Elizabeth Warren is a Harvard Law professor, and head of the Congressional Oversight Panel of the TARP program, so she really is the TARP cop. She was on The Daily Show last week.
Karen saw it the first night it was on and told me about it, so I knew I had to watch it. I had seen Warren on The Rachel Maddow Show a few times. She looks professorial. She looks like Diane Keaton could play her in the movie. She has short, straight light brown hair that looks like it’s got gray streaks in it, glasses, pale blue eyes, and wears mannish Oxford cloth blouses with jackets that actually look like cardigans. In my mental pictures of her she is wearing a cardigan over her shoulders with the top button buttoned, and glasses on a string.
She is smart, engaging and funny. She did a good job with Jon Stewart, managing at one point to crack him up. I don’t think he expected that to happen. At the end of her seven or eight minute interview, he asked her was what going to happen. She said, “After we pull this bus out the ditch? I mean the economy.” Stewart nodded and she said something like:
“This started in 1792; George Washington, a new president. There was a credit crisis. And after that every ten or fifteen years there was a crisis. Boom and bust, boom and bust.. . until the Great Depression.”
Warren said that out the depression came three things: FDIC (insurance for people who put money in banks); the SEC and Glass-Steagle, bank regulation. And, she said, for fifty years we didn’t have a crisis.
Stewart interrupted and tried to say something about savings and loans, and Warren cut him off, her hand raised. “I said, fifty years. We began to pull the threads out of the regulations. First we had the savings and loans; seven hundred saving and loans went under.” She went on to list Enron and other crises leading up to this one. What did we do in response? Pull more threads out of the fabric of regulation.
And, she said, we have a choice to make, one she thinks we’ll make in six months to a year; to ignore the obvious need for regulation and go back to “boom and bust, and good luck with your 401(k),” or we will do the smart thing and put in smart regulation.
I’ve done a terrible job of reporting her monologue here but I know you can find it on the internet. Warren also writes a blog called creditslips.com with six other economists.
I never really thought a bankruptcy and economic law profession from Harvard would be a rock-star TV celebrity, but times change. Elizabeth rocks.