Last week, Vanity Fair posted a profile of Elizabeth Warren that is a must-read. If you’re not a fan already, perhaps this little glimpse of evidence-based politics will help:
It was in 1979 that Warren had her Damascene conversion—the experience that would lead her to become the nation’s top authority on the economic pressures facing the American middle class, and trigger her passionate advocacy. In 1978, Congress had passed a law that made it easier for companies and individuals to declare bankruptcy. Warren decided to investigate the reasons why Americans were ending up in bankruptcy court. “I set out to prove they were all a bunch of cheaters,” she said in a 2007 interview. “I was going to expose these people who were taking advantage of the rest of us.” What she found, after conducting with two colleagues one of the most rigorous bankruptcy studies ever, shook her deeply. The vast majority of those in bankruptcy courts, she discovered, were from hardworking middle-class families, people who lost jobs or had “family breakups” or illnesses that wiped out their savings. “It changed my vision,” she said.
From then on, Warren would focus her research on the economic forces bearing down on the American middle class.
Really, though, most of the power of the piece comes from seeing the reactions to Warren in Washington. Perhaps you’re one of the people who think the reason Occupy Wall Street is being dismissed is because they’re vague about what they want? Elizabeth Warren is well-educated, extremely direct, and looking for the same sort of social justice:
Perhaps the most widely watched hearing is the one that took place in September 2009. A video of part of that hearing can still be found on YouTube, under the title “Elizabeth Warren Makes Timmy Geithner Squirm.” It opens with Warren asking the question that was on the minds of many taxpayers: “A.I.G. has received about $70 billion in TARP money, about $100 billion in loans from the Fed. Do you know where the money went?” What followed during the rest of the hearing was the spectacle of the Treasury secretary tripping over his words, his eyes darting around the room as Warren, calm and prosecutorial, kept hammering him with questions. At another hearing, in December 2009, Geithner appeared to be barely able to contain his annoyance, at one point almost shouting at her. Warren’s questioning “was masterful,” says Neil Barofsky, who ran the TARP oversight for Treasury. “She eviscerated him.” But Warren would pay a price for those hearings.
Here is that video. Enjoy.
Warren wasn’t arrested or beaten or tear-gassed, but she was just as effectively cut out of the Washington power structure.
As she crisscrossed the country, spreading the word about the C.F.P.B., Warren became a familiar face to many, especially to those who had seen her on television—on CNBC, Real Time with Bill Maher, and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. She had gained millions of supporters. With her passionate defense of America’s beleaguered middle class, under assault today from seemingly every direction, she had become like a modern-day Mr. Smith, giving voice to regular citizens astonished at the failure of Washington to protect Main Street—and what increasingly appeared to be its abandonment of middle-class America. By July, the A.F.L.-C.I.O.—speaking for its 12 million members—had called on Obama to name Warren to head the agency. So had scores of consumer groups. Eighty-nine Democrats in the House of Representatives had signed a letter, publicly urging him to choose Warren. Newspapers around the country editorialized on her behalf, as did hundreds of bloggers. By July 18, when Obama announced that he was passing Warren over, he did so after receiving petitions signed by several hundred thousand people and organizations urging him to appoint Warren as the country’s top consumer watchdog.
Read the Vanity Fair piece. Call your people in Congress and tell them Dodd-Frank and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau are important to you. Tell them it’s their job to make sure these reforms happen. Tell them you’re watching, and that you vote and donate and campaign (and do those things if you can). Tell them the Occupy movement speaks for you, even when you’re not out protesting.
And consider working for and/or donating to Elizabeth Warren’s campaign. They may have kept her out of the administration, but there’s only so much they can do to keep her out of the Senate, where she can still represent all our interests.