperors of the universe, along with the rest of Republican party. …What the what? Who are these ‘powerful friends’ I’m supposed to have, exactly, and why am I unable to divorce my motives from their oh-so-greedy wishes? News flash: I do not have powerful friends. I vote Republican because I want to lessen the impregnable power of the federal bureaucracy and create more opportunities for myself and my fellow Americans. That is all.
“People feel like the system is rigged against them, and here is the painful part, they’re right. The system is rigged. …Wall Street CEOs, the same ones the direct our economy and destroyed millions of jobs still strut around Congress, no shame, demanding favors, and acting like we should thank them.” Blergh. This is a perfect manifestation of my precise problem with Elizabeth Warren and her “consumer financial protectin'” ilk. Yes, I grant you, the system is kind of rigged. But why are we blaming Wall Street for rent-seeking, when the metastasized federal government is what’s affording them the opportunity to rent-seek? People will always look for a way to beat out their competition, and if that includes courting favors from the government and crony capitalism, they will. This isn’t rocket science. Federal busybodies trying to incentivize the financial sector into doing things they wanted to see happen based on their political agenda was what caused the financial crisis. Everybody has an agenda — but only the government can enforce theirs through fiat without fighting the natural regulator of free-market competition. Elizabeth Warren was a big supporter of the Occupy Movement, and I made this point right when the Occupy protests first broke out — stop directing your ire at the symptoms and instead direct it at the disease.
And finally, as to the Elizabeth Warren’s claim that the Romney/Ryan ticket doesn’t care about the middle class — doesn’t anybody at that convention realize that Barack Obama’s proposal to hike taxes on America’s wealthiest earners is an absolute farce that cannot hope to pay for the level of government he wants to keep going? I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!
Think about his logic like this: Mr. Ryan’s House budget details a long-range plan to equalize spending and tax revenues without—ahem—raising tax rates. But if such fiscal restraint is as deep and draconian as Mr. Obama claims, then as a matter of arithmetic the White House must favor a tax increase of an equal size, or something close to it, in order to pay for the amount of government he wants to sustain. …
What voters should know is that this taxing big bang won’t only hit the affluent. Far from it. For evidence, consult a recent study by Eric Toder, Jim Nunns and Joseph Rosenberg of the Tax Policy Center. We know this Brookings-Urban Institute shop has credibility with liberals, because it is the source of the fiction that the Romney-Ryan team wants to boost middle-class taxes.
The researchers looked at how high income-tax rates would have to rise in the top two or even three tax brackets to lower debt to sustainable levels under something akin to CBO’s alternative fiscal scenario. They conclude that even if the top rates hit 100%, the budget “cannot achieve the debt-reduction targets in some or any of the target years.” Though conceding that near-total confiscation is “completely unrealistic,” they report the results anyway “to indicate the infeasibility of achieving a high debt-reduction target simply by increasing top individual income tax rates.” And this is from economists who favor higher taxes.
Another way of putting it is that the rich aren’t nearly rich enough to finance Mr. Obama’s spending ambitions. Sooner rather than later, Washington will come for the middle class, because that’s where the real money is.